Commercial diving isn't just limited to the energy sector. Construction, demolition and inspection go on everywhere. Municipal water supplies, sewage treatment plants, salvage, hull repair...you name it. You may even find yourself inside a small town's water tower or a industrial cooling tower. Even something mundane as repairing a public swimming pool.
If you're truly interested in a career then get cracking. There's a serious shortage of qualified divers right now.Most of the divers that were trained prior to the dot com boom are retired or about to retire, myself included and I'm only 47 and started 18 years ago. That's how long you last. I own my biz yet I can no longer do what I used to be able to. I feel great and pass for 35 but I'm not 21 and it's taken it's toll. It ages you inside and it's not always apparent. Humans are not meant to do what we do.
Nobody wanted to fill the dot com era boots because sitting in front of a desk at a technology company has been more "attractive" in the eyes of grad age kids for the last 15 years. If you are in progress to pass your commercial course, don't be surprised to be head hunted before you graduate. The top guys like Oceaneering are always out and about looking for new prospects. I dunno if they still have it but these guys used to have the contract to NASA for the Shuttle training facility. There ya go...it's not all about oil rigs. It could be pushing Astronauts around or as safety dives in a training facility.
The money, once you get established is really no different.To start, find a school that's HSE or equivalent that fits your budget. Preferably one close to home since that will save you a lot in boarding fees. Sometimes as much as 50%. You may qualify for government assistance in tuition depending on where you are and your circumstances. Look into it. The training itself takes anywhere from 4 to 8 months depending on the school or college. There are some facilities that are more intense and offer it in two but I'm not a fan of fast tracking anything. There's a lot to learn. Better you know it up one side and down the other than to have had a passing glimpse. You'll be taught rudimentary welding, construction and demolition besides your dive skills. The first year sucks for any newbie. You start as a tender. The Barge Biatch. You'll be making an average of between 20-25 dollars an hour. Save it. You'll need it for more certifications to further enhance your earning potential. Top of the list are Chamber Medic and ROV operations ( be it a tech or an op). With more and more inspections being carried out by ROV these days having a ROV cert just makes sense. Why should someone hire two guys to do two jobs when one guy can do two and you can halve the sundry expenses such as food and lodging for the employee in an away from home contract? The more you bring to the table the more valuable you are.
Top earning potential ( other than for Sat divers which can be much more)? An easy 80-140 K which is certification and location dependent since some countries have set rates for things like a set amount per lateral foot penetration of pipe for example. These rates are non negotiable. Long intake pipe and you make more on the dive but consider it danger pay since you're also further away from help if things go south. Depth of dive is also rate dependent in many areas of the globe.There are a lot of bonus or "danger pay" if you will, situations that can affect earning potential. Away from home ( if inland diver) incentives certainly apply. I can't speak for international contracts off shore but they do exist, I'm just not sure if they are worth it to an individual although they are lucrative. Up to your circumstances I suppose. Not for me.
This is a physically and somewhat mentally challenging job. Your body will tell you when it's time to quit.When that time comes, you've either earned enough to start your own business, you are working as a Dive Ops Super or you've found a beach hut someplace that you kick up your heels and go fishing.
If you are thinking of trying the Navy to accomplish this goal...forget it. You may be a 10 year Navy diver but when it comes to commercial diving...it means nothing. You start at the bottom with only the knowledge of diving principles. We dive deeper, longer and although much of what we do is based on USN tables and procedures,it's still beyond it. Navy diving is shallow water relatively. Limited to 50 M and less. You;ll get that in a good commercial school just to start. and then go beyond, but you'll learn the commercial way..not Navy which impose a lot more restrictions on their dive operations.
The same can be said when going the reverse. The Navy will teach you to dive their way and what you may have learned as a commercial diver means nada. I had the opportunity here to become what's known as a Port Inspection Diver part time with our Canadian Naval Reserve. My commercial experience means nothing. You start from scratch.
No matter if you choose inland or offshore...it's a great career choice and one I've not regretted. You need to love what you do though so think about it but don't leave it too late ( 35 years old or so) and get out here and fill them boots! The money is well worth it, the lifestyle if you're single works and if you're smart about it you'll retire at 45 easily if you started out of HS and will already have a beach hut with great fishing at your hut door step at that 45 year mark. I'm still working on that but since I'm a "late bloomer", I'm close. :)
Edit: I should add to this that before you start any commercial course you'll need a medical. The dive school you choose will help you find a dive certified Doc in your area. You'll also need to have at least an Open Water scuba cert. This can be from any dive agency be it PADI, NAUI, BSAC or SSI. They'll all work. When working out your course costs find out if the school offers an equipment package. Some do and it can be a substantial saving. They may have already included it in their tuition costs so don't just go by the bottom line when choosing a school in your budget. It may appear more expensive than other schools but there may be no surprises financially down the road. Read the fine print. If the school offers no equipment package...you'll be laying out about 4 grand for one. Some schools hold an open house a few months prior to course start and invite local equipment dealers. If so, there will a be a few vendors at the open house you may inquire with or even pre order your gear. Your gear is like a mechanic's tool box. It has just about everything you need to start earning a living.
Dive helmets will be supplied by the school but helmet liners won't. That's part of your personal kit. You'll also need personal items such as a construction hat, boots and in many cases a vest ( dunno why some schools skimp on the vest it's not like it's underwear)
In any event, the school you choose will make a mandatory gear list available to you. Don't skimp on any of it. Buy the best you can afford and the most versatile. No point in buying a particular helmet liner for your school's helmets when a Universal one will fit theirs as well as others for example.
Edit again: Taxes. You are your own Boss essentially. Unless the outfit your working for deducts for you...you as a businessman are responsible for them. This ( and you as an asset) is a business. An international tax consultant if you plan on working other than your own country is vital. If within your own country, it's advised.. I'm friggin advising it. Here I'm able to write off a lot more than I'd originally thought.
Bottom line? It's friggin fantabulous. There are a lot of hoops to jump through but yes..you can be quite comfortable retiring from our career when you put your time in. If you have a "significant other", they either put up with it and together enjoy the benefits or they don't. You need a strong relationship if you want it to continue or look for a strong one after the first two to three years. I'm divorced because I was married just prior to my occupational transition phase. She liked the computer network geek ( I'm a CNE too) that brought in the dough and was home at 5 PM every day to cut the grass. She really despised the guy that made a little more but wasn't there all the time she was.