Commercial Diver

Commercial divers are highly trained professionals who perform underwater tasks in various industries, including oil and gas, engineering, scientific research, and specialized fields such as media, military, and law enforcement. Their work is essential for inspecting, repairing, and installing underwater structures, ensuring these installations function correctly and remain intact. Commercial divers may engage in diverse activities, such as underwater welding, photography, or salvage operations, contributing to the success of various industries.

At a Glance

Imagine you are a marine conservation diver, integral to a team at a marine research facility. Your mission is to monitor a local marine kelp forest and develop conservation protocols for this vital ecosystem. It is an early morning gathering in the facility's office, where maps, diving gear, and scientific instruments are spread out.

Leading the team with your expertise in marine ecosystems, you outline the day's objective: assessing the health of the kelp forest, a critical habitat facing environmental threats. The plan involves collecting water samples, documenting kelp health, and observing wildlife interactions. Accuracy and safety are paramount, as the findings will directly influence conservation strategies.

The dive site, a lush underwater kelp forest off the coast, is a familiar yet ever-evolving landscape. Your team descends into the incredible green depths. The forest is a bustling hub of marine life. You navigate through towering kelp, gathering samples, and recording data. Amidst the fronds, you notice patches of thinning kelp — an alarming indicator.

Surface-side, the issue becomes evident: the kelp forest shows signs of distress. Laboratory analysis of the samples reveals increased water temperatures and pollutants. Collaborative effort will be needed to initiate a kelp restoration project and advocate for pollutant reduction measures. You and your team prepare a comprehensive report for environmental authorities, emphasizing the urgency of intervention.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, commercial divers are involved in the following activities:

  • Conduct underwater inspections of structures like bridges, pipelines, and offshore oil rigs to assess their integrity and safety.
  • Perform maintenance and repair tasks on underwater installations, including welding, cutting, and fixing damaged parts.
  • Install and set up equipment for subsea construction projects, such as laying pipes or building foundations for structures.
  • Participate in salvage operations to recover sunken objects, such as ships or cargo, from the ocean floor.
  • Collect samples for scientific research, including marine biology or oceanography studies.
  • Assist in installing and maintaining underwater cables for telecommunications or power transmission.
  • Engage in environmental protection activities, including coral reef restoration or cleaning up pollution and debris.
  • Document underwater conditions and work progress through photography or video recording.
  • Operate and maintain diving equipment, including decompression chambers, underwater cameras, and breathing apparatus.
  • Adhere to safety protocols and emergency procedures to ensure the well-being of the dive team and the preservation of the marine environment.

Work Environment

Commercial divers operate within the office, field, and laboratory. In each of these settings, individuals in this occupation carry out various duties.

The office:

  • Draft dive plans detailing objectives, methods, and safety protocols to ensure project efficiency and safety.
  • Keep a full inventory of dive gear and equipment, ensuring everything is operational and ready for use.
  • Engage with clients to grasp their needs, update them on progress, and address any challenges or outcomes.
  • Stay informed on and comply with all relevant diving and environmental regulations at local, federal, and international levels.
  • Arrange training for team members on safety procedures, new equipment, and advanced diving skills.
  • Document and report on each dive's goals, experiences, and any incidents or deviations from initial plans.

The field:

  • Inspect underwater structures like bridges, dams, and pipelines visually or with instruments to evaluate their condition and identify damage or hazards.
  • Execute construction, maintenance, and repair underwater, including welding, cutting, and installing or replacing structural parts.
  • Recover underwater objects such as ships or cargo, utilizing lifting gear and cutting tools as needed.
  • Handle and remove underwater hazardous materials or obstructions, following strict safety and environmental guidelines.
  • Take underwater photos and videos with specialized cameras and lighting for inspections, documentation, or client needs.
  • Participate in conservation projects to restore underwater environments, applying restoration methods and monitoring ecological recovery, thereby enhancing biodiversity.

The laboratory:

  • Gather water, sediment, and biological samples from underwater for environmental monitoring, research, or tests.
  • Analyze collected samples to evaluate pollution, biodiversity, or hazardous substances.
  • Ensure laboratory instruments for sample analysis are calibrated and maintained for accurate data.
  • Collaborate with research and development projects to create new diving technologies and methods, enhancing safety and efficiency.
  • Ensure environmental standards, applying quality control measures during sample processing and analysis.
  • Prepare reports on lab results, offering interpretations and suggestions for diving and environmental management.

Where to Work

Commercial divers are employed across various sectors, from offshore oil rigs and underwater construction sites to marine research facilities and shipwreck salvage operations, and in specialized areas such as aquaculture farms, hydroelectric plants, coastal engineering projects, and in support of military operations:

  • Offshore oil and gas platforms
  • Underwater construction sites
  • Marine research facilities
  • Shipwreck salvage operations
  • Aquaculture farms
  • Hydroelectric power plants
  • Coastal engineering projects
  • Underwater film and photography locations
  • Naval and military operations
  • Port and harbor maintenance areas

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as a commercial diver, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Marine biology and underwater ecosystems.
  • Mechanical engineering and equipment maintenance.
  • Environmental conservation and restoration efforts.
  • Adventure and exploration in diverse aquatic environments.
  • Safety protocols and emergency response techniques.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a commercial diver, the following undergraduate programs are most applicable:

  • Commercial diving certification
  • Marine technology or marine science
  • Underwater welding and inspection
  • Marine biology and oceanography
  • Naval architecture

Professional designations and certifications are essential for commercial divers, highlighting your expertise, dedication, and professionalism and ensuring you meet national occupational standards, are medically fit for diving, and possess the required skills for specific underwater tasks like welding.

  • Canadian Working Diver Certification: Issued by the Diver Certification Board of Canada, this certification ensures that the diver has met the national occupational standards and is trained in Canadian underwater work practices.
  • Occupational Diver's Medical Certificate: A current and valid diver's medical certificate is required, confirming the diver's fitness for underwater work.
  • Underwater Welding Certification: A specialized certification for divers involved in underwater welding and cutting operations from the Canadian Welding Bureau or an equivalent international welding certification recognized in Canada.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Scuba diving certification
  • Underwater welding and cutting
  • Hyperbaric chamber operation
  • Dive equipment maintenance
  • Underwater photography and videography
  • Marine biology and ecology
  • Navigation and sonar operation
  • First Aid and dive medicine
  • Rigging and lifting
  • Underwater inspection and survey techniques

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Stress management
  • Physical stamina and endurance
  • Decision-making
  • Communication skills
  • Resilience
  • Situational awareness

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Your Impact

A commercial diver plays a vital role in environmental conservation and sustainability. As a professional diver, they engage in underwater work crucial for numerous sectors, including oil and gas, marine engineering, and scientific research. This occupation involves underwater surveying, monitoring marine ecosystems, and participating in environmental restoration projects such as marine rehabilitation.

Commercial divers are often at the forefront of detecting and mitigating environmental hazards. For instance, in oil and gas operations, they inspect and repair pipelines and structures to prevent leaks that could be catastrophic for marine life. Their work installing renewable energy structures, like offshore wind turbines, significantly contributes to sustainable energy development.

Moreover, their role in salvage operations aids in removing hazardous materials like sunken vessels from aquatic environments, thus preserving marine biodiversity. Economically, they support industries that are pivotal to global economies while promoting environmental stewardship.

Socially, their work often intersects with educational and conservation efforts, raising awareness about the importance of preserving our underwater worlds. By balancing the demands of commercial industries with the need for environmental protection, commercial divers are inherently linked to sustainability, economic progress, and environmental responsibility.

Occupational Classification

Commercial divers are classified into the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code 72999 – Other technical trades and related occupations

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

See ECO’s Blue National Occupational Standard for a career competency profile for a commercial diver that outlines the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for individuals to perform effectively in this particular role. This profile is a benchmark for training and development, ensuring consistency and quality across professions within the blue economy.

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