When I tell people that I do commercial diving, I get some amusing reactions. Usually the expressions reflect confusion instead of the admiration I used to think would be a normal response. At least talking about commercial diving is a conversation starter; I guess most folks do not know anyone who makes a living this way. Neither did I, until I went on a vacation to St. Maarten in the Virgin Islands. I had just graduated from college and the trip was a gift to myself. Having grown up near frigid Lake Michigan I was entranced by the warm waters of the Caribbean and the sealife in it. I scraped together some funds, got SCUBA certified, and never looked back. One thing led to another and I am able to say I have a career doing something I absolutely love. Commercial scuba diving is one of the most lucrative careers available. A commercial diver's salary can easily run into six figures depending on the sub-specialty.
Many factors contribute to the financial benefits. Divers have to be healthier than normal, and the physical demands limit the duration of a diving career. Also, not many people have considered making diving into a career. Even those in marine-related fields rarely think of it. One more thing is that a lot of commercial divers travel in their jobs, so it can sometimes be a nomadic way of life. Combine these aspects and you can see that there is always more of a demand than available divers to fill the jobs.
Not to be overlooked is the real risk associated with diving for a living. Even trained professionals cannot foresee every potential problem. Factor in equipment failure, poisonous and dangerous sea creatures, shifting or breaking underwater structures, and even a seasoned pro can be in trouble in short order.
I thought about all this before I made my decision and found there are more dangerous jobs that don't pay nearly as much. And think about the many ways you can work as a commercial diver. I currently live on the west coast and do marine wildlife study. I have friends that are search and rescue divers, and a lot of times I need to use those skills in my “cushy" job. There are other careers: underwater construction, underwater filming for feature films, documentaries, television commercials, still photos, and even television shows. You could have your own business as a SCUBA certification specialist, lead tours, work for companies exploring sunken ships, even dive for pearls and other valuables. Some commercial divers are employed by corporations with underwater maintenance needs.
There is not a chance I will ever regret diving as a career. Even if I come face to face with Jaws Junior one day, in my opinion it will have been worth it. Those who are lucky enough to do what they love have a funny habit of never stopping.
K. Petit is an adventure travel enthusiast with a special interest in South Africa. Read more at http://www.playourplanet.com An especially good article about an amazing safari experience: http://www.playourplanet.com/safari.html For great safari ideas (Photo, flying, balloon, motocycle tours): http://www.playourplanet.com