Do you want to know how to become a saturation diver? In this commercial diving industry, you will certainly never be bored. Every diving expedition is an exhilarating adventure and in this guide, we are going to take a closer look at what this profession entails. We will also share a breakdown of the average salary you can expect.
What is a Saturation Diver?
Saturation diving is considered one of the world’s strangest jobs. It is an advanced form of commercial diving where divers can work offshore or inland.
Saturation divers are often employed by commercial industries like oil companies or telecommunication industries. Their tasks usually involve working at great depths to fix or maintain oil pipelines as well as other underwater tasks.
This form of diving is considered one of the most extreme professions, not just because diving itself can be dangerous but also because people work at depths where the atmospheric pressure is 19 times the one you would normally experience at sea level.
While their body handles depths of about 180 meters perfectly fine, the problem usually arises when these divers have to surface for new supplies.
If divers ascend too quickly, the gasses in the body can expand fast and they can develop bends or decompression sickness. When gasses inside your body expand rapidly, they can also damage surrounding nerves.
The only way to avoid decompression sickness is by rising to the surface slowly. And even when divers do ascend slowly, they often end up recovering from symptoms for up to six days.
Businesses usually can’t afford to pay a six-day salary for a single day of work, so commercial companies had to develop an alternative method to overcome the issues of working at deep-sea pressure levels. They built underwater chambers or pressurized chambers that maintain the same pressure level that divers experience at deep sea levels.
Underwater chambers are completely air-tight and provide divers with needed resources such as food and bedding so they can remain submerged for several days or even weeks until the project is completed.
Pressurized chambers (SAT chambers) have the same basic principle but these are designed to maintain pressure levels that divers commonly feel underwater.
Instead of staying underwater, divers can be hoisted up to a boat while they rest and will be lowered to their worksite when their shifts start. The chamber will maintain the pressure level throughout this time so divers won’t have to decompress or won’t suffer from decompression sickness.
Saturation divers can stay up to 28 days underwater or under pressure but they work the same 24/7 work cycle as any typical offshore diver. The main difference is that they remain in the SAT chamber when their shift ends and suit up for a diving expedition when their shift starts, working daily for up to 28 days.
How to Become a Saturation Diver
To become a certified saturation diver you need to complete a few steps. Here is a quick look at the qualifications and certification you will need before you can pursue this type of career.
Professional Commercial Diving Certification
Your certification should be pursued at a reputable school. To become a candidate for commercial diving you will need the following:
- Be 18 years or older
- A high school diploma
- Advanced swimming skills
- Be physically fit and healthy
- Obtain their PADI Advanced Open Water certification
- Obtain the Public Safety Diver certification
- Obtain Rescue Diver Certification for commercial diving
Offshore Diving Experience
Another requirement for becoming a saturation diver is to have years of professional offshore diving experience. You will also need to be experienced with mixed-gas diving and deep-sea diving.
Communicate With Others
It is always a good idea to learn more about this profession before you spend a fortune on training and studies. Reach out to other students at your commercial diving school and learn from these professionals. They can offer great advice to help you obtain your certification faster and you will get a much better idea of what these jobs entail.
Complete the Saturation Diving Program
Only a few schools in the world provide the needed coursework and certification to become a saturation diver. Here is a quick look at some of the top institutions that offer this type of training.
- The Divers Institute of Technolgy & Saturation Diving
- Commercial Dive Academy
- Professional Diving Centre
- Interdive Services
The courses for saturation diving involve much more than just diving. Divers need additional skills so they will be able to restore underwater structures or perform other necessary tasks. Additional training might include medical training, technician courses, supervisory training courses, and underwater welding.
How Do You Get Into Saturation Diving?
Getting into saturation diving is no simple task. First of all, you will need to be 18 before you can start working on your commercial diving certification. After completing this certification, you will need to do a lot of practical diving to acquire a certain amount of hours of diving and deep diving experience.
You will then need to travel to one of the few accredited diving institutions that offer saturation diving courses. Enrolling in these courses can be costly, though you will learn a lot more about deep diving and acquire the skills necessary to perform special tasks like underwater welding.
The work conditions are also pretty strenuous since you will be living under pressure for days or even weeks at a time and are expected to work long diving shifts every day. To top it off, saturation diving is also very dangerous and there are always chances of permanent damage to ears and lungs. As many as 11 welder-divers die in this profession each year.
Despite these complications, many people pursue it and love their work. Saturation diving is a high-paying career that offers plenty of thrills and a very rewarding life experience.
How Long Does It Take To Be a Saturation Diver?
It will take quite a bit of time, hard work, and lots of dedication to become a saturation diver. If you are still in school, remember that you will need to be 18 years or older before you can get to work on this career path.
Once you turn 18 and obtain your high school diploma, start training for your professional commercial diving certification. Diving training programs usually range from 4 to 30 weeks depending on the level of dive certification you want.
Most divers take about 2 years to obtain their commercial certification and gain the needed experience for safe deep diving. Others manage to complete their certification much sooner.
After obtaining your certification, you will need to take a saturation diver course, which usually lasts about 13 weeks. If you are enrolling at an offshore location, you will need to complete an offshore survival course before you can start your saturation course.
Divers who want to perform a specific task or work in a certain industry will also need to gain technical or academic qualifications like welding or engineering. This in itself can take a couple of weeks to complete.
What Tasks do Saturation Divers Perform
Saturation divers can be assigned all sorts of tasks on a diving team. Some of them are mainly employed to monitor the health and safety of other divers and to supervise or lead the team.
Some saturation divers are recruited to conduct testing on underwater bodies or to explore the ocean floors to learn about animal species that flourish at great depths.
Most saturation divers are also employed in underwater welding, electronics, and for their ability to use pneumatic tools in deep-sea pressure locations. Their main task is to maintain, repair or install new underwater features like concrete blocks, metal joints, pipelines, underwater wiring or underwater sensors, buildings, and the base of structures like bridges.
These saturation divers need a lot more skill than just deep-sea diving and medical or rescue training. They also need a set of technical skills that allow them to perform more specific tasks underwater.
Are Saturation Divers Rich?
The average saturation diver salary differs based on the type of work performed and can vary from company to company or from country to country.
The national average salary for saturation divers is about £13.54 per hour, which may vary based on what employers offer. On average, divers earn about 30,000 to 45,000 dollars per month and some can earn up to 180,000 dollars per year.
The type of work they perform and the depth they work at can also affect salary. Some companies are willing to pay an additional 1 – 4 dollars for every foot divers work but it all depends on the type of contract they have with the employer.
There isn’t a huge demand for saturation divers because not many companies do require these types of services. Since the pay is good, this is quite a competitive industry which can make it difficult to find employment after obtaining qualifications.
Is Saturation Diving Dangerous?
This form of commercial diving is one of the most dangerous professions in existence. About 11 divers lose their lives on the job each year.
Diving to depths of over 100 feet is already pretty dangerous but these divers often work at up to 1,000 feet under sea level. One of the biggest challenges of diving to these depths is having to deal with decompression. A diver needs to gradually descend or ascend from and to a depth or they can easily get injured by decompression sickness.
It takes a diver about 8 days to make a dive to a depth of 650 meters so they can avoid decompression sickness. If something goes wrong underwater, it can easily result in drowning.
Divers also need to be in optimal health because even a slight cold can result in permanent nerve and tissue damage to the ears and sinuses. This is because a stuffy nose or sinuses affects a diver’s ability to equalize pressured air. Air that gets trapped in these parts of the body expands or contracts too rapidly and causes damage to surrounding tissue.
The dangers associated with this form of diving are exactly why divers need to undergo such extreme training and why they often earn generous salaries.
Now that you know how to become a saturation diver, how long it will take, and what salary you can expect, you can make a calculated decision to aim for this profession or to rather focus on professional commercial diving. We hope that this guide offered some helpful information.
If you are also looking for more information like how deep humans can dive, what a dry suit is, or what it takes to become a diver then you should have a look at some of the other guides on Scuba Diving Books. With our handy site, you can find all the latest and best information on scuba diving and all the latest gear used for this recreational activity.