Professional diving is a type of diving where the divers are paid for their work. There are several branches of professional diving, the most well-known is probably commercial diving. Any person wishing to become a professional diver normally requires specific training that satisfies any regulatory agencies with the local authority, such as US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive or South African Department of Labor. Due to the dangerous nature of some professional diving operations, specialized equipment such as an on-site hyperbaric chamber and diver-to-surface communication system is often required by law.
The primary distinction between professional and recreational diving is that the recreational diver is responsible primarily for his/her own actions and safety but may voluntarily accept limited responsibility for dive buddies, whereas the professional diver is part of a team of people with extensive responsibilities and obligations to each other. These responsibilities and obligations are formally defined in legislation, regulations, operations manuals, standing orders and compulsory or voluntary codes of practice. In many cases a statutory national occupational health and safety legislation constrains their activities.
Commercial offshore diving
Offshore diving is the most well-known branch of commercial diving, with divers working in support of the exploration and production sector of the oil and gas industry in places such as the Gulf of Mexico in the United States the North Sea in the United Kingdom and Norway and along the coast of Brazil. Work in this area of the industry includes maintenance of oil platforms and the building of underwater structures used in the production process.
Inland / onshore diving
Inland or onshore diving is very similar to offshore diving in terms of the nature of work and the equipment used, the work often being in support of land based civil engineering projects, with the majority of the work either underwater survey or engineering work. The number of dive sites this covers is variedj however, and divers can be found working in harbours and lakes, on hydroelectric dams, in rivers and around bridges and pontoons, with the bulk of this work being undertaken in freshwater. They are often required to inspect and repair outfalls which require at times up to 600 ft. plus penetrations, which require a multitude of safety requirements. Onshore divers typically can be at home every night and earn more per hour than their colleagues who work offshore. However, depth pay and minimum 12 hour shifts offshore must be taken into consideration.
Recreational dive instructors differ from other types of professional divers as they normally don't require a professional level qualification, but a relevant recreational qualification from a recognized training agency such as GUE, SDI, TDI, NAUI, PADI, SSI, ANDI or BSAC, which permits them to teach. Dive instructors teach a wide variety of skills from entry-level diver training for beginners, to diver rescue for intermediate level divers and technical diving for more experienced divers. They often operate from dedicated dive centers at coastal sites or through hotels in popular holiday resorts or simply from local swimming pools. Initial training is carried out mainly on conventional SCUBA equipment but with the increasing use of rebreathes, their use is also taught. Not all dive instructors are professionals; many instructors are amateurs with careers outside the diving industry.
For those willing to take on the demands of commercial diving, the rewards are generous. Starting annual pay for a commercial diver is in the $40,000 to $60,000 range, including full benefits. Once a diver gains experience and proves himself, the pay can grow to $100,000 to $150,000 a year.