Divers work underwater and do a variety of tasks such as construction work, retrieving property from wrecked ships, commercial seafood gathering, photography, police work, and dive instructing. They may work close to shore, out at sea, or in lakes and rivers.
Newly qualified divers with one to five years’ experience usually earn
$29K-$40K per year
Divers with more than five years’ experience usually earn
$40K-$80K per year
Pay for divers varies depending on skills, experience, and the type of diving they do.
- Newly qualified divers can expect to earn between $29,000 and $40,000 a year.
- Those with five years' experience or more usually earn between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
- Highly experienced divers with specialist skills can earn up to $80,000 a year.
Commercial divers usually work on short-term projects and are paid a daily rate, which can range from $130 to $1,000 or more. Some commercial divers are employed full time and paid a fixed salary.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Divers may do some or all of the following:
- inspect, build and repair structures using underwater tools and equipment
- search underwater areas for objects, structures or criminal evidence
- conduct rescues
- clean and inspect boats or marine farm structures
- guide certified divers on underwater tours
- inspect, clean and wash diving equipment such as wetsuits and tanks
- instruct dive students
- complete any necessary paperwork.
Skills and knowledge
Divers need to have:
- knowledge of diving techniques, and excellent diving skills
- knowledge of diving equipment, and the ability to repair any equipment that breaks down on-site
- an understanding of relevant health and safety regulations
- knowledge of underwater hazards such as rips and currents
- knowledge of first aid and the ability to deal with emergencies.
Depending on their area of specialisation, divers may also need to have knowledge of:
- underwater inspection and survey techniques
- search and rescue procedures
- construction methods and materials
- underwater photography
- the behaviour of marine life.
- work irregular hours. They may also work weekends and be on call
- work off boats for days or weeks at a time. They may also spend long periods underwater in lakes, rivers, harbours and at sea
- may work in extreme conditions including in icy or cold water, water with poor visibility, and in windy or changeable weather conditions
- may travel throughout New Zealand or work on contract overseas in places such as Antarctica or the North Sea.
What's the job really like?
Kel Nairn - Diver
Refloating a boat
One of Kel's first diving jobs was re-floating a sinking boat. "I heard about it on the news, so I went along to investigate. Another diver and I had a look at the hole and decided to patch it over with a few bed mattresses. From there I started getting a reputation for being able to do jobs like that."
Working on the Lord of the Rings
Since then Kel's job has taken him around the world, from England to the Persian Gulf. However one of his most interesting jobs was back home, working on the 'The Lord of The Rings'.
"I was a safety diver for an actor. He had to pretend to die and fall into the water with arrows in his back. As soon as the camera cut we had to rescue the actor and get him back to the surface."
What's kept Kel in the job all these years
Kel says it's the range of different types of work he can do that's kept him in the industry all these years.
"The variety is great; it keeps me young and mentally alert. There is always a challenge and I get a real kick out of solving each one."
To work as a diver you must:
- be at least 18 years old
- have a current medical clearance from the Diving Hyperbaric Medicine Service
- have a Certificate of Competence, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This must be renewed every 5 years.
Most commercial divers also complete more advanced or specalised dive tickets, up to the level of dive master.
Police, navy and customs divers must first enlist with their respective forces.
Divers may also need licences for operating heavy machinery, vehicles or boats.
Underwater construction divers need additional training
To work as a commercial diver in underwater construction you must obtain an Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme (ADAS) qualification in Construction Diving at the appropriate level.
There are no specific secondary educational requirements, but physical education, maths, physics and workshop technology are useful.
Divers need to be:
- able to remain calm in emergencies and work well under pressure
- confident and adaptable
- alert and safety-conscious
- methodical and careful
- good communicators.
Useful experience for divers includes:
- recreational diving
- dive industry retail work
- building industry work
- engineering, fitting and welding work
- scientific work such as marine biology or oceanography
- work on boats or in the boating industry
Divers need to be fit and healthy. They should:
- have a good level of stamina
- not have inner-ear problems.
Most divers undergo regular medical and dental checks.
Find out more about training
- Academy of Diving Trust
- (06) 356 1665 - email@example.com - www.academyofdiving.ac.nz/
- NZ Police Recruitment
- Royal NZ Navy
- (04) 496 0999 - www.navy.mil.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of divers declined by about 20% between 2010 and 2012.
Because of the small size of the occupation and relatively high number of people wanting to become divers, competition for positions that become available can be high.
Opportunities best for diving instructors
Job opportunities are best for diving instructors, as turnover is higher than in other diving roles. Diving instructors often move into other diving roles or move overseas for diving work.
Commercial diving has potential to grow
Though there are only a small number of commercial divers, their numbers are expected to increase in the long term due to:
- oil and mineral exploration work being done around New Zealand will require commercial divers
- work which is needed to upgrade New Zealand's older marine constructions and and ports.
Employers of divers are varied
Most diving instructors are employed by dive schools and companies or resorts offering dive experiences for tourists.
Commercial divers may also work for:
- salmon and other fish farming businesses
- oil rig operators
- aquariums and marine science research institutes
- commercial diving contractors
- underwater photographic and nature film studios
- ship-building, repair and salvage firms.
The Royal NZ Navy, Police, and Customs Service also have dive teams. However, people are selected from within each organisation to train as divers – they don't recruit people already trained as divers.
- Australian Dive Accreditation Scheme website, accessed November 2013, (www.adas.org.au).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Guidelines for Occupational Diving', accessed November 2013, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- NZ School of Commercial Diver Training website, accessed November 2013, (www.nzsos.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Divers may progress to running their own dive business.
Divers may specialise in:
- underwater filming or photography
- underwater construction and ship survey work
- underwater cable laying
- underwater search and rescue
- marine farming
- diver training, and tours for tourists.
Last updated 26 April 2018