Diver ... (Military - Enlisted)  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotThe navy has many jobs that call upon enlisted men and women to use their scuba diving skills. Some divers perform maintenance on ships, doing everything from underwater welding to painting.

Combat divers are field engineers whose diving skills aid in assignments such as building bridges. And construction divers travel throughout the world constructing and repairing underwater facilities such as pipelines and sensor systems.

dotOf course, if you're hoping to enlist in the navy one week and begin scuba diving lessons the next, you'll probably be disappointed. Few recruits start their naval career as a diver.

Most are initially trained in a non-diving related trade, and then apply later to acquire a secondary trade that requires diving skills. A ship's engineer may double as an underwater welder, for example.

The trade the recruit was originally hired to perform is still considered to be their primary trade. It's a little different for members of the SEALs -- participation in that group is a full-time job.

dotBut whether you're performing underwater espionage in the Middle East or scraping barnacles from a ship off the California coastline, diving is dangerous work. "There's all the regular hazards of diving," says Chief Petty Officer Iryll Jones.

"You have to worry about things like hypothermia and the bends. Divers also have to worry about arterial gas embolisms."

dotLong hours and strenuous working conditions are part of the job. Navy divers are often away at sea for months at a time. And there's no such thing as a 9-to-5 workday when you're trying to defuse a bomb or finish a repair job before the sea becomes too rough.

It's important for any diver to be physically fit, says Jones. "Working one hour in the water is equivalent to working three hours on land, because on land you've got gravity holding you up."

dotBasic math skills are also essential. Divers use math all the time to perform calculations such as figuring out how much air they need to dive, and what pressure the water will exert on them at any given depth.

dotFor those who yearn to become a navy diver but prefer to spend most of their days on dry land, another option is to join the naval reserve.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Practice a trade that requires scuba diving skills

  • Navy divers are often away at sea for months at a time
  • Divers can perform maintenance on ships, build bridges or repair underwater facilities
  • You have to start in the navy doing something other than diving, then work your way up