How does ADAS determine its fees?
Why does commercial diver training cost so much?
What are the Board members paid for being on the Board?
What happens if I let my ADAS certification lapse?
What’s the difference between Onshore and Offshore supervisor qualifications?
Is it a legal requirement to adhere to the Standards for occupational diving?
Why do dive supervisors have to have a separate card and pay a separate certification fee?
How much money will I make as a diver?
I’ve been diving commercially for years, but I haven’t got a ticket—what can I do?
I’m a HSE Part I/II/III/IV—what’s that in ADAS?
I’m a recreational diving instructor—what do I have to do to become an occupational diver?
How do I find a specialist doctor to do my diving medicals?
What are the requirements in regard to First Aid?
Do I have to go offshore?
Am I too old to become a commercial diver?
Will the schools be able to get me work?
Do I have to do lots of courses?
What makes the ADAS scheme different from others of its kind?
Why does my ADAS card expire every 5 years?
What relevance is the AQF (VET) certificate?
How do I go about getting a job?
How can I develop a successful occupational diving career?
Can I afford to train without the guarantee of employment?
Can I work internationally now that I have completed my ADAS Part 3 course?
ADAS, as a non-core government program, was required by the Commonwealth to be funded on a user basis, i.e. by those who receive the benefit from its highly credible national certification and global recognition and portability. In 2003, ADAS was separated out from government administration under the direction of an independent industry Board of Directors. ADAS receives no government funding and is totally dependent for its operations on the income derived from certification fees.
The Board uses the Scheme’s income solely to provide services to divers and to the diving community that uses those divers. The responsibilities and workload of the ADAS national office staff have increased exponentially as a result of increased external demands.
As a result of these additional responsibilities and demands, the ADAS Board determined that a raise in fees in October 2007 was necessary to allow the effective and efficient functioning of the Scheme, to meet the increased demands and costs associated with compliance, the maintenance of international reciprocity through representation at appropriate forums.
The new schedule of certification fees was implemented taking into account:
Fees charged over five years by other certifying bodies and professional associations and the earning power conferred by their accreditation/certification (current 2009):
ADAS uses certification fees to:
ADAS and the ATEs get a lot of divers and would-be divers commenting (i.e. complaining!) about the cost of occupational diving courses. In view of that, and in the interests of being open and transparent, we thought we should consider the issue in depth (pun intended) and discuss some of the salient facts about value for money and the cost structure underlying the provision of diver training.
Becoming a surface supply to 30m air diver (Part 2 diver – minimum for onshore construction diving) costs about $300 dollars a day for 40 days of training.
Becoming a surface supply to 50m air diver (Part 3 diver) costs about $300 dollars a day for 60 days of training.
Becoming a closed bell diver (Part 4 diver) costs about $1600 a day for 20 days training.
Why does the training cost this much? Can it be justified? Is it really expensive in terms of providing value for money?? Is it possible that it is worth the investment?
Let’s look at the individual parts to the question.
(All figures based in the year 2007)
Well, you have to consider what you are comparing it with when you start to define “expensive”!
Are you comparing the price with a recreational scuba open water course? Well – yes, it’s a hell of a lot more expensive, but think about it. Doing a recreational diving course gets you maybe 3 or perhaps 4 days learning some basic skills to enable you to have some fun engaging in a new hobby—as long as you don’t mind having to have your hand held by an instructor or a divemaster while you defy death!
Are you comparing it with tertiary education in which you have to go into debt with odds against you of clearing it before you retire? Even if you are lucky enough to get into the area of employment you trained for and can start paying it off. Just consider – the education debt for a Marine Biologist, for instance, is about $30,000.00 dollars, takes a minimum of 3 years full time and earnings are about $70,000.00 dollars pa. A Mechanical Engineering degree costs about 45,000.00 for 4 years full time and the average salary for an engineer is about $80,000.00.
(All figures based in the year 2007)
After a 12 week unrestricted surface supply diving course, at worst you should be able to walk straight into an aquaculture job in the Salmon or Tuna etc farming industry and earn $50,000 to $70,000 pa. Sure it’s hard work, but when you’ve built up your CV, and particularly as you acquire useful underwater and marine-related work skills, you can look at moving into construction diving and start accruing some construction diving skills. The earning power of an onshore construction diver is about $300 – $500/day. Admittedly, to do any good at this you should have gained a bagful of skills to take to the job with you – rigging, skilled laboring etc. However, this is the right market and time – the offshore construction industry is very busy and numbers of experienced onshore construction divers are also moving to the higher paid jobs offshore.
If you work hard at it, then maybe a year or two later (and maybe less when the price of oil goes sky-high again) you can start looking for an offshore diving job. Even in the Middle East and South East Asia, the money is decent – about $600 USD tax free if you go first out into the South East Asian etc region.
When you have a credible CV and can start work in the Australian industry you are looking at $1300/day as an air diver. The better you get, the more work you get and the more money you’re worth.
The offshore oil and gas industry has been booming for the last couple or three years and the demand for oil is increasing every day. Is the price of oil going to drop again? Not if you believe in the law of supply and demand! So, we have a situation where the offshore industry is already short of good experienced personnel. Demand for oil is increasing. Existing offshore infrastructure around the world is aging and needs constant maintenance to keep it productive and legal. The likelihood of the demand for good offshore personnel dropping is not very likely in any one’s book. And that applies right across the board – dive supervisors, Life Support Techs, equipment techs, ROV pilots, Dive Medical Technicians etc. There’s a career waiting to happen for those who are prepared to put in, work and train hard and go for it.
Let’s have a look at why diver training costs. Firstly, have a hard think about the infrastructure costs.
OK, the initial outlay is one of those things every industry has to deal with but diving equipment is bloody expensive and schools get cut no slack. The prices a school pays are exactly the same as it is for a major offshore contractor (in fact, probably more expensive because they don’t have the buying power).
So, consider the capital outlay required to put a Part 3 unrestricted surface supply dive school together. Support boats, recompression chambers, LP and HP compressors, hydraulic tools and power packs, cylinders and regulators, hot water suits and generators, wet bell, barge and launch and recovery system, vehicles, underwater comms systems, underwater videos and cameras, ongoing replacement of work tasks and tools that the trainees will insist on losing …. the list goes on and on!! The capital investment in a Part 3 dive school has to be somewhere between one to one and a half million dollars depending on what equipment etc you have to start with.
When you start considering a closed bell school, then you’re really getting into the big money. Bell systems – even the small training systems used in the international closed bell schools – start in the millions and keep climbing. They’re scarce for a start and everybody wants one. There’s a waiting list for bell systems and that adds to the price.
Then the system has to be set up and kept to the stringent standard that ADAS insists on to protect you and your buddy’s lives and fair skins. That means engineering inspections and extensive maintenance and equipment upgrades.
Then there’s the continuing cost of gas (Heliox), the analysers, the cost of replacement items to meet the requirements for the mandatory certification (how much do you reckon a set of acrylic ports for a bell cost? Try $10,000!! How much for the cables and umbilicals? How much for engineers to inspect and certify the system and its components? You get the idea I’m sure. When the industry is busy and there’s a waiting list for every component and for the technicians and engineers – then the cost goes up even more!
And how about the cost of maintenance? Every helmet/hat needs to have a kit put through it every few months. The costs of these kits can be anywhere from $250 to $500. Each school has about 8 to 12 hats. How about large dive systems? Try keeping a boat in survey and working hard. What about replacing the hot water suits that get worn out and need to be replaced regularly? It doesn’t make it a cheap business to keep going.
An average diving school maintenance budget would have to be in the range of $300,000 p.a.
And then, think about staffing costs. You’re trained by industry professionals (the actual people you have aspirations to become). Being industry professionals, they have the experience and knowledge you hope to gain and which will generally come at a premium rate – after all, one of the reasons you are attracted to commercial diving has to be because the money is good, eh?.
All ADAS Diver Trainers have to be diving professional with qualifications at least at the level of training they are involved with. They have to have extensive industry experience, be qualified and experienced trainers and must be qualified and experienced supervisors to boot. The schools are competing for scarce personnel that the industry is already competing for within itself. And believe me – the industry wins hands down when it comes to bidding up.
Offshore Air Supervisors earn about $1800-2000 AUD a day and Bell Supervisors about $2000 – 3000 AUD a day (and that’s if you can find one that’s actually available and actually wants to train divers!).
Then there’s the rest of the team – Life Support Technicians and Assistant LSTs (for closed bell training), Dive Equipment Technicians, standby divers, admin staff….the list is still going on!
The dive schools have to pay competitively with the industry to attract the staff they need.
Paying off the investment and earning a living
And then consider this. If you were the owner of this facility – how much you would want to make in return for your megabuck investment? The school operators are not there just because they love training divers – they also have families and homes and their own retirements to consider. They have to meet the costs and make a reasonable profit!
So, basically the question really is not why courses cost so much but rather that there’s anyone out there at all that’s mad enough to put their money into a dive school!!! Anyone with any sense would put his or her money into almost anything else and do better at it.
What does all this mean?
Basically, if you wish to be able to access the high-end specific training required to enter a well paid and growing international professional market, then there has to be some investment to kick start that process. Running a commercial dive school is bloody expensive and it’s not a 9-5 job. The truth is that in hard times the schools are scratching to cover their costs and they build that into their costing equation as well.
So, yes, it is expensive to undertake commercial diver training. However, if you consider the above information and the fact that good students usually gain a job in the diving industry within the first 3 months of training completion, then it’s up to you to decide it is worthwhile in the end. If you’re a good worker, are prepared to train and keep training, put your head down and bum up and work hard at it, in a relatively short time you can set yourself up for life with an interesting and well paid job that has plenty of flexibility and plenty of career opportunities. The decision is up to you!!
When the government outsourced the day-to-day administration of ADAS, the Board was structured as a not-for-profit Incorporated Association. The Board is totally voluntary and Directors receive no sitting fees. Only the paid employees of the national office receive remuneration for their services.
ADAS, in keeping with the Australian national requirements for licensing for high risk occupations, is committed to a policy of continued proficiency. Under this requirement, all ADAS licence holders must demonstrate that they remain competent in the the activity for which they have an ADAS certificate at regular intervals (generally 5 years). Failure to renew your ADAS licence results in your licence lapsing, as happens with a driving licence. If your ADAS licence has lapsed, you no longer possess a current ADAS licence. It is a legal requirement to hold an ADAS certificate to work as a construction, and some other forms of, diver in Australia. Failure to renew an ADAS licence under these circumstances results in divers being non-compliant with the law and deprives them of a means to demonstrate competence as an occupational diver. Fees may apply to late renewals.
Some confusion has arisen about the difference between ADAS Onshore Supervisor and ADAS Offshore Supervisor qualifications. The two qualifications are not interchangeable and ADAS Onshore Supervisors are NOT qualified to work as Offshore Supervisors.
Australia has two separate sectors of regulated diving:
Under (1), divers are required to be supervised by trained and ADAS certified ONSHORE Supervisor. Onshore Supervisors do not require offshore oil and gas diving experience and are qualified either as Occupational Scuba Supervisors or Surface Supply Supervisor to 30m (Part 2) or Surface Supply Supervisor to 50m (Part 3). They are issued an ADAS plastic photo identification licence card which is quite clearly marked ONSHORE Supervisor. They are deemed to be competent supervisors at the level to which they have been trained and certified but do not necessarily have offshore experience and are not certified by ADAS to supervise offshore operations. These Onshore Supervisor certificates are not recognised by NOPSEMA or IMCA for supervising offshore operations.
Under (2), divers must be supervised by trained and certified ADAS OFFSHORE Supervisors who must have complied with the ADAS/IMCA/DCBC/NDC agreed training and assessment regime. These supervisors must comply with the requirement to be experienced offshore commercial divers and have the requisite offshore supervisory etc panel hours . They will have ADAS plastic photo identification licence card that quite clearly states that they are either ADAS Air or Bell OFFSHORE Supervisors. These certificates are recognised by IMCA, Canada and the Netherlands.
To make the matter more confusing for everyone, under the Australian national vocational and technical training system, successful graduates for supervisor qualifications are awarded an (A4 sized paper) national diploma in recognition of their academic achievement. These diplomas have no legal significance. All ADAS supervisor graduates trained in Australia are awarded with these diplomas but as noted above, their legal licence is the ADAS plastic card.
Generally – yes. State and Territory OHS legislation generally call up the Standards (either directly as part of the regulations or as part of government policy) as the minimum conditions under which occupational diving should be conducted. Where the regulations do not call up the Standards, they will almost certainly be referred to in a court of law investigating a case of misconduct, an accident or death etc. and will be used as a reference for industry best practice and in a civil action.
Except in a the instances of Chamber Operator endorsements for Part 3 divers and for Nitrox, ADAS no longer includes endorsements on its licence cards. Endorsements have no legal affect and do not provide any evidence as to the competencies signified .
After consultation with our international partners and consideration of the issues involved, ADAS policy was changed to require that ADAS certificates of competence have a stand-alone photo-identification card that identifies them and specifies their level of supervisor etc qualification, competency and currency.
Using a supervisor qualification as an example, the reasons for that were as follows: The supervisor certification is not an endorsement; it is a qualification in its own right with its own industry-agreed set of competencies and requirements. Acceptance of the role as a dive supervisor imposes on the recipient substantial legal duties and obligations and responsibilities. Because of the very diverse nature of the diving industry, there is not just one level of dive supervisor qualification. Whilst there are definitely a common core of the softer supervisor skills (leadership, communication, problem resolution etc) quite obviously, the diving skills, knowledge and experience required for supervising surface supplied construction diving are quite different from those required for a scientific diving on scuba.
The various levels of supervisor qualification have requirements that are additional to merely possessing a diver qualification at that level, and therefore the level of supervisor qualification will not necessarily always be congruent with the level of diver certification. For example, a Part 3 diver might well have sufficient operational experience to meet the requirements for a Part 2 supervisor but not those of a Part 3 supervisor. Whilst the prerequisites for obtaining the qualification include certification as a diver, maintenance of ongoing diver certification is not necessary in the long term to retain such certification – a diver can continue as a supervisor well after ceasing to be medically fit to dive. In effect, the supervisor qualification offers a completely separate career choice for divers who cannot, or do not wish to, continue to dive.
The necessity for supervisors to be certified is called up in AS/NZS 2299.1:2007 and is a legal requirement for most occupational diving areas. Occupational health and safety regulators have indicated that they expect supervisors to be provided with a supervisor certificate of competence card that identifies them and specifies their level of supervisor qualification, competency and currency. If you wish to be certified as both a diver and a supervisor, you will be expected to pay for the additional certification.
The diving industry has the ability to make you a good living, but like any job – if you don’t work at it you won’t succeed. It depends on the individual. Many graduates have very despondently crashed out of the diving industry. Others have gone on to bigger and better things with every passing job. The difference? How the divers conduct themselves within the industry.
However, to get you in the ball park, take a look at the award for occupational divers negotiated by the Maritime Union of Australia for indicative rates.
The thing to also remember about pay is that it will vary with your experience. Don’t necessarily expect that you, as a brand new ‘baby’ diver, will be worth the same to an employer as a fully worked-up, all bells-and-whistles, professional who has been in the business for years.
You can apply for consideration under the ADAS Recognition of Prior Learning process.
Divers who can establish comprehensive relevant theoretical knowledge and occupational diving experience gained in on-the-job situations and who have formal logbook evidence of such experience, may claim up to a maximum of two weeks’ credit towards the normal ADAS training programs.
This maximum period of credit is based on the assessment by ADAS that divers who have not undertaken formal diving training will not have been exposed to the required standard of training in safety-critical activities such as emergency procedures, rescues and risk assessment, and to the professional standard of teamwork expected of ADAS certified divers. The latter competency in particular cannot be adequately assessed in the limited time and opportunity afforded by an assessment-only procedure.
If a candidate has not kept a logbook, they cannot be considered for assessment using letters of reference from past employers alone. If they are able to produce records of dives from company dive records and/or computer logs signed, dated and stamped by the employer/supervisor, these are to be approved by the Executive Director ADAS before they are accepted for the assessment.
If you want more detailed information on the subject of RPL procedures, go to the Recognition of Prior Learning page on this website.
The other way around:
Experienced recreational training staff can be very skilled SCUBA divers but they generally lack experience in occupational competencies such as working as a team using commercial diving equipment, working underwater using hand tools, undertaking stand-by diver and attendant duties and conducting risk assessments. They are also usually less knowledgeable than ADAS requires in regard to some aspects of diving theory, especially in the areas of occupational health and safety legislation and relevant industry standards and codes of practice.
For this reason, to be assessed as competent at the level that ADAS requires, they must undertake some training to gain the requisite competencies and go through the rigorous assessment process that underlies all ADAS competency assessments.
Experienced recreational Divemasters/Dive Coordinators who have qualifications from either PADI, NASDS, SSI or NAUI or from an ADAS-approved equivalent can claim up to one week’s credit on an ADAS Part 1 course only.
Experienced recreational instructors who have qualifications from either PADI, NASDS, SSI or NAUI or from an ADAS-approved equivalent can claim up to one week credit on an ADAS Part 1 course. Where the applicant can demonstrate exceptional experience and qualifications as a recreational instructor up to two weeks credit can be sought, subject to prior approval being gained from the Executive Director ADAS.
Most diving doctors are registered with the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (SPUMS).
You can find a list of contacts for SPUMS doctors at www.spums.org.au
Alternatively, diving medicals may be conducted by doctors who have other specialised training e.g. those in the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Adelaide Hospital (with hyperbaric training).
Below is an extract from AS/NZ2299.1:2007:
“2.5.2 Divers and Attendants
All divers and attendants shall be trained in first aid so that, as a minimum, they are able
(a) control bleeding;
(b) administer 100% oxygen;
(c) care for an unconscious patient; and
(d) carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
NOTE: The above requirements are met by most general first aid courses leading to certification, incorporating or supplemented by an oxygen administration course.
2.5.3 Maintenance of first aid competency
Competency in first aid shall be maintained through regular practice and re-certification every 3 years. CPR and oxygen resuscitation skills should be demonstrated to a first aid instructor on at least an annual basis.
NOTE: The Australian Resuscitation Council provides guidelines regarding appropriate levels of training and equipment for first aiders, including divers.”
Dive Supervisors shall be trained to level outlined in Clause 2.5.2.”
For more information, go to the First Aid page of this website.
No is the quick and easy answer. Plenty of divers have made a healthy living as onshore divers from things as diverse as aquaculture to civil construction.
The minimum age of 18 is the only age specification. There are a number of commercial divers working offshore over the age of 50. The ability to do this, of course, depends on maintaining your diving medical fitness. If you want to and you have the skills, you can always move on to supervising or management, neither or which requires a diving medical, but do have there own quite special requirements.
No school will guarantee work for you before you are certified – that would be an unrealistic expectation. A number of the schools operate commercial diving wings and may make an offer to certain graduate students. More commonly, contractors or ex-students will contact the ATEs and in these instances, at the schools discretion they will pass this information on.
You can do as little or as much as you think you need to achieve your goals.
Remember when making these choices that you should make yourself as employable as possible. Try to leave as many options open to yourself as you can – don’t handicap yourself before you get established.
ADAS is an accreditation organisation that has worked closely with its diver constituency to try and meet all the needs of the modern diving professional. As such, ADAS offers a complete career path to meet the requirements of the forward thinking diving professional.
From entry level commercial SCUBA to deep water closed bell diving, specialty training in areas of interest – inspection, diver medics, supervisors, chamber operators – and even, should you have the dedication and experience, work your way through to trainer status. ADAS is committed to providing a comprehensive training and qualification structure for the working diver.
ADAS is the only commercial accreditation body that has gone out of its way to give its divers options for their future.
ADAS is totally committed to ensuring that the Scheme operates at the standard of world best practice. It has adopted the 5 year renewal cycle to ensure that the national and international occupational diving industry can have confidence that any diver with a current ADAS Certificate of Competency is a safe and competent occupational diver.
There are a number of factors which led to adopting the renewal policy to ensure the continuing credibility of the ADAS Certificate:
The VET certificate can provide the foundation for progressing into higher level academic courses (e.g. Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Bachelor Degree) but has no significance in regard to working as an occupational diver. ADAS is required to issue a VET certificate as ADAS courses are accredited within the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system under the Australian Quality Framework. The units of competency achieved in Part 1 – 4 courses equate to a VET Certificate IV, Dive Supervisor to Diploma and Dive Project Manager to Advanced Diploma.
However, it is the ADAS certificate (plastic card) that is called up in state OHS regulations and the national standards (2815 series), and is therefore the certification that must be sighted by employers as evidence of competence to work as an occupational diver in Australia.
Employment is something that you should be considering from the moment that you decide that you wish to train as a commercial diver. You should make initial contact with dive companies within your locality and enquire if it would be possible to return to talk to them when you have completed training. Ask them if they have any advice to pass on to you, try and impress them with your enthusiasm and willingness to work.
Seek advice from your ATE as to where jobs are likely to be available. Always be courteous but remember – no one will give you a job! You have to prove you are worth employing as a diver and you have to sell yourself based on your enthusiasm, professional approach, qualifications, training and experience!
You need to construct a precise and effective CV . ADAS schools will normally help you here, or you can find any number of professionals who will help you for a price.
A number of internet sites have been set up to help potential employers and divers alike. One of the more useful sites is www.longstreath.com
If you really want to be a professional diver, be realistic, do plenty of research (including studying the rest of this website and any other information you can chase up) and identify what your ultimate aim is in the diving job stakes.
For a start, decide on an objective. For instance, do you want to dive as a scientific researcher – maybe collecting samples on the Barrier Reef or under the sea-ice in Antractica; enjoy a life travelling the world to war zones defusing mines and other explosive ordinance; search for evidence at underwater crimes scenes; catch and farm wild tuna; build and/or maintain underwater structures such as reservoirs, bridges, oil and gas platforms or pipelines – or perhaps even a combination of some or all of these over a lifetime of occupational diving. Decide if there is some particular type of diving that really appeals to you, and set your sights on that as your ultimate goal!
However, be realistic and make sure that there is a reasonable chance of achieving your aim. A common thread with all of these is that the diving is only a means to get you to the workplace. Once you’re there, then you use your work skills to do the job you’re being paid for. The more work skills you have, the more you have to offer potential employers, the more work and the better the jobs you will be offered.
And be prepared to accept that your chosen career will not always be easy and comfortable. Another common thread is the nomadic life style of most of them. Be prepared to travel!
Additionally, very few of these jobs are in warm tropical waters, with great visibility and colourful sea life! In fact, most involve lots of groping around in the dark feeling wet, cold and a long way from home!
Assess what you have to offer the prospective employer of choice and identify any gaps in your personal employability profile (whether that’s a lack in training, qualifications or experience). Be realistic – nobody goes straight into oilfield saturation diving!
Size up the types of diving work out there that you can get with the qualifications and experience that you already have (as a starting point, for example, maybe look at the aquaculture industry – which seems perennially short of divers). If you have good trade qualifications and an existing work record, you are miles ahead of the pack!
If you don’t have the qualifications and experience needed, start developing a record of diving work that identifies you as a keen, enthusiastic, dedicated can-do employee. Take any job; seize any opportunity that adds to your credibility as an occupational diver. Let your employer know what your aims and aspirations are – try and enlist him or her on your side. You never know when some effort establishing a good relationship with an employer may pay off – it might be years down the track.
Whatever you do – log your dives! Accurate, credible records are essential if you are trying to establish your bonafides to a prospective employer. Additionally, you will often need to establish that you have certain experience as a pre-requisite for further training.
Make a plan of action that will, over time, gain you the knowledge, skills, qualifications and experience that you will need to get to that objective. Keep adding to your skills inventory – nobody is just a diver these days, multi-skilling is the name of the game.
But if you are really keen, then go for it!
No one can guarantee work unless the training has been sponsored by a future employer. This is not an unusual position as many people undertake further education, university, college etc, without even a clear idea of what they want to be never mind if there is a job out there. Like any other profession, the people who succeed are those who work at succeeding!
ADAS has reciprocal recognition with a number of countries including: UK, Norway, Canada, France, South Africa, Netherlands, and the ADAS card is recognised and accepted in a whole range of other countries because of its reputation for quality and credibility. ADAS divers are working as far a field as the North Sea (UK), Kazakhstan (the Russias), Gulf of Mexico (USA), Gulf of Oman (Dubai), Bataan (Phillipines), the China Sea and South China Sea, Jakarta (Indonesia), Brunei, Gulf of Thailand, Nigeria, South Africa, Mumbai (India), Egypt and Angola are amongst some of the parts of the world that ADAS divers have successfully found employment. Of course, just having an ADAS card doesn’t guarantee you a job – you need not only to convince an employer that they should employ you but you may need a work permit, entry visa, etc.