Diving with NOAA
NOAA Divers are at the heart of NOAA’s mission: ocean exploration, research, and marine conservation require NOAA to use divers and diving technologies to collect data, maintain its ships, install measuring and monitoring instruments, revitalize ecosystems, and to test equipment. The NOAA Diving Program offers support to existing divers within NOAA, as well as provides training for the next generation of NOAA Divers to continue this vital work.
Becoming a NOAA Diver
As is the case for many agencies that conduct diving missions, all diving activites at NOAA are a collateral duty for personnel, so there are no specific diving jobs. This means that NOAA scientists, marine archaeologists, and other professionals were specialists in their field first, and then became NOAA Divers as needed to support NOAA's mission.
All NOAA divers are either NOAA Corps Officers, NOAA civilian federal employees, NOAA contractors, NOAA wage mariners, are former NOAA divers who now volunteer with us, or are a reciprocity diver from one of our partner agencies. NOAA divers can represent many Line Offices, however most divers are from NOAA Marine Fisheries Service, National Ocean Service, or from the Office of Marine & Aviation Operations. You can find NOAA locations near your area here. If you are not a NOAA employee but would like to work for NOAA, you can see current job openings on USAjobs.gov. Please note that there is no specific job or office in NOAA that guarantees that you will become a NOAA diver.
Many NOAA Diver candidates will go through one or more of the several rigorous diver training courses that the NOAA Diving Center offers for NOAA employees. Other NOAA Diver candidates — namely reciprocity crossover divers, and certain other highly experienced diver candidates selected by a Unit Diving Supervisor — do not have to attend a formal class, but will instead have their skills evaluated in the field. This evaluation ensures that all NOAA divers meet the same standards of diving skill, fitness, NOAA equipment, and NOAA diving policies and procedures.
For more information about NOAA diving careers and diving opportunities for both youth and adults, see this page.
The NOAA Diving Program uses the following diving tables to calculate maximum depths and diving intervals:
Requirements for NOAA Divers
NOAA Divers are required to maintain a high level of proficiency, both in practice (in the water) and in theoretical understanding (academic learning) in order to continue to dive at NOAA. In addition, NOAA Divers must be medically fit to dive and are required to send their diving equipment out for maintenance as scheduled. If requirements are not met, divers may become unauthorized to dive or suspended.
In order to maintain active NOAA Diver status, the following requirements must be met:
Annual In-Water Proficiency
- Each diver must log a minimum of three (3) dives per calendar quarter. Calendar quarters are Jan 1-Mar 31; Apr 1-Jun 30; July 1-Sep 30; Oct 1-Dec 31.
- Once 24 dives have been recorded, the diver will remain proficient for the rest of that calendar year.
- Successfully pass an annual watermanship assessment.
- Successfully pass a check out dive administered by the Unit Diving Supervisor, which includes basic diving skills and an in-water rescue drill.
- Adult CPR, including AED.
- First Aid (American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or equivalent).
- Oxygen administration.
- Recognition and treatment of diving accidents and injuries.
- Rescue techniques.
- NOAA Dive Tables for Multiple Air Dives.
- NOAA Diving Standards, Policies, and Procedures.
Since the following documents contain personal information, please use an encrypted method of transmission, such as Accellion or the Diving Medical Officer's secured fax (206-529-2759).
- An initial physical examination (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) is required for all new applicants and for any former NOAA Divers whose authorization to dive has lapsed for 2 years.
- Annually: either an Annual Medical History (NOAA Form 57-03-54) or a periodic physical exam (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) depending on when your periodic physical examinations are due.
To check when your current physical exam expires, log on to the NOAA Dive Log and check your profile. You may need to submit additional documentation if the Diving Medical Officer (DMO) requires it before declaring you medically fit to dive.
Please be aware that even when a medical form is not due, active divers should report any significant medical changes to the DMO, such as:
- Any surgeries
- Any illness that requires hospitalization or medical intervention
- New medications (they can affect physiological response to pressure and the changing partial pressure of gases)
Equipment must be returned to the Standardized Equipment Program (SEP) office annually to be tested and/or overhauled. Failure to have SEP service your equipment by the due date posted in the NOAA Dive Log will result in suspension of authorization to dive.
In addition to the above requirements, Divemasters must also complete the following annual refresher training:
- 5-minute neurological examination.
- Diving accident management.
Suspension of NOAA Diving Privileges
NOAA diving certifications may be temporarily suspended or permanently revoked for cause. Temporary suspension of NOAA diving certification is typically issued for medical reasons or minor infractions of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures. Permanent revocation of diving certification is typically reserved for more serious medical conditions or violations of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures.
Diving is a physically demanding activity that requires adequate physical preparation.
In order to become NOAA divers, candidates must first submit a physical to be considered medically fit to dive. After that, divers must complete medical documentation annually to maintain authorization to dive. To maintain fitness to dive, it is imperative that divers recognize the need for a continual and aggressive exercise program that exceeds basic health maintenance standards.
At NOAA, immediate supervisors may grant currently authorized NOAA divers up to 3 hours per week of official time to perform aerobic and/or strength training exercises to help maintain a conditioning level sufficient to pass the annual watermanship assessment.
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