Rescue diver

Rescue divers in training


Rescue divers are divers that manage underwater emergencies. They prevent and manage problems underwater, handle dive emergencies and operate rescue equipment. Rescue divers manage diving operations in seas or waterways. They work under demanding physical conditions to rescue and retrieve people or objects.

The duties of a rescue diver include, but are not limited to:

  • Evaluating the safety of diving conditions, including water conditions, weather conditions, and equipment reliability
  • Supervising other members of the dive team during rescue operations, such as lifeguards or EMTs
  • Conducting underwater searches using scuba equipment in lakes, rivers, oceans, swamps, or other bodies of water
  • Assisting other first responders during emergencies such as natural disasters, fires, or other large-scale events
  • Providing first aid to injured persons at accident scenes or in other emergency situations
  • Performing non-medical tasks such as rigging equipment, lifting heavy objects, moving supplies, and other physical labor
  • Conducting open water dives to locate and recover drowning victims or other victims of trauma in aquatic environments
  • Preparing dive equipment for use by other team members
  • Conducting training sessions on safe diving practices for new divers.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to rescue diver:

para-rescue diver
dive rescue technician
dive emergency worker
underwater rescue worker
search and rescue diver
emergency rescue diver
diver life support technician

Working conditions

Rescue divers work in a variety of settings, including open water (such as oceans, lakes, and rivers), public swimming pools, and diving centers. They may work for government agencies, or for private companies that provide diving services.

Rescue divers typically work long hours, including weekends and holidays, and are on call 24 hours a day. They may be required to work in shifts, and their work schedule may vary depending on the needs of their employer.

Rescue divers may be exposed to hazardous conditions and may be required to work in difficult and dangerous situations. They must be able to remain calm and think clearly in order to make life-saving decisions.

Minimum qualifications

A high school diploma is generally required to work as a rescue diver, as well as a completed first aid course.

Most training for this certification happens through the coursework and practical experience requirements for the first two certifications. Students will learn the basics of diving during their open water certification course, and they will learn more advanced skills during their advanced certification course.

Rescue divers will also receive on-the-job training from their employers. They will learn the specific procedures and protocols for their organization and will receive instruction from more experienced divers.


ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Rescue diver is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Rescue diver career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to rescue diver.

construction commercial diver
harvest diver
fire service vehicle operator
aquaculture hatchery worker
crossing guard

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of rescue diver. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of rescue diver with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

underwater construction supervisor
deck officer
emergency ambulance driver
legal guardian
aeronautical information service officer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of rescue diver.

  • Diving operation requirements: The operational plan and the contingency plan for the diving operation, the diving equipment to be used in the diving operation, the diving signals to be used in the diving operation, the in-water decompression procedures to be used in the diving operation, and any emergency procedures that might have to be used in the diving operation.
  • Crisis intervention: Coping strategies in crisis cases which allow individuals to overcome their problems or fears and avoid psychological distress and breakdown.
  • Diving equipment: Equipment used for a dive, including wetsuits and drysuits, helmets, scuba equipment and any umbilical equipment which provides the connection with the surface.
  • Diving vessels systems: The characteristics, functioning and way of working with dynamic positioning systems, construction barges and dive support vessels.
  • First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of rescue diver.

Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid in order to provide help to a sick or injured person until they receive more complete medical treatment.
React calmly in stressful situations: React quickly, calmly, and safely to unexpected situations. Provide a solution that solves the problem or diminishes its impact.

  • Comply with the planned time for the depth of the dive: Ensure that a diver returns from a given depth after the planned time limit has expired.
  • Deal with pressure from unexpected circumstances: Strive to achieve objectives despite the pressures arising from unexpected factors outside of your control.
  • Display warnings around dive site: Ensure that warning devices are displayed in the area around a dive site, so as to keep it clear of any equipment other than that associated with the diving operation.
  • Perform diving interventions: Perform hyperbaric interventions at a maximum pressure of 4 atmospheres. Prepare and review the personal equipment and the auxiliary material; perform and supervise the dive; realise maintenance of the diving equipment and auxiliary material; apply the security measures to assure the divers security on the realisation of low deep immersions.
  • Dive with scuba equipment: Use scuba equipment to dive without air supply from the surface.
  • Comply with legal requirements for diving operations: Ensure that diving operations comply with legal requirements.
  • Perform search and rescue missions: Assist in fighting natural and civic disasters, such as forest fires, floods and road accidents. Conduct search-and-rescue missions.
  • Handle stressful situations: Deal with and manage highly stressful situations in the workplace by following adequate procedures, communicating in a quiet and effective manner, and remaining level-headed when taking decisions.
  • Maintain diving equipment: Perform maintenance actions, including small repairs, on diving equipment.
  • Ensure health and safety of dive teams: Monitor the safety of the dive teams. Ensure that the operation is carried out from a safe, suitable location as per diving operation manual. When necessary, decide whether it is safe to proceed with the dive.
  • Ensure diving operations conform with plan: Ensure that the dive adheres to the operational plan and the contingency plan.
  • Check diving equipment: Check diving equipment for valid certification to ensure its suitability. Ensure that any diving equipment is examined by a competent person before use, at least once on each day on which it is to be used. Ensure that it is adequately tested and repaired.
  • Tolerate stress: Maintain a temperate mental state and effective performance under pressure or adverse circumstances.
  • Implement dive plans: Implement dive plans, working with the client, vessel teams and marine superintendents.
  • Assist in maritime rescue operations: Provide assistance during maritime rescue operations.
  • Coordinate rescue missions: Coordinate rescue missions during the event of a disaster or during an accident, ensure that all possible methods are being used to ensure the safety of the people being rescued, and that the search is as efficient and thorough as possible.
  • Interrupt diving operations when necessary: Terminate or interrupt the diving operation if continuing the operation is likely to endanger the health or safety of any person involved.
  • Apply crisis management: Take control over plans and strategies in critical circumstances showing empathy and understanding to achieve resolution.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of rescue diver. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Critique the dive with the dive team: Assess the dive with the dive team upon completion. Instruct the diver(s) so as to improve procedures and routines for future dives.
  • Assist with emergencies: Take immediate action when an accident or medical emergency happens on-board. Identify the injuries and alert medical emergency staff. Seek to prevent further harm.
  • Maintain equipment: Regularly inspect and perform all required activities to maintain the equipment in functional order prior or after its use.
  • Conduct physical examination in emergency: Conduct a thorough and detailed physical examination of the patient in emergency situations, using assessment skills such as observation, palpation, and auscultation and formulating diagnoses across all age ranges, followed by the calling for specialist when available.
  • Assess nature of injury in emergency: Assess the nature and extent of injury or illness to establish and prioritise a plan for medical treatment.

ISCO group and title

7541 – Underwater divers

  1. Rescue diver – ESCO
  2. Rescue Diver Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  3. Featured image: By California Department of Fish and Wildlife from Sacramento, CA, USA – Diver Recertification 2014 (2), CC BY 2.0
Last updated on October 3, 2022

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