How can I become a Divemaster?

Options, Internships or Paying Student Part ll

What is a Divemaster Internship? 

Reading the internet on one of the many scuba diver forums, it often paints a grim picture and warns against these ‘work for free’ Internships. I am not in any way suggesting that this is completely untrue. Sadly, there will be organisations in a variety of industries across all careers that may take advantage of an Intern in this way. Nonetheless, this is not and should not be the intent of those that take Interns into their care. Treat them with respect and allow them to be part of the team!

If we look up the meaning of the word ‘Intern’ the actual definition is ‘the position of a student or trainee who works in an organisation. Sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or fulfil requirements for a qualification.’

My own Internship experience;

Many Divemaster Interns, myself included, find this a valuable experience. It provides invaluable work experience and at the same time, it satisfies you with the performance requirements of the Divemaster course. During my internship, I wasn’t paid and I believe the dive centre received great value from me. However, I am absolutely positive that I got way more value from them!
My Divemaster Internship is probably the most important factor as to why I’m still teaching 20+ years later down the line. Not only as an active instructor looking back, but the internship did provide me with all the ground basics. Thus allowing me to move on through dive centre management positions, ownership and even the higher ranking accolades of the PADI system.

Divemaster Internships should be a positive experience, not a negative one. It is an option to gain valuable knowledge, skills, experience and a good grounding in what the diving industry is like…..sometimes it is a wake-up call for those who think the diving industry is all fun and games!

What is exactly a Divemaster Internship?

The answer to this question is two-fold.

One option; is to work with real, live students.
Let us take a look at the PADI Divemaster option that covers the Practical Assessment section of the Divemaster course.

This section has four areas you need to complete, each with multiple performance requirements you need to master based on a scoring criterion. This scoring system we explain during the Orientation.

The four Practical Assessments are;

Open Water Diver Students in Confined Water, Open Water Diver Students in Open Water, Continuing Education Student Divers in Open Water and Certified Divers in Open Water. You are also evaluated on your overall Professionalism during these assessments.

On Gozo, we are very fortunate to have PADI students coming through the PADI Open Water Course regularly. This allows our Divemaster Interns to get involved with live students completing their PADI courses. Not only at open water level but with students entering into Continuing Education courses. This allows our Divemasters to get hands-on experience in the real diving world.
This option is the best way a Divemaster Intern can gain valuable experience and see for themselves what approach you take with novice and beginner divers.

The ‘Role Play’ option.

However, in 2011 PADI went for a major overhaul on the PADI Divemaster course and some performance requirements changed.
A significant number of Divemaster candidates complete their training in non-resort areas where there is a need to ‘role play’ student divers while there are not enough real courses going on.

Option two involves imitating and assigning commonly encountered problems much the same way we do on the IDC. For some dive centres, this has become the norm for their Divemaster candidates, due to a lack of student divers at a given time.

The practical assessment modules;

are extended and involve candidates ‘assisting’ on multiple Open Water course sections during their course. As a result, our candidates gain experience with live students throughout a complete Open Water course.
You gain valuable experience when assisting alongside some of the best PADI Instructors in the business. You learn the skills of becoming an effective instructional assistant, deal with real student problems and demonstrate your ability to watch over the group.

How long does it take to become a Divemaster?

Another popular question with a prospective Divemaster candidate, especially one who has time restrictions. The answer here is; It really depends on you!

The PADI Divemaster course is no different from any other PADI course. It has performance requirements which we have to fulfil and master. As with all PADI courses, it is not time-based.
But unlike a lot of courses, and as discussed above with the added Internship portion, DM courses schedules may extend over a much longer period such as 1,2-3 months.
This gives candidates time to adjust and get value for money, but most important of all is you have time to gain valuable real diving world experience at a dive centre.

So what do we know so far?

We already know we need a minimum of 40 dives to start a Divemaster course. To become a certified Divemaster, one performance requirement states; prior to an individual becoming certified the candidate must have a minimum of 60 dives.

A candidate must complete all 9 knowledge development segments including Knowledge Reviews in the PADI Divemaster Manual or through Divemaster Online. By studying the Encyclopedia of diving it will help to gain valuable knowledge before arrival at the dive centre.

Each candidate must pass the final exam with a minimum of 75% as a passing score. A dive site map and Emergency Assistance Plan for a designated dive site will be assigned to complete. It would leave only the practical workshops and assessment components to complete.

What is your minimum time frame?

A Rescue Diver with 40 dives to a Divemaster with 80 dives takes four weeks in the high season. This allows you to gain lots of valuable experience. During this period you would complete all sections of the Divemaster course and learn a little about the ins and outs of running a dive centre. But I must say;  four weeks experience is just scratching the surface of what Divemastering is all about!

And what is the ideal time frame?

It really varies from person to person. We all learn at different speeds and in different ways but again, on average I would say 8 weeks plus. This time frame gives you enough time to settle into your DM role and understand what a Divemaster trainee should do. It gives you more time to develop yourself into the Divemaster role and understand more about responsibility and customer service.

How much does it cost to become a Divemaster?

This will vary from dive centre to dive centre and location. The Divemaster course can cost between €500 up to €1,000. This will depend on what package you choose at the dive centre, and if it includes the use of equipment, the PADI Divemaster Application fee and PADI materials. If the cost includes any PADI Specialities or if there are any freebies thrown in?

Can I find work as a Divemaster?

If you are willing to work there are options to consider, such as working towards you PADI Instructor Development course at the same time. Working seasonally as a Divemaster at a resort or working on Liveaboards. If you are willing to work, there is work out there!

Your attitude is important here. Get out and speak to fellow dive centres and divers. They are the ones that know when employment is up for grabs. Some dive centres prefer Instructors to take over the role of a Divemaster. This way the Instructor acts as a dive guide or as an Instructor when a PADI course is on the schedule.

On the other hand, some dive centres prefer Divemasters and often will take them to become home-grown Instructors.

Prepare a CV and visit the areas that you wish to work. The ability to use social media and online marketing tools is a plus, as well as language skills. Ultimately, the best attribute you can have is your positive attitude towards scuba diving.

What salary will I earn as a Divemaster?

The answer to that question depends on the dive centre, location and contract. Income varies geographically and from dive centre to dive centre.
The standard options are;
a base salary with commissions based on the number of scuba review’s conducted, continuing education and equipment sales and other various incentives.

A fixed salary is another option or a combination of both. For example; a minimum basic salary is paid and commissions from guided dives, night dive commission and sale of con-ed, courses and equipment will raise the earning threshold.
Here, one needs to take into account that earnings are often seasonal; – high season see earnings 20-30% higher than during low seasons.

What is a Divemaster ‘Working Internship Program’

Most people understand that as a Divemaster candidate there are limits in what you can do. You are on a training course, under the direct supervision, for the most part, of a PADI Instructor.

Legally you are a certified Rescue diver until you have met all performance requirements, paid your membership fee and received your PADI number. Only then are you a PADI Professional and member of the largest and most popular scuba diving training organisation in the world! From this point onward you can go out and receive a salary for your work.

Conclusion;

At the beginning of this article (Part 1), I did mention there are common misunderstandings surrounding the Divemaster role, Internships and what a Divemaster intern can do.

I hope now it is much clearer what a certified Divemaster Role is and what a Divemaster Intern can do; as the Intern is not legally a Professional, yet!

It’s important to remember that the Divemaster course provides the foundation, skillset and knowledge for any good dive professional. My advice is to take your time when choosing the location, facilities and course offer. Study the fine details or what is included and what is not. Cheap and fast is not always the best option. It goes without saying, you get what you pay for!

It is also about attitude too! If you are willing to work, you will find an Internship the most valuable time that you have spent and it will set you up for life!

Enjoy your Divemaster Course!