The PADI Divemaster Course on Gozo.

What does this course entail? Part One.

Over the years, I think one of the most common questions asked about the PADI Divemaster course is “How to become a Divemaster and can I complete it in 10 days?” The Divemaster course entails much more than a 10-day course can cover.

I am sure, people misunderstand the concept of the Divemaster course and what it actually means. Understanding which role Divemasters play within the scuba diving industry and the responsibilities that they carry, once certified, is not common knowledge to many.

Many people become confused with the word ‘master’, often putting the Divemaster certification above the Open Water Instructor. The misconception arises when we speak of a ‘master’ of the art of diving, which, without a doubt, a Divemaster is or should be. However, the confusion starts when people think Divemasters can teach people to dive and more. With the exception of a couple of PADI programs and Specialities, this is actually not true.

Let us take a look and clarify exactly what a Divemaster is, what role they play and how to become one?

What is a PADI Divemaster?

A PADI Divemaster is the very first professional PADI rating within the PADI system. Not only is it the world’s most popular professional level, but it also forms the backbone of most successful diving centres. Liveaboard operations are dependant on native Divemaster too. A PADI Divemaster performs specific roles and duties with varying tasks and levels of responsibility.

Performing the duty of a dive leader brings with it logistical planning and organisation. Here the Divemasters role will be to plan dive trips or shore dives with correct boat management when required. Lead certified divers acting as a dive guide and oversee all diving activities on any given trip or shore dive.

Customer service duties at the dive centre.

A PADI Divemaster is usually an employee of the dive centre and will perform various duties towards the customer. This will include recommendations for purchasing scuba gear and what equipment to invest in. Another role of the Divemaster is to encourage and offer advice to clients with regards to continuing education. Con-Ed plays a huge role in the survival of a dive centre and the Divemasters salary! Certified Divemasters also play a huge role as assistants in the instructional section, assisting PADI Instructors throughout their teaching activities. However,  this role is always under the supervision of the acting Instructor.

Albeit limited in what you can ‘teach,’ Divemasters have the opportunity to complete additional course training, such as ‘Discover Scuba Diver Leader’ and the PADI Emergency O2 Provider Instructor course. Once training is complete and you hold the confirmation from PADI, you are eligible to teach these courses. Given these points, a Divemaster should check with the country legal system where they wish to work, making sure they are allowed to teach. This is not always a given factor, as in the case of Malta and Gozo.

Divemaster conducted Programs.

Notably, Divemasters may conduct ‘Divemaster conducted programs,’ which include the PADI Re-Activate program, and when requested, a Scuba Review. Divers who have been out of the water for a considerable amount of time might wish to participate in a full Scuba Review program to refresh both knowledge and skills.

PADI Divemasters, employed at a dive centre which actively engages with hotels and hotel guests get a great opportunity to teach ‘intro’ dives or discover scuba diving experiences. Often such ‘intro’ courses lead to PADI Open Water courses or a PADI Scuba Diver course. Generally speaking, this is a great way for Divemaster to learn and experience a fragment of the ‘teaching side’ of the PADI system in a safe environment. At the same time, it encourages hotel guests to learn to dive, and you promote PADI’s ‘dive today’ philosophy, by getting potential divers into the ocean after the pool experience. If you, as a Divemaster, work in a resort, no doubt you will, as a Discover scuba diving leader conduct lots of DSDs throughout the busy high season months.

Other Divemaster duties.

There are other Divemaster duties which you will be expected to cover which does not entail water work. Equally important is paperwork and administration. Answering telephone calls, stock taking on a daily basis and emails. You will be familiar with the equipment service room and maintenance of small issues regarding scuba equipment.

Conduct ‘dive checks’ for certified divers on the PADI Pro site if the guest cannot produce their certification card. Processing PADI certifications (PIC’s) and registering DSD participants through the PADI’s OPC – Online Processing Centre. This is very important and a key role in the overall day to day duties of a Divemaster. As a result, it is imperative that you, as a Divemaster know your way around the PADI OPC site.

The digital social media aspect of a dive centre is also an important marketing tool. A PADI Divemaster is expected to understand and use social media, have a basic understanding of online marketing and show the ability to use these tools. Today’s modern dive centre requires it’s employees to understand the role and importance social media plays in dive centre operations. Often PADI Divemasters play a pivotal role by taking responsibility for social media accounts and blogs while they work there.

How do I become a PADI Divemaster?

In brief above, we covered what a Divemaster actually is and what a Divemaster might be required to do. Let’s now look ahead how you can become a Divemaster?

To start off with, there are a few pre-requisites that each candidate must meet before embarking on the PADI Divemaster course.

First; you will need to be a PADI Rescue diver or equivalent. Hold a recognised first aid and CPR certification completed with the previous 24 months and have logged a minimum of 40 dives. Have a medical clearance signed by a doctor, not older than 12 months. These pre-requisites deem the purpose of making sure your diving abilities are at a level required to start out on a professional level scuba diving course.

Water skills – Professional Level.

To emphasize a point here; it is the PADI Divemaster course where Dive Professionals learn their Professional level standard WATER SKILLS, NOT on the Instructor Development course as many mistakenly believe!! It is crucial that Divemasters learn their watermanship skills correctly, not to mention the amount of Professional level knowledge that is required to complete the PADI Divemaster examination.

The PADI Divemaster course is the foundation for any good quality diving instructor. However, this can only be achieved by good, solid skill practice alongside a good mentor, who is dedicated to the task and does NOT cut corners. This is the course and platform for your future step into the PADI Instructor world and beyond.

During this course, you will learn dive site management skills as well as navigation skills whilst leading divers. Learn different techniques and procedures in relation to different dive sites. Consider how to manage dive emergencies and recap on the correct procedures. Each dive site might have different challenges!

Theory and Skills;

An in-depth study of dive theory is a must. Sections relating to diving Physics, Physiology, RDP/eRDPml, care of the environment, equipment and decompression theory will be covered. Perfect and fine-tune your diving skills to a level where you are able to demonstrate effortlessly and effectively to student divers. Remember, buoyancy and attention to detail is required here, not to mention you will be examined on all sections.

There is a final theory exam to complete. In addition, five water skills exercises which include stamina tests; in a 400 m swim (any swim stroke is allowed), an 800 m mask, snorkel and fins swim (no use of arms) and a 15 min. tread water. A 100 m tired diver tow (push), nonstop, at the surface, without assistance – both divers must wear full scuba equipment. Last but not least, equipment exchange in confined water with a buddy.

Workshops:

A series of workshops that focus on specialised diving activities such as deep diving and search and recovery. Throughout this course, you will be evaluated on your ability to control divers in real-life environments as well as your supervision and approach to diving activities. Additional programs will be taught on how to conduct Divemaster programs, such as the open water section of a DSD and the PADI Skin Diver course.

What am I allowed to teach as a PADI Divemaster?

As I mentioned earlier, PADI Divemasters are limited in what they can actually teach. Regulations in certain countries might rule certain options out.

As a standalone program, you can independently teach and certify PADI Skin Divers along with the PADI Seal Team AquaMission Skin Diver Specialist.

Certified Divemasters may conduct the Discover Snorkelling program as well as conducting the skin diving skills section of the PADI Open Water course during confined water dives 2, 3, 4, or 5.

With this in mind, you can still ‘teach’ as in passing on your knowledge to certified divers. Information about marine life and the local environment whilst guiding dives are often welcome. This is very rewarding when some scuba divers are not familiar with the local environment. They appreciate your knowledge very much indeed.

Re-Activate and Scuba Review are another two programs which Divemasters can participate in. These programs are designed for certified divers who have not entered the water for some time. Here, you are not actually ‘teaching’ these divers as such, rather you are refreshing their knowledge and skills.

You, as a Divemaster with the Discover Scuba Diver Leader credential, can conduct Discover Scuba Diving in a pool or in confined open water. Also, once the instructor training for the Emergency Oxygen Provider is completed, a certified Divemaster can also teach this course.

Passionate about teaching?

If you are passionate about teaching and enjoy the rewards of teaching someone to dive then you need to enrol in the next step, which is the PADI Instructor Development course. Here, you open another door to many opportunities around the world when you gain your PADI Open Water Instructor status.

More next week on Divemaster Internships and what these might include.

Safe diving everyone!