Working Around the World as a Divemaster – Part 2: Getting Certified
In part one of this series I highlighted how the Divemaster qualification can provide employment opportunities all over the world, help you replenish your RTW travel fund, and allow you to explore some of the most pristine environments on our planet.
In this article I’ll be taking a look at the time commitment, total cost and level of skill required to get certified.
As I am a PADI Divemaster I’ll be focusing on the PADI diver education program, however there are a number of other recognized training agencies around the world including BSAC, SDI and NAUI.
While many dive operations require a minimum level of certification to join an expedition, additional diver training and education is a great way to build a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Both of which will assist in making you a more accomplished scuba diver.
The experience of becoming a Divemaster is about so much more than attaining a certification. It allows you to expand your dive knowledge, hone your skills and push the boundaries of your comfort zone. While training in Costa Rica with Rich Coast Diving I had more character building experiences than I could have anticipated, and learnt a great deal about the different aspects of my character.
Becoming a PADI Divemaster
There are a number of ways to obtain your Divemaster certification and I would recommend discussing the options available to you with your local dive operation. Many divers choose to slowly work their way up through the levels of diver education, however I chose to fast track and went from scuba newbie to semi scuba pro in a little over ninety days.
Many dive organizations provide internship opportunities that reduce the costs involved with a Divemaster training course. I spent three months working six days a week as part of an internship/certification exchange. If you’re serious about working in the professional diving world I would recommend choosing an internship to gain additional real world dive experience. When looking for employment in the industry it is an invaluable addition to your dive CV.
The road to Divemaster certification begins when you sign up for an Open Water Diver course, however to begin the PADI Divemaster training course you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- A PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (or qualifying certification from another training organization)
- A PADI Rescue Diver (or qualifying certification from another training organization)
- An Emergency First Response Primary and Secondary Care (or qualifying first aid and CPR training from another organization) course completion within the past 24 months.
- Have at least 40 dives to begin the course and 60 for certification
- Be fit for diving and submit a medical statement signed by a physician within the last 12 months.
Step One: PADI Open Water Diver
If your goal is to be able to dive unsupervised I recommend starting with the Open Water Diver course. While some resorts conduct what is called a Discover Scuba Diver course this is not a recognized qualification and until you are a certified Open Water Diver you will not be qualified to dive unassisted by a dive professional.
The Open Water Diver course is designed to introduce you to basic dive theory and give you the skills necessary to competently dive to a depth of eighteen meters.
A three part process your dive education begins with a classroom theory session, this is followed by practical experience in confined water, such as a swimming pool or shallow bay, and finally your first aquatic adventure diving in the open ocean.
Time: 3 to 4 days.
Cost: You can expect to pay between $300 and $600 depending on your location.
Step Two: PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
Now that you’re certified, you can progress to Advanced Open Water Diver. This course is designed to give you a confidence boost by honing some of the skills you touched on during your Open Water instruction. Along with the mandatory specialties of underwater navigation and deeper water diving you will have the option to choose three additional areas to focus on during your training.
While you can try your hand at wreck diving, night diving, and underwater photography, I would recommend utilizing this opportunity to master the art of buoyancy. Choosing the peak performance buoyancy specialty will ensure that you are making the most of your time underwater while safeguarding the marine environment.
The Advanced Open Water Diver program is a great way to get some additional time underwater with a dive professional, and can often give new divers more confidence in their abilities. It’s a vital step on the Divemaster ladder so I would suggest pairing the Open Water and Advanced courses to make the most of the opportunity to acquire good dive techniques.
Time: 5 dives are completed over 2 days.
Cost: You can expect to pay between $250 and $400 depending on your location.
Step Three: Emergency First Response Training
For those involved in adventure sports, a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR is advisable. Emergency First Response Training or EFR is an additional certification that forms part of the prerequisites for the PADI Divemaster course and aims to provide you with an understanding of correct emergency response protocol.
EFR training is surprisingly upbeat and involves a lot of role playing. The good-humoured nature of the practical elements is designed to engage students and ensure the relevant information is easily recalled during the extreme stress of an emergency situation.
Time: 1 day.
Cost: You can expect to pay between $100 and $200 depending on your location.
Step Four: PADI Rescue Diver
The Rescue Diver course is the most challenging stage of your journey to certifying as a Divemaster. Building on the skills you learnt on land during EFR you learn how to react to, and prevent a range of in water emergencies.
There are certain risks involved with an adrenaline sport such as scuba diving however they are greatly reduced through safe dive practice and responsible diving. The Rescue Diver course teaches you how to competently recognize and manage stress in other divers, rescue panicked and unconscious divers and manage your own rescue in an out of air situation. While these are skills that many of us hope we will never have to utilize, it is vital for a dive professional to be able to react quickly to any emergencies that may occur.
I found this element of Divemaster training to be the most rewarding and while the subject was a little daunting at first, I know I am now a more confident and conscientious diver .
Time: 3 to 4 days.
Cost: You can expect to pay between $350 and $500 depending on your location.
Step Five: PADI Divemaster
As I mentioned in part one of this series a Divemaster certification is the first step into the professional world of diving. Once qualified you are able to work closely with other dive professionals assisting with dive education and supervising training.
The course itself develops your leadership abilities, enhances your skills and challenges your ability to organize and solve problems, as well as assist others in improving their own dive practice.
More often than not, training is taken aside an internship that builds real world industry experience, however it is also possible to take a two week intensive course.
Split into three sections the training builds on your understanding of:
- Dive Theory – physics, physiology and RDP theory.
- Confined Water Training – stamina tests, skill demonstration and instruction scenario role playing.
- Open Water Training – a minimum of 5 open water training dives; two of which must be with Open Water and either Advanced or Rescue Diver students.
A combination of classroom, confined and open water training, the course provides you with the skills necessary to gain employment as a dive professional.
As a Divemaster you will be expected to lead, mentor and motivate other divers through their own dive career and will be involved in training new and more accomplished divers.
Working as a qualified Divemaster can take you all over the globe and introduce you to some passionate individuals who thrive on their ability to explore the aquatic world. I have found the most rewarding part of the whole experience to be assisting new divers as they take their first breath underwater. Watching as they discover the unfamiliar marine environment reminds me of the adrenaline rush I felt the first time I descended for a dive.
Time: 2 weeks intensive training or 3 to 6 months when incorporating an internship.
Cost: Varies significantly depending on your location.
The Costs Involved
The total cost of progressing from PADI Open Water Diver to PADI Divemaster varies significantly depending on where you choose to get certified. Central America and Asia are considerably cheaper than places like the USA and Europe however you can expect to pay around $1,500 with a three month internship.
Be aware that some dive operations insist that Divemasters in training have all their own equipment. If you have yet to invest in your own scuba gear discuss your needs with the dive shop, it may be that you can purchase a mask, buoyancy control device and regulator and borrow any other equipment from them.
Once certified as a Divemaster the diving world is your oyster.
With more than 5,000 PADI dive centres operating in 190 countries there are a wealth of opportunities to forge a dive career. Since qualifying I’ve worked on the deck of a five star live aboard in Australia, explored the shores of Costa Rica and the volcanic underwater architecture of the Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand.