Shocking Realities of being a Dive Professional
If you are thinking about becoming a dive professional it’s probably because you love scuba diving and the underwater world and want to get paid to do what you love! Don’t we all!? One of the things people rarely realize about doing what you love for a living is how much work it involves. It’s never just the part we love (ie; the scuba diving), there is the unglamorous life of every business that usually happens behind the scenes, or maybe just part of the job we take for granted. Things like licenses, permits, bookkeeping, stocking, marketing, sales, client/customer acquisition etc. You will undoubtedly wear more hats than you bargained for when in pursuit of the thing you love to do, and that is no different for a career in recreational scuba diving. I feel it’s really important to be honest with prospective Divemaster Candidates, Instructor Candidates, even those starting out but thinking of a career track regarding the roles, responsibilities and ‘other jobs’ that come along with being a dive professional. In this blog I will break down some of the more ‘shocking’ realities of becoming a Dive Pro!
(Many of these are geared towards Divemasters though it pretty much all applies to Instructor candidates as well, you just might be more familiar if you’ve had experience as a Divemaster)
Most of your responsibilities are
Most divemaster / instructor candidates assume once they become dive-pros their days will be full of dive time, guiding certified divers, maybe assisting the odd class or leading discover scuba experiences. While it might be like that sometimes, especially if you live or work in a tourist destination during high season, but most of your DM hours will be spent on the following out of water activities;
Prep / Set up - Not just hauling tanks but making sure all the paperwork, equipment and confined water site, boat, dive site are ready for divers. If you are diving, making sure your own equipment/ slates and other accessories are where they should be so that you are ready to go, and can attend to the needs of your divers.
Paperwork- If you are becoming a divemaster you’ve probably taken a few diver classes already and know how much paperwork is involved. As a pro it can be your responsibility to make sure the proper paperwork has been filled out correctly and are complete, that divers are fit to dive and have the necessary documentation for the dive, experience or certification course they are taking. If you are training to be a PADI pro you will get the Instructor Manual immediately & access to the PADI pro site as soon as you get your Professional number - these tools will help you access paperwork you might need even if you are working as an independent Dive Pro or owner of your own operation.
Boat/Surface DM - Whether your job is from the boat, beach or pool, manning the roster, being responsible for check in & out procedures, assisting getting divers in/out of the water or boat, watching bubbles, assisting divers in distress, or managing diver accident, incident or injury these jobs are just as important as the job of leading divers underwater.
Customer service / Diver interface - You will probably be dealing with people on the surface, whether in the dive shop, on the boat or at the dive site, how you interact with the divers is crucial to their experience as students or guests and could be the difference between making good money and surviving. As a Divemaster you are a trusted role model who should be acting professionally at all times, remember you should make the diver so safe & welcome they are only thinking about how much fun they are having !
Equipment Cleaning & Maintenance - You might not keep the best care of your own gear but you will definitely be cleaning gear or maintaining it if you have experience servicing equipment. Don’t roll your eyes when it’s time to clean gear, this is important to the safety of the divers you will be diving with, making sure the gear is clean, free of debris and working properly should be a priority for you no matter where you work!
Sales / social media - most dive operators require divemasters to do some ‘shop time’ too, this could include answering phones, sales of dive classes, experiences or retail, these jobs might even include social media posting or other marketing indeavours. As a divemaster you should have the hustle to assist with any of these things as they will most likely help keep you in the water!
Tank Fills - You will probably fill tanks, set the compressor, switch over tanks or some form of running a compressor to fill empty tanks. Its not the most glamorous part of the job and I can’t really explain it here because there are so many different configurations for compressors and storage banks I can’t list procedure for them all. But take the opportunity when available to learn how to use new compressor systems if you are planning to go pro and work around the world.
You aren’t on Vacation
That’s right, even if you plan to work in a tourist destination you are working, it’s your diver’s that are probably on vacation. That means making sure you are staying hydrated, limiting alcohol consumption, acting professionally when representing PADI / your dive operation. This also means looking back up to our list of non dive roles & responsibilities and considering what kind of customer service you like and would want on vacation. You are there to provide a service, safely, and professionally, you are also there to create an atmosphere of fun. It is important you balance service & fun with the decorum required by your employer / business model. Either way, don’t get caught with your feet up or taking part in activities / amenities meant for the divers and not the staff.
You won’t know everything
We’ve probably all experienced the Pros that seem to know it all from scientific names of all the fishes and corals to the different types of algae, or those who can repair every type & brand of gear with their eyes closed, but we won’t all be ‘that guy’. Becoming a dive pro is a great opportunity to continue your own learning by mingling with other dive professionals & ocean advocates from different backgrounds, going to seminars or talks offered by marine biologists, researchers, phd students, even just taking new dive classes & visiting new destinations. Of course it will benefit you to study the local environment wherever you plan on working, become familiar with your favorite creatures, the most asked about creatures or even the easiest to identify, and work from there. There is no shame in consulting a peer / other pro if you don’t know the answer to a diver question, but take the time during your Divemaster or Instructor Training to take more specialties, work on new skills, you will want them anyway to make yourself more desirable as a new dive pro looking for work. Which brings us to our last point;
You will need more than your basic DM / Instructor Cert
That’s right, a basic Divemaster or Instructor Certification alone often isn’t enough. Having Specialty or Specialty Instructor Training or other related trade skills will increase your likelihood for getting hired and make you a more valuable team member wherever you go , and give you more opportunities if you are working for yourself! I recommend to any divemaster candidate to pursue at least a few of the following;
Search & Recovery
Underwater Photography / Videography
Boat Captain / Boat Handling
Equipment Specialist / Equipment Repair
Customer Service / Tour Guide
Retail / Sales
Tank Inspection Certification
Social Media Skills
Event Planning / Logistics
Lifeguard / Swim Instructor / Lifeguard Instructor
Advice for Instructors: If your IDC offers MSDT prep, or if you are in an internship with your IDC Center make sure you get some specialty time in with your Course Director, learn what it actually takes to teach the specialty, get hands on experience with your CD and be ready as soon as you reach your first 25 certs you can apply as Master Scuba Diver Trainer for the 5 specialties (minimum) that you got that extra training in! MSDTs are often sought after because of their ability to teach at least 5 specialties. Become an instructor in not just your favorite specialties but those that you will use where you will be working. For example if you will be diving tropical water within recreational limits - you probably won’t need or be teaching drysuit anytime soon, stick to practical specialties you connect with and get really great at teaching those! Specializing in niche dive activities like DPV or Sidemount are a great way to set yourself apart from other pros or businesses but make sure if you have access to the specialized equipment you need to guide or teach that safely and effectively!
If you haven’t figured it out already, becoming a recreational dive professional is hard work, but it is some of the most rewarding and fun hard work you could possibly do. So if you are considering becoming a dive pro, and this blog got you excited for the challenging fun ahead - feel free to reach out for more information on the path to becoming a pro, and how you can make scuba your career at SALT!