All over the world, scuba diving shops are popping up anywhere there is even the tiniest bit of calm water. From five-star resorts to remote island hostels, the demand to look at what lies beneath the surface of the ocean is growing and the demand is being met by scuba shops in a variety of settings, creating a worldwide market for professional scuba divers. Therefore, a great way to get paid while traveling is to become a scuba diving professional! The first step is to become a Divemaster (without paying!).
How can you afford to become that world-roaming scuba pro?
Option one: Pay to participate in several different courses taking you from your first level of diving to a professional Divemaster (DM) level. This takes a minimum of two months and can be fairly costly depending on where you take your courses and how often you can dive. This is a great option to jump right into the business, and will get you working in a short time, but is a big investment right out of the gate.
Option two: Get free certifications while working for a dive company! There are many scuba companies that will happily pay you to work in their dive shop or as a Snorkel Guide with the benefit of free or discounted scuba diving courses up to your first professional Divemaster certification. This cheaper direction will almost certainly take more time, but requires less money up front–the ultimate tradeoff!
WHY DO IT?
A benefit to working in a dive shop in exchange for free courses is that you ultimately gain more working knowledge by being in and around the sport that you will later guide. Like an intern, your first day working in a shop, you will begin your path to becoming that all-around professional that can be much more desired for later employment because your understanding of gear, guests, local critters and conditions will be much more complete. Before you drop a chunk of cash on four new certifications, you can actually get to see what a Divemaster’s job is like.
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The overall process takes more time if you are working with the benefit of free certifications because becoming a professional scuba diver includes taking many courses and your courses are not the first priority of the dive shop. A paying customer can buy courses that become the priority of the dive shop and are executed rapidly to satisfy the customer. However, an employee’s courses will get spread out based on when the instructors have extra time and there is room on the boats or in the pool.
The first level is commonly called Open Water and teaches you the basics of diving, followed by an Advanced certification for some fine tuning. Your Rescue course gives you a taste of working in diving including a LOT of rescue techniques specific to diving along with First AID. It is usually about 3 to 5 days long and can be ROUGH! If you don’t walk away with some cuts and bruises from Rescue, you didn’t do it right. Finally, a Divemaster course is required which has long hours, more rescue training, grunt work on charters, and learning how to keep track of all seven or so of your guests underwater in bad conditions. From start to finish, a DM course could be completed in 11 days or so but this is rarely the case if you are receiving it in exchange for work. To get your DM certification, you are required to have completed the other three levels and end the DM course with 60 dives minimum.
A good Divemaster knows how to navigate all the local dive sites, has a grasp on the local underwater wildlife, and is trained in safety and dive theory. Many dive shops offer free dives to staff in off hours, so you can cheaply build up your dive numbers and get the experience that being a guide underwater requires.
Once you become a Divemaster, you can save up your cash and confidently decide whether you want to continue advancing in scuba by becoming a Dive Instructor. By working in the shop, you will get a chance to see what teaching is like before you pay the up to $3,500 in fees to become an Instructor. Many people advance to Instructor because finding full-time work in dive shops as a Divemaster can be difficult in some places: many dive centers consider the job of Instructor to be more versatile, allowing you to not only guide but also teach others the essentials of diving. These are all things you will have ample time to evaluate as you work your way towards DM.
POSITIONS AVAILABLE/ PAY:
As you put in your time to become a DM, different shops have different positions you can fill. Some dive centers need help in the shop itself. As you work your way up the professional ladder, you may spend your work days taking reservations, filling tanks, and selling or cleaning gear–all skills that will help you get other jobs later on and to answer questions from guests on the dive boat about best gear to use and selling courses. The downside to working in the dive shop is that you are working IN A DIVE SHOP, not out playing IN THE WATER. You just have to be patient on that one–if you don’t want to pay for your certifications, you will have to pay your dues.
Another option at some dive shops while you are working on DM is to work as a Snorkel Guide. Look for shops that can offer this because it is a great way to get the experience of helping guests in the water and learning your way around a boat. After a few weeks snorkel guiding in less than perfect conditions, your Rescue Course will come as second nature, as a guest will have undoubtedly tried to drown you on several occasions!
Here’s an example of an awesome Divemaster job in Kona, Hawaii: Divemaster on Night Manta Ray Dive !
The pay for these positions depends from shop to shop and each area/ country you are in. Typically there are no raises given for anything below Divemaster as these are developing your own skills. The best pay can be expected after you earn your DM and the shop can actually utilize you and your new skills. You won’t make it rich on a DM salary, many positions cover only part of your travel costs, but if you love working in diving, you can continue on to Instructor which can actually cover enough to put a tiny bit in savings too!
WHERE TO FIND POSITIONS/ HOW TO APPLY:
Not every dive shop lets employees get discounted certifications. Some don’t offer it at all and if it is a dive school, there is very little possibility of it. Finding a shop comes down to questioning each individual company, as sometimes exceptions can be made for the right person. There are websites like Divers Jobs that advertise dive jobs and may include jobs that offer this exchange as well as examples of work that a Divemaster can do. Professional PADI Divemasters and above and PADI dive shops have access to PADI Pros’, a professional PADI diver site with an employment section. At least once a month, there are offers on this site for free certifications to become a Divemaster. Also, look up “free divemaster” online and you will find a long list of Divemaster Internships worldwide, some of which are a great deal, but may require previous experience or certifications. Each week in our newsletter we feature at least one Divemaster internship from around the world. Sign up to get this free weekly update for more options.
The best bet for finding these jobs is personal research. Get online and run a Google search for dive jobs in whatever destination you are curious about working in. Then check the website of each dive shop in the area. If you are looking abroad, first check their “About us” or “Meet the Crew” section. If you see the company employs foreigners on this page, then you have a better chance of making an arrangement there. Send the company an email with your CV and include ANY experience that you think could be relevant and a photo. List ALL customer service experience from waiting tables in a high-end restaurant to being a part-time professional Christmas gift wrapper at the mall. Highlight your boat or water experience even if it is only being the snorkeling champion of your local Polar Plunge, spending time on the high school swim team, or training boy scouts how to kayak at summer camp. If one shop isn’t hiring or offering courses, try the next one–there is rarely only one company in an area. If this isn’t progressing fast enough for you, show up and ask in person if they will help you become a Divemaster. You may have that winning personality they are looking for!
Good Luck and Keep Exploring!