Anytime the topic of a free diving internship comes up in diving forums, it sparks heated debate. The post usually goes something like, “I want to do my divemaster/instructor course and am looking for somewhere to do it for free.” Dive shops will also sometimes seek students who want to complete their training in exchange for working in the shop. The logic makes sense, as each party gets something out of the deal, but there are pros and cons.
By becoming a dive professional, you choose to make diving your career. Most instructors and divemasters invest a large amount of money into their training — for equipment, education, and travel and living expenses wherever they train or work. Asking for a free internship means candidates are asking these professionals to share their knowledge and experience for free. This devalues the skills and knowledge that you stand to gain. So, with that said, what are the pros and cons of a free diving internship?
- This one is quite obvious: candidates gain the knowledge, experience and skills of a professional-level qualification while working for a company instead of paying for their course. It is an attractive option, since you get to dive and gain certifications in exchange for something that you already want to do.
- Candidates often also get to spend time in a beautiful location while saving money on food and accommodation (often included in the exchange).
- Pros for dive shops are similar: they get a candidate to work in the shop and in classes for free in exchange for training and can often get extra hours of work out of trainees who are working for free.
- While some dive centers provide value for your services, others tend to favor paying customers — after all, they have bills to pay. Candidates who are on free internships often have their training placed on hold in order to accommodate paying customers. This might lead to knowledge and skills sessions being rushed or squeezed in whenever the instructors have free time.
- It is not unheard of that candidates work for a company for a time only to have a disagreement with management or the owners and then leave the dive center without completing their qualification. Or, since paying customers take priority over candidates who are on free internships, the candidates might find that they have a large part of the course to still complete as their departure date draws closer, leading to rushed training.
How free internships influence the diving industry
Some dive centers see candidates on free internships as free labor to supplement their core staff. They also acknowledge the marketing benefits that these candidates have (think about pictures of living on a tropical island proudly displayed on social media).
As mentioned before, free diving internships also devalue the dive industry. If you get something for free you tend to not appreciate it as much as something that you paid your hard-earned cash for.
With thousands of dive professionals gaining certification each month the competition is growing more and more fierce. Asking for free internships or discounted diving creates a knock-on effect that eventually trickles down to instructor salaries. Consequently, imagine you make it through your free training and start looking for a job as an instructor — only to find that everyone-and-his-buddy are asking for discounts and free internships — and you, as a dive instructor, barely earn enough to afford living on your dream island. While free diving internships are likely here to stay, consider all the pros and cons before you accept, or solicit one.