For many students, there’s no better feeling than graduation. But once the celebrations are over, reality hits and it’s time to find a job. Similarly, in the professional scuba industry, there’s no better feeling than becoming a brand new divemaster. But once you’ve got your rating, what’s next?
A divemaster’s typical role is guiding certified divers at local dive sites or assisting instructors in classes. These positions don’t usually pay well. Consequently, the divemaster relies heavily on tips or works in exchange for air fills, subsidized training, or store discounts. Divemasters can also work in-store as retail sales assistants and shop staff. They can also work on dive boats or liveaboard vessels as crew, as equipment-manufacturer representatives, or as dive travel agents/consultants. These last few categories tend to have slightly better earning potential.
In recent years, the growth of the ‘superyacht industry’ has seen higher-paid positions open for divemasters and instructors. These jobs often require additional boating qualifications like the STCW95 and can involve 80 percent deckhand/cleaning/maintenance work to 20 percent diving-related work.
Should you become an instructor?
As a caveat, many employers do prefer instructors for employment positions, even when a large part of the position will be guiding divers. In some countries, (U.S., Mexico, Galapagos, Belize, Indonesia, etc.) it can be quite difficult for foreign nationals without proper visas to find legal employment. Labor laws can be strict and there may be an abundance of local divemasters who can take the positions. That said, there are always resort positions out there if you search.
For most newly qualified divemasters, the primary source for employment is the PADI pro’s employment board. Worldwide positions are posted daily. The board features a sub-section for dive centers/resorts to advertise their positions, as well as a sub-section for divemasters and instructors to post their own experience, qualifications, and goals for a position. Potential employers can search these listings and contact appropriate candidates.
Another valuable source of employment for a new divemaster is word of mouth, so be sure to talk to and network with other dive professionals during training. Social media channels like Facebook have various “scuba-diving jobs” groups and pages. The world’s biggest online community, ScubaBoard.com, is a great source of information with regional sections where local professionals can provide area information. There’s also a dive professionals only sub-forum.
Many divemasters don’t wish to work full time but qualify to volunteer on conservation projects or to help in local aquariums once they’ve attained a professional rating. These positions are unpaid, but conservation projects often provide room and board. Volunteering at a local aquarium is another option.
While this path requires additional time and monetary investment, becoming an instructor will offer many more employment opportunities within the dive industry, from dive centers and resorts to liveaboards and yachts. There is also a higher earning potential than as a divemaster.
A new divemaster can enroll directly into a PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC), and will find that it’s more focused on teaching, training and the PADI system. It builds on the theory, skills and professional-level supervision taught in the divemaster course.
Many divemasters/instructors find that specializing their training and gaining credentials in equipment repair from an authorized manufacturer helps them find employment in local dive centers/resorts. Boating qualifications with local authorities or with an international yachting agency help secure positions on day boats, liveaboards and superyachts. Divemasters might also invest time and training in underwater photography/videography as well as technical diving. Both of these will open more employment doors.
Like in any industry, it can be a challenge to find your first opportunity as a new divemaster. You can’t go wrong with additional training and credentials that help you stand out. When looking for a position, reflect on what you particularly enjoyed in your divemaster course. Perhaps you loved leading certified divers, or assisting instructors on their courses with beginner students. Maybe crewing on the boats, helping in the retail store, or getting involved in beach cleanups was more your style. Knowing what you want to accomplish with your divemaster certification will help you decide your next natural step as a PADI pro.