Perhaps you’re a long-time recreational diver who’s always dreamed of going pro. Or perhaps you’re a relatively new diver who’s taken with the sport. The divemaster course is the first professional PADI rating, and enrolling is your first step. (If you’re certifying with PADI). Depending on your motivation, whether it is employment, personal development, volunteering or conservation/environmental related, you’ve got a lot to consider when it comes to when, where and how to become a divemaster.
How should you prepare?
You must be 18 years old to enroll in the PADI Divemaster course. You must also be a certified Rescue diver (or equivalent), have CPR/first aid training in the last 24 months, and a minimum of 40 logged dives. If it’s been a while since you completed the Rescue and CPR/first aid training, you’ll want to review the techniques. You’ll be assisting on these courses as part of your divemaster training or reassessed as part of the course. If you’re enrolling in the divemaster course in an unfamiliar diving environment, such as cold water or low visibility/strong currents, then you should log additional dives in this environment before starting the course. Even cold-water divers, who are used diving in drysuits, may need buoyancy refinements and a review of local marine life and dive etiquette before taking the divemaster course in a tropical location.
In addition to in-water comfort and good situational awareness, getting a head start on course reading can help mentally prepare you for the training. You’ll start building foundational knowledge that you can adapt to the local environment. If you can’t get a hard copy of the course materials in advance, most agencies offer online learning.
Local dive shop or resort certification?
Your motivation and personal circumstances will help determine where you obtain your divemaster certification. If you’re doing the course for personal development, either option is viable. If you want to work locally upon certification, it’s probably better to seek training in the same area. In this way, you’ll become familiar with local conditions and procedures and start building a local professional network. If you can’t get time off from your regular job, you can usually fit course work in on weekday evenings and weekends at your local dive shop.
The course can take longer, possibly months to a year, to complete in this fashion. If you can take time off, flying somewhere tropical for an internship at a resort is a great option. You’ll live, dive, eat, sleep and scuba 24/7 for several intense weeks of training and build hands-on experience.
How long will the course take?
Some resorts and shops offer divemaster courses in as little as 8 to 14 days; some take several weeks to months. The shorter course options tend to meet the bare minimum performance requirements for certification. These are a decent option for those who have time constraints, yet can take a week or two away from their regular employment. These “boot-camp” style options require you to read the course material ahead of time, and you must have around 50 logged dives upon starting the course. Those taking the course for personal reasons also tend to prefer the shorter duration, especially if they’ve got a good number of dives and experience. If you’re seeking professional opportunities but taking the short course, you’ll want to gain further practical experience to build on after certifying.
Courses that run from around a month to several months will typically have divemaster candidates assisting on actual courses with newly-certifying students involved, instead of the role-playing exercises used in shorter divemaster courses. Internship-style candidates get more experience than the minimum required for certification. They’ll work with students and certified divers, and possibly also on boat trips and around the dive center, becoming more involved with the organization and dive planning. The extended courses options are great for divers who want to build up more dives and time in the water. Those going on to instructor training usually prefer this style of coursework as well.
Finding the right dive center
Many divemaster candidates have additional interests, so look for a facility that can also complement your training. These areas are particularly useful: photography/videography, marine conservation and ecology, boat handling/driving/sea-time and/or technical diving. At Utila Dive Center, we offer specialized training and programs in each of these areas that can complement and enhance your divemaster course.
Qualities of a good facility for divemaster training include:
- Small groups/ratios. Although PADI allows 8-to-1, we prefer 4-to-1, sometimes lower.
- Experienced instructors, not just in terms of depth of teaching experience, but also breadth in different environments and locations. Instructors should have specialized interests, experience, or credentials.
- A variety of courses from beginner to Rescue and specialty courses for you to assist and intern on
- Regular dive trips for certified divers, which you’ll assist with
- Specialty courses for you to enroll in
- Opportunities for you to dive outside of the course/classes. UDC offers unlimited diving with our divemaster course, for example.
- Well-maintained equipment, facility, and boats where applicable
- Social aspects and fun events
- A presence and good reviews on on social media. This tells you how up-to-date the management/ownership is with modern trends in scuba diving.
In our next article, we’ll look at your options once you’ve become a divemaster. Whatever your motivation, you’ve taken the first step and opened a world of opportunities above as well as below the surface.