Group of Divemasters and Instructors at Trawangan Dive Centre

Ultimate Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Divemaster in 2020

Diving Tips
6 Sep, 2020

by Laura Kazimierska

Let’s face it, 2020 is an unusual year for all of us, with the uncertainty of the future, lockdowns, travel bans, and lack of real face to face social interactions for an extended period of time. It’s fair to say that all of this had a massive impact on our life. Most of us had the time to stop and re-evaluate what’s important and how we wish our lives to be. If you’ve been putting your dream life on hold for too long, and one of those dreams is moving to a tropical island where you are surrounded by crystal clear water and the sun shines 350 days a year, now is the time to pursue your goals. 

Working remotely has been gaining popularity in the last decade. It’s no surprise, as it allows you to earn enough cash to live a comfortable life, plus no one is looking over your shoulder. The colleagues in the office are no distraction which means you can be more efficient and that leaves you with a lot of time to do fun things, like diving.

If you enjoy water activities, spending time surrounded by nature and you are the adventurous type, looking for new challenges then the diving career may be something you should consider. I mean, who doesn’t want to have an office with a beach view, co-working with turtles, and being around people driven by a passion for the ocean. Plus you’ll become a part of a community that makes the world a better place, one step at a time.

I’m a Divemaster” sounds awesome, like something straight from the Avengers right? The question is, what does it actually mean and how can you become one? Ready? I’ll explain to you, step by step, how to become a master of diving and change your life forever, you won’t need any other guide. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Divemster candidate during fun dive on Gili Trawangan
Who doesn’t want to change the office for tropical island and spend hours underwater? Picture by Ash.

What is the first thing I need to do, to become a Divemaster you ask?

Your very first step in a diving career is an Open Water Course. It’s an entry-level certification, that allows you to enter the magical world of scuba diving. How long it’s going to take, is strictly depending on your location. The course may take 3 to 4 days if you are in a holiday diving destination however doing it back home where you can attend the classes in the evenings after work or you can do it on the weekends, will take much longer.

During the course, you’ll learn fundamental diving skills, as well as how to deal with main underwater emergencies. You’ll be tested on your knowledge and swimming abilities, as well as perform tasks on open water dives, such as: solving basic equipment problems, navigation, and buoyancy control. After completing the course you’ll get your “underwater ticket” to explore maximum depths of 18m/59ft to 20 m/66ft (depending on the diving certification program) and become an independent diver.

You have plenty of options to start your adventure. If you don’t want to spend any time in the classroom, you can do the theory part online and then focus just on practical skills.

If you live in a cold country, and the idea of getting into a freezing lake sends shivers down your spine, you can do the pool and theory part of the course back home, and finish your open water part in tropical places such as Egypt, the Philippines or Indonesia.

The other option is to complete all your training in one place of course. Check out the best diving destinations that fit your budget and contact the dive centre to book your Open Water Course.

What is the next step after the Open Water Course to become a Divemaster?

Now that you are comfortable with your basic skills, it’s time to learn more about the ocean and different diving techniques. During the Advanced Open Water course you really start to explore what interests you the most in scuba diving. Maybe you’d like to take images underwater, master buoyancy control, dive up to 30/99ft, explore wrecks or play hide and seek with all the creatures on a night dive.

On the Advanced course, you get a taste of those different underwater activities and you can choose which one is your favorite to pursue a specialty course in the future. I think the most beneficial one is Peak Performance Buoyancy as it will make you a better diver in no time. However, Nitrox and Wreck specs are also super cool, not mentioning Sidemount! But let’s talk about it on the other occasion cause I’m getting too excited.

practicing skills during Sidemount Dive
From basic diving skills, we shift our focus to scuba diving techniques in various environments. Picture by Karola Takes Photos.

It is again, a very flexible course. If you do it through PADI, you need to comfortably plan and execute five Adventure dives, two of which are mandatory: Deep Adventure dive (below 18m/56ft, maximum 30m/99ft) and Navigation Adventure dive (back to the compass skills yeah!). You get to choose the other three dives, there are so many options! If you‘re not sure what to choose, ask your instructor, they know what would be the best Adventure dive for you.          

What is also very cool about the Advanced Open Water course, is that you don’t have to do all the dives in one place. So, if you are in Malta (wreck diving is the THING there) you can do your Wreck Adventure dive, then on the next holiday trip you can do your Deep Adventure dive. Once you have all five dives, including Navigation, you become an Advanced Diver! On a downside, it’s usually more expensive to do your course this way as every dive centre will offer a different rate for the dives.

If you do the whole course in one place you’ll usually get a better price. Also, you’ll have a dedicated instructor guiding you through your progress and working on improving your fundamental skills, as well as getting you to the advanced level.

What other diving courses will I need to do, to become a Divemaster? 

During your Advanced Open Water course, you’ve discovered different diving environments and techniques. Now it’s time to focus on helping others. As a Divemaster you will be responsible for other people’s safety, therefore the next step in your diving career is a Rescue Diver Course combined with First Aid (PADI’s Emergency First Responder, SSI’s React Right, etc.). This course really changes your perspective on underwater activities, as your objective is to deal with all sorts of emergencies. During training, you’ll be performing various rescue exercises, like self-rescue skills you’ve learned in the Open Water Course and progress to a buddy rescue such as dealing with a distressed diver on the surface and underwater or surfacing unresponsive diver. Essentially while on the course you become a SCUBA diver superhero, ready to save others at any time.

“As a Divemaster you will be responsible for other people’s safety”

During the theory part, you will expand your knowledge on diving equipment, physiology, and how the body responds to pressure changes. You will organize a search for a missing diver and learn different search patterns we use underwater. You’ll start to recognize signs of stress and train to develop good judgment in any situation.

With a Rescue Course, you are really progressing as a diver while having loads of fun through all different types of challenges.

EFR course during the PADI Rescue course
Part of your Rescue Diver Course is dealing with simulated emergencies on the surface.

It’s one of my favorite courses to teach, as the whole dive centre is usually involved in creating realistic emergency scenarios. It’s also the course where you see the biggest transition in your students as divers, from being self-focused to turning that focus on others.

Hand in hand with that course you need to be able to perform a rescue on land and get First AID training. You can do it before you start your Rescue, but make sure it’s valid within the 24 months.

I did my Rescue Diver Course, what’s next?

After Rescue and the First AID course, you have all the training you need to start your Divemaster course. Now it’s time to get some experience and time underwater. To start the Divemaster training, you should have at least 40 logged dives and be minimum of 18 years old.

Many dive centres will offer you a special deal on the fun dives if you sign up for the DM (Divemaster) program. For those of you on a budget or lacking the prerequisite dives to start the course, it’s a good idea to get them all in one place.

As previously mentioned, diving in various locations can be more expensive but can also be extremely exciting. Being able to practice your skills in different environments has a massive advantage for future DMT’s (Divemaster trainees). This gives you a chance to see how dive centres operate in different parts of the world and pick up some interesting ideas. You can also decide where would you like to do your training or work in the future.

Where should I do my Divemaster course?

Over the years I’ve realized there are a few types of Divemaster candidates: those who want to advance their career in marine science or move on to Instructor Development Course (IDC), those who want to become an excellent divers and gain loads of experience in a relatively short time, and those who are just loving the lifestyle, spending days outdoors, treating it as another adventure and just going with the flow.

Depending on your motivation, you should put some time into research in order to choose the right place that will fulfill your needs. Bear in mind that during your training you’ll spend the majority of your day in the dive centre.

For those who perceive diving as a career, the best places to do your Divemaster course are the big dive centres in the world’s most famous scuba diving hubs, like Kho Tao in Thailand, Gili Trawanagan in Indonesia or Utila in Honduras. Those are relatively inexpensive, extremely popular, and therefore utterly busy diving destinations.   

Training in such a busy spot, will give you a chance to assist and shadow a variety of courses. As a result, you’ll get the very best opportunity to develop your teaching techniques, plus it’s much easier to find employment after your courses.

group of divemasters at Trawangan Dive Centre
Popular diving destinations gives you a chance to get more teaching experience and meet like-minded people.

If you are just simply interested in becoming a better diver and spending loads of time underwater surrounded by pristine coral reefs, marine animals and barely any people, remote destinations are most likely to fulfill that need. Places like: Raja Ampat or Komodo in Indonesia, Palau, Maldives, Fiji, Malaysia, etc. are the ones you should research, to get loads of experience guiding, rather than teaching. Dive operators in those areas mostly cater to already certified divers offering day trips and liveaboards.

For those who are fascinated with the unique lifestyle, love socializing, and spending time underwater, places like the Gilis in Indonesia or Kho Tao in Thailand are the perfect combinations for a tropical getaway, passionate diving community, and good quality of life. Easy to access, those are the places that attract a lot of different people from all over the world with a similar mindset.

Wherever you go, the Divemaster program will be educational as well as super fun. Your instructors will focus on passing their knowledge and experience during diving days, and making sure to keep you entertained throughout the whole course.

What should I look for when choosing a dive centre to do my Divemaster course?

Choosing a place where you will spend the majority of your day during your training is a very personal decision. When deciding on a dive centre consider the size, vibe, instructors and their experience, the training they provide, and the location.

Size does matter. If your dream is to become a dive instructor or assist in numerous courses and get loads of experience in a relatively short time, you should choose a busy dive operation. That usually comes together with the size and the volume of customers they can accommodate and train. It’s a common misconception that large dive resorts are “diving factories”. Just because the dive centre is busy, it doesn’t need to compromise the family vibe. It all depends on the people that work there. A great example is Trawangan Dive Centre on Gili Trawangan.

If the Divemaster course is just a step to progress in your career, choose the dive centre that has an in-house IDC (Instructor Development Course). Instructors there will already have a background and understanding of the best training needed to prepare you for that next level.

Instructor at Trawangan dive during skills
Skills demonstration workshop during Divemaster course is always loads of fun (unless the pool is freezing cold). Picture by Cindy

Now, the feeling or the vibe you pick-up from the dive centre staff is extremely important. Make sure you choose a place where you feel comfortable to ask any and all questions. You don’t have to love everyone, but you should always feel welcomed and supported by the instructors, management and other DMT’s. Bear in mind, you will spend a lot of time in their company so choose a place you really like.

Another thing you should consider is how experienced the instructors are. While new dive instructors are highly excited to teach, it’s good to have someone with more knowledge and practice in the field as a mentor for your Divemaster course. In my opinion, first-rate dive operations manage to find the balance between hiring new and experienced instructors, so find THE ONE.

 Why shouldn’t you do the Divemaster course in exchange for work?

The question I get to answer very often is: “Can I get my Divemaster course in exchange for work?” My answer always is: “No”.

Now now, it’s not that I’m trying to be rude and take advantage of your savings. The reason is that most country’s law regulations do not allow you to work legally without a specific visa. 

Therefore, if the immigration authorities would do the check-up, or worst-case scenario, an accident were to happen while you are working, on your “free internship”, you and the dive centre would not only lose credibility but also might be facing a trial for serious law violations. Simply put, both parties will be in a lot of trouble.

As you should know already, diving is a very safe activity but nonetheless there is some risk involved. Incidents can happen any time, despite your best efforts.

Also, the so-called, “free internship Divemaster courses” often take advantage of the candidates, considering them free labor and not giving the required training in return. Simply follow the rule: “you get what you pay for”.

Do you really want to save your money so badly?

Once you are actually paying for the course, you secure the quality, time, and dedication of your instructors and the dive centre itself. You can expect higher training standards as they respect the local regulations and laws. In case you feel disappointed or unsatisfied for any reason, you can claim your money back and move to another dive centre that you’ll be happier with.

Just give it a thought. If you are ill, you want to go to the best doctor. When you are flying, you expect to have a well trained pilot. So when you are starting your career as a dive professional, you should aim for the best facility and that could cost you more money.

As instructors, we spend a lot of time coaching and advising Divemaster trainees which means the time and effort we put in, is too valuable to give away for nothing.

How long does it take to become a Divemaster?

Divemaster, as a lot of other diving courses, is very flexible and can take from 4 weeks up to 6 months. It totally depends on your location, schedule, and time frame. If you are doing it over the weekends, while still working, it will take much longer than if you do it as a part of your extended holiday break.

If you are in a rush and have all the certifications and experience needed, it can take as little as 3 weeks, although I would recommend you to spend at least 5 weeks to really enhance your training. That gives you the opportunity to go through everything thoroughly, assist in various courses, and accomplish all your assignments at a much slower phase.

There is just so much information to absorb I can’t imagine cramming that into a smaller time frame. You also have an option to do the theory part online.

instructors coming back from Sidemount dive
Having some extra time during your Divemaster course allows you to take additional specialty courses, like Sidemount.

As A Divemaster trainee do I need special insurance?

Most travel insurances cover basic scuba diving activities, but if you are thinking of doing your Divemaster training, the smart thing to do is to get an extra cover. Keep in mind, you will spend a lot more time in the water and around the dive centre, dealing with the equipment, boats, and people. Plus you are most likely to be away from your home country, so it’s worth having an additional safety net.

Good thing is, there are a lot of different options. I always use the Divers Alert Network (DAN) as they have a 24/7 helpline and have supported me on various occasions. PADI recognizes them as a leading dive safety organization, and they also carry out a lot of research on diving accidents. There are others like World Nomads or Dive Assure so check them out and choose the most suitable plan. Here are some of the best packages for scuba divers and dive professionals according to Scuba Otter

What dive equipment should I prepare for a Divemaster course?

having your own dive equipment is a good idea for dive professionals
Having at least your own mask and dive computer is a must, for any Divemaster candidate.

As a professional, you always need good tools, so think of your dive equipment as a tool to do the job. The more comfortable and familiar, the better you’ll feel underwater. Therefore having your own equipment is always the best thing to do. If you’re not sure what works best for you, ask for advice in a local dive center or contact the facility you’ll do your course with, they will be more than happy to help you make the right decision .

Once you are packing a bag to start your diving adventure, having at least your own mask and snorkel is a must! Such a small piece of equipment, yet if not fitted properly, can totally destroy your dive and time underwater. Owning a dive computer is also something to consider. You can’t be a professional diver without it to be honest. It increases yours and your divers’ safety, makes dive planning so much easier, holds all the information about your dive profile, and much more.

If you’re on a budget look for a second hand one, you surely can find a good deal on-line. If a dive computer has 100 to 200 logged dives, you can consider it new!

What should I expect during my Divemaster course and am I ready for it?

What you can expect for sure is a lot of fun and time well spent underwater. Don’t forget though that you are on the course and therefore you are going to be evaluated on your performance. There are skills, tasks, and workshops you will be marked on, but you also need to show a professional attitude towards others and care for the environment. If you lack motivation, energy, and passion for the ocean maybe this course is not for you.

Being a DMC (Divemaster candidate) can be exhausting at times, especially if you are not used to physical activity as it requires carrying heavy equipment, loading and offloading the boat, etc. At the start, your body will be getting used to spending much more time underwater. It can be tiring as well as strenuous for your ears due to the constant pressure changes.

Lastly, you will be surrounded by people all the time. They come to the dive centre to have fun and enjoy the experience, which means you need to be “on the top of your game” with a smile on your face regardless of your own mood.

Yes, it is indeed hard but also an extremely rewarding job, you get to have the ocean as your office, and what can be better than that?! 

manta ray on a local dive site at gili trawangan
You have the ocean as you office and all the creatures beneath the surface are your workmates.

Your course will teach you not only about diving but also how to deal with customers, work in a team, and how to protect the ocean.   

During Divemaster training you have a mentor and other dedicated instructors leading your progress. Those are usually very passionate and enthusiastic people that love to talk about the ocean and diving in general. If you want to improve your experience, do not hesitate to ask questions and get involved in all the activities. Remember you are there to learn, so turn into a sponge and soak in all the knowledge you can, trust me you’ll need it in the future. As much as your Divemaster manual is helpful, there is no substitute for those after-hours dive-chats with all the dive professionals you are surrounded with.

Personally, as a Divemaster trainer, the most rewarding thing to see is the transition from timid and bashful DMC’s who are out of their diving comfort zone to true dive leaders taking responsibility for others. No matter what, this experience will change your life for good.

How much does the Divemaster course cost?

Divemaster course is the course where you really get the value for money. Once you sign up, you’ll have the cheapest diving ever! 

It’s hard for me to say specifically how much it costs, as it depends on your location. Most of the time, you can get a package deal if you sign up for all the courses straight away. Usually the more training you do with one dive centre, the cheaper it gets. In the program we run at Divemaster Gilis in Trawangan Dive Centre, once you sign up, you have a discount on specialty and technical diving courses, as well as all the fun dives during your training, are free of charge.

The Divemaster training is quite expensive, though most people forget that once finished, you actually have completed professional training and may work in that position for the rest of your life. Overall you need to be prepared to spend around 1,500 to 3,500 USD depending on your location and package.

In some places, there is an option to do your training as a free internship (read a few paragraphs up) where in exchange for work, they offer you a course, accommodation, and sometimes food. If you choose that, bear in mind that you need to be available to work at any time. It usually is contract-based and you need to commit for a minimum of 3 to 6 months. Most of the time, this option doesn’t cover Divemaster materials (Crew Pack) and professional fees, and that costs around 500 USD.

If you see a Divemaster course suspiciously cheap, make sure you know what’s included in your training and check there are no hidden costs.

What a PADI Divemaster can and cannot do?

As a PADI Divemaster, you are qualified to assist PADI Instructors with students, lead certified divers on guided dive tours, teach and certify PADI Skin Divers, teach PADI Discover Snorkeling programs, and conduct PADI Scuba Review programs for certified divers all over the world. After earning Speciality Instructor rating you can teach speciality courses that don’t include dives (Oxygen provider, some Project AWARE specialities, Equipment specialist), organize diving trips, or just simply enjoy having top diving skills.

mask skill practice during DSD workshop
Mask skill practice during Scuba Review/Re-Activate workshop.

What you cannot do is teach scuba diving courses that are conducted in open water, with some exceptions (Digital Underwater Photographer speciality courses under the direction of a PADI Instructor).       

 Is it easy to find a job as a Divemaster?

As with any job, it helps to be in the right place at the right time. In diving it also has a lot to do with your personality, languages, additional skills outside of diving, and previous experience. The diving community, even though spread across the globe, is very small so networking and leaving a good impression is key for future employment. The best place to look for a diving job is a PADI pro website (you get access to it once you are certified as a Divemaster) where you can find plenty of work opportunities, posted every day, from all over the world. Another good source is Facebook, you can join different groups and find scuba boards for dive professionals.

If you choose to do your training in the busy dive destination, it’s also a big advantage in finding a dive centre to work for.

You should know that work opportunities as a dive professional increase with further training. In all honesty, it’s much easier to find a job as a Dive Instructor than as a Divemaster. If you want to know how to become a dive instructor check this out.

How it is to work as a Divemaster?

It’s so, so, sooo cool! The sea is your office, you make friends with ocean creatures, and you spend days with like-minded people from all over the world, talking hours about the things you love and care for. You laugh so much your belly hurts, you can stay offline to have real conversations, and drink probably way too much more beer than you should. You can live a very simple yet exciting life, feeling like every day is a new adventure. Gain friends for life you would never meet otherwise and be surrounded by pure nature. Even though hard sometimes, most of the time it doesn’t even feel like work.

It’s fair to say that the Divemaster job is one of the coolest jobs you can ever have.

fun times after diving day with your colleagues
Becoming a dive professional was the best decision I’ve made.

How much will I earn as a Divemaster?

It might not be what you want to hear, but if you are in this business because you want to get rich, maybe you should reconsider. Unless you get a position on a private yacht or high-end resort, the pay is not very high, considering the investment you have to make. You will usually get paid per guided customer (2 to 5 USD) or you work on a daily rate that varies from (20 to 50 USD). An additional source of income as a Divemaster is through dive equipment sales and dive trips.

From now on you basically exchange monetary compensation for incredible adventures, hours spent with turtles, sharks, and other marvelous creatures, the smell of the ocean in your hair and sun-kissed skin. It is 100 % worth it! Trust me. Plus you can travel all over the world and actually get paid to dive!

Should I do all my dive training in one go?

In diving circles, we call doing an Open Water to Divemaster course a “zero to hero”. That’s what I did because I had a bunch of time and some cash saved. I found it very rewarding as for 3 months I was constantly in a diving state of mind, soaking up all the knowledge and getting experience underwater. It was fantastic to have more time to get to know the dive centre, their staff, and the local dive sites.

It is a great option for those on a gap year or taking sabbatical leave. Before you get too excited though and commit doing the “zero to hero”, consider if you are generally comfortable in the water in the first place as it’s quite a big investment of time and money.

Another way to do your Divemaster course is to progress with all the courses gradually and build experience at a slower pace over the years. It will usually be rather pricey , however the big advantage of it is enjoying your dives in different places, getting familiar with how other dive centres operate, and choosing your favorite spot to do your professional training.   

What general skills are useful as a Divemaster?

Organizational and logistical skills are one of the most valued in the diving industry. You will be responsible for groups of people on holiday (it’s not an easy task), hence you need to make sure that everything is done in a timely matter, have spare equipment and parts prepared, and also be ready to answer a lot of questions, mostly not even diving related. Being good with sales and marketing as well as social media helps a lot to promote yourself and your dive centre. Other skills like languages, good communication, flexibility, confidence, and patience are the key to be a top dive leader and get a job anywhere you want. Remember that as a dive professional, you become a role model and others will look up to you.   

divemasters and instructors hanging out together at the dive shop
There is nothing better than being best friends with your workmates and coming to work with a smile on your face everyday!

If you ask me: “what was the best decision you’ve made?” becoming a dive professional is one of them. It not only completely changed my life but also made me a better person. A thoroughly aware human being, ready to save the planet made mostly out of water. I hope this guide will help you to make that first step into the most exciting job you could ever dream of. Now it’s time to make a move, fasten your seat belt, and enjoy the ride.  

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4 Comments

  1. Alex

    Awesome Article! I did my Divemaster in Gili Trawangan and it was an awesome experience!

    Reply
    • Laura Kazimierska

      Thanks, Alex are you planning to come back any time soon to do your Instructor Course?

      Reply
  2. Karolina

    I did mine also! It was so much fun and I have learned a lot! 🙂 Happy days!

    Reply
    • Laura Kazimierska

      Thank you for your comment Karola, I can’t wait to see you back at Trawangan Dive :D:D:D:D

      Reply

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