The business with dreams
The reality is different, and everyone who has ever asked a little more knows that. As a divemaster you can only find a job in a few places anyway, you are poorly paid – and it doesn’t get much better as a dive instructor. To really get a foothold in the business, you have to have more to offer than a Divemaster card.
Nevertheless, simply doing what you really want to do and sharing that passion with others can be one of the best decisions in life. If you really, really want it, you can make it even in diving. And just the fact that you get to dive while you work compensates for a lot. It doesn’t have to become a career for the rest of your life.
Now, when it comes to how best to become a diving professional, the first big debates already start. At least, if you dare to ask on facebook or other forums….
In the German-speaking world, the main criticism is about the evil bases that exploit poor novice divers as trainees and do not pay them at all for their valuable work. Americans seem to see it differently, they rant and rave about the impudent divers who don’t want to pay for their divemaster, but earn it with an internship.
So who is evil – the base operator or the future divemaster?
As always, it depends. Basically, diving costs money, and proper training even costs quite a bit of it. If an education is too cheap, the suspicion is that it cannot be good.
Those who pay for their courses have the right to insist on the agreed service and, in case of doubt, can change providers without much effort. So, if you are earning normally in a normal job, it is definitely a good idea to just book the courses you want to do.
But those who earn little can also find offers to pay for the courses with work. Here, too, payment is made, but in a different form. And that can look very different.
Training versus collaboration: What should you look out for?
Basically, the work you can do as a trainee on a base is unskilled work – in other words, nothing for which you are paid princely wages. So if an offer sounds too good, you should become suspicious. No base gives away their training, the more you get, the more meaningful work is expected for the base. At best, this can mean spending more time at hotel pools selling try dives than in the water yourself, and ending up knowing the compressor room better than the house reef – but at worst, it can also mean being assigned as a guide or even an instructor:in far too early. Asking what tasks you are asked to do and how many dives you can usually do yourself is definitely a good idea.
But to do this, you should also adjust your own expectations. No, you can’t guide with 30 dives, yes, introductory dives are challenging and you have to be qualified to lead them. You’re doing the training to learn how to do that, and you should be able to do it at the end, not kind of do it from the beginning.
And even if it feels like you’re working ten hours a day, six days a week: Take a close look at how much of that time you spend doing activities relevant to the base. When you go diving twice a day, there’s not that much left….
Exploitation at its finest: the most chilling examples
Life as a trainee can indeed be quite disgusting. If you get the wrong base, you’re the lowest in the base hierarchy, allowed to clean, fill bottles – and maybe dive once in a while. It is terrible when trainees do not get into the water, do not gain any diving experience or training for months, but only serve as unpaid unskilled workers. If they then end up being given a certification for which they haven’t even done the training, it doesn’t make things any better.
But even worse than this exploitation is when trainees are used for instructor duties. In many bases it is common practice that the still very inexperienced divers already guide guests and even conduct introductory dives – as the most extreme case known to me the young man with just over 20 dives, who was alone with six (!) introductory divers in the sea.
The best internships
But since not all bases are evil, there are of course examples of how things can go well. Ideally, you will be in the water a lot during an internship and get the full program of basic everyday life. 30-40 dives a month, accompany introductory dives and courses, function as a reliable buddy, find your own way, then guide yourself under observation, observe different instructors and be able to pick out the best – that’s how you learn. The more time you spend with it, the more real experience you can gain. Even the best course can’t give you just that: Experience. You have to do them yourself, and for that a longer stay in a dive center offers good opportunities.
Therefore, many bases offer internship programs that you have to pay for as a candidate:in. Sure – in that case, you’re not used for basic activities, but everything revolves around how you learn best. Whether paid or on a stipend, spending as much time in the water as possible, with a healthy mix of dives that are challenging for you and dives where you watch beginners make their first steps, is the best way to learn.
Internship with us
Especially young people often simply do not have the money to pay for many dives and a reasonable training – but time without end. That is why, when we have just need of guides for the next season, we offer a realistically cheap to in the end almost free option. “At the end” because first the course is paid. But you don’t just learn the standard program in the course, you slowly get to be responsible for all the basic work in the team like everyone else. You don’t just do a few training dives, but dive as often and as long as you want. You usually join the dive where it makes the most sense – even if something else would be more fun.
If you have the time, you can really study hard and get to the point where you can actually work for us as a guide. And then this is where something comes back: the moment we can actually use someone independently, that’s when we get paid. In this way it is possible to “earn back” the course, so to speak – but because this depends on the one hand on the volume of customers, and on the other hand very much on the guide, we do not make too big promises.
Those who earn normally are probably better off just booking the courses and lying in the sun after diving instead of filling the tanks. So that the experience does not come too briefly, we offer nevertheless that everyone, which makes a Pro course, can dive as long as he wants with us – and in each case with that, which brings them straight further. The advantage to a paid course is clearly that your education is the focus, not the needs of the base – you don’t work here, you are a guest.
… and it is fun after all
With all warnings, and all caution: Of course, we all do the job because we enjoy it. Again and again, still, for years. Everyone who’s been around for a few years has a lot of annoying stories to tell – but some good ones, too. And over time you find out if, how and where you would like to work. I’ve been doing nothing else for 15 years now, and wouldn’t trade my life for a normal job for the world.