During my 15 years as PADI Course Director and General Manager at Crystal Dive Koh Tao we have trained over 1600 Divemasters and I am proud to say that over 60% have chosen to continue their professional scuba diving education and take their Instructor Development Course with us.
The step up from the first level of professional diving as a Divemaster to PADI instructor is a significant step, both in terms of the financial commitment and the steep learning curve an instructor takes to increase their professional knowledge and skill-set.
Instructor level knowledge and development elevates the candidate into a much deeper understanding of diving, with more complex physics, physiology modules and includes classroom presentations covering the dive industry, business and marketing of diving.
A question I am often asked by newly certified Divemasters is ‘when is the right time to take the next step’ and become an Instructor. Is it best to immediately continue with their diving education and move onto the Instructor Development Course after completion of their Divemaster course or first gain some valuable experience as a Divemaster?
Of course, leading fun divers around dive sites and assisting diving instructors on diving courses is a great way to fine tune personal diving skills and increase knowledge and understanding.
After all, there is no fast track to gaining experience! This is a very good question and an important one and there is no correct answer. However, there are several factors to consider that can help you choose the most favourable path according to your individual circumstances, abilities and needs.
When I was starting out in my PADI career it was the accepted wisdom that newly qualified Divemasters would work at that level for a period of time before taking the next step to instructor level. However, times have changed in the last 15 years, not least due to the massive increase in popularity of scuba diving and the corresponding need for instructors!
Many students now move straight from Divemaster to Instructor Development Course and then work to extend their experience ‘on the job’ as an instructor with the support of more experienced colleagues and their dive school.
There are clear benefits to both paths and also some serious considerations. To help you evaluate both options I have been speaking to two of our recently qualified Divemasters at Crystal Dive who provide a different perspective.
Richard finished his Divemaster course with us in October and has for the past several months worked as a freelance Divemaster at Crystal Dive. Richard has led over 120 fun dives and conducted scuba reviews for divers who have had variable periods of time out of the water. He has also assisted some of our instructors on their PADI diving courses.
Mor progressed through his Divemaster training in just a few weeks and having completed all the course performance requirements, enrolled on his Instructor Development Course. Mor qualified as an instructor just six weeks after completing his Rescue course with Crystal Dive, a fantastic example of the flexibility the PADI system offers especially when applied in an area like Koh Tao that offers such good diving conditions with up to 5 dives scheduled each day.
Since finishing his Instructor Development Course in November Mor has remained at Crystal Dive and has been working continuously. He has already certified over 70 divers and is a valuable team member at the dive centre.
Both will offer their perspectives on what their chosen career paths have taught them and where they hope their new careers as professional scuba divers will take them next:
Why did you choose to take your Divemaster Course?
For me it was a clear career choice. I have worked for the last 12 years as a chef, finishing my career as a head Chef in top restaurants around the world. It was a tremendous career and I loved it, but it was also 18 hours a day in the kitchen.
Despite taking my passion for food and making it into a career and having success in that career, I realised I also had a passion for travel and for scuba diving and that I also wanted to ‘work my dream’ outside of the kitchen.
After 12 years I was ready to make that change. I was excited and motivated to become a Scuba Diving Instructor and of course the first part of that journey was to complete my Divemaster training.
I suppose I was a little less clear than Mor on my future career. I was clear on what I didn’t want to do! Having quit my office job I decided the time was right to pursue a passion instead of worrying too much about my CV and career.
I have loved scuba diving for many years and dived every holiday but only really started to think it could be more than just a great hobby in the last 12 months. I realised I wanted more from life than to be in an office, in front of a computer for the next 40 years.
I thought about what I really loved doing and decided to give myself a year to try a new way of life, starting with the Divemaster course.
What were your expectations?
I came here to work! I’m someone who needs to see where I am going and have the motivation to keep moving, so although it was a very steep learning curve I was ready for that and now every day I feel the benefit of all that training.
I love the fact that I’m a Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) and able to teach specialty courses that allow my students to penetrate wrecks, deep dive to 40 meters and dive on a diver propulsion vehicle.
Of course teaching the Open water, Advanced Open water and rescue courses are also lots of fun and very rewarding.
My days are so varied plus I do get the occasional day off and I’m living on a tropical island!
Life is good!
Well I expected to do a LOT of diving and I was right, the Divemaster lifestyle internship program at Crystal Dive Koh Tao gives you experience across every element of life at a busy, Award Winning Dive Centre.
The extensive program covers equipment maintenance to customer service and involves participation and commitment to marine conservation and I signed up for everything straight away!
It also gives you Free Diving for Life! So for the two months I took for my Divemaster training I dived at least 20 times a week, starting from 20 dives when I got here to over 180 by the time I qualified.
All elements of my diving improved massively and I learned a huge amount from working with the instructors at Crystal Dive as well as my fellow Divemaster trainees.
How quickly did you complete the program and what have you learnt since becoming a Divemaster?
Well I dived (please excuse the pun) straight into my Instructor Development Course! I had one day off after celebrating becoming a Divemaster and then straight back into class!
I believe this was the best option for me. I was highly motivated to start teaching, I thoroughly enjoyed assisting instructors as part of the Divemaster training and I knew that I wanted to do the same ASAP.
I am a person who needs a deadline and to be pushed, so although it was a lot of work to step straight up from Divemaster training to the instructor course, I believe it was the right decision for me.
Since the program I have focused on gaining experience as an instructor. For me the Divemaster training was a clear stepping stone, a very fun stepping stone, but still a means to an end.
Compared to Mor I feel lazy! I took about two months, which I think is pretty standard whereas Mor was a machine. For me the Divemaster course was a real chance to take a break from ‘normal life’, to dive every day and to experience and savour the moments as much as I could.
Crystal Dive also has a fantastic community and our group of Divemaster Trainees (DMT’s) all became very close, it was a lot of fun. Since becoming a Divemaster, the main thing I’ve learned is how hard a Divemaster works! The team is non-stop, 12-hour days, 6am starts and 4 or even 5 dives a day leading fun divers is normal!
It’s certainly not an easy ‘beach bum’ lifestyle! But it’s also the first time in my life I’ve really experienced the truth of the saying ‘If you love what you do for a job you never work another day in your life’. It’s often exhausting, but I love it and the team here at Crystal Dive is solid. You always have support.
What advice would you give to people considering following your path?
First and foremost you need to be motivated and know this is what you want to do. The Divemaster training is a lot of fun, but it is also hard work and the Instructor Development Course is a huge step up.
I’m used too hard work but if I didn’t know this was the right path for me I would have struggled at times. I would also say that the choice of school and instructor makes a huge difference.
You need to have people you trust and can rely on. I was lucky at Crystal Dive as Matt and the teaching staff made the whole course a safe place to learn and grow. It may sound like a cliche but we became a family, and I cannot stress enough how important that relationship and trust is.
Diving is fun but you are learning how to teach people skills that require a high level of responsibility and trust. Students are literally putting their lives in your hands. You need to be confident and secure and the best way to become that is to be able to ask anything and trust your own teachers.
Give yourself time to learn from your experience, ask questions and work out if this lifestyle is right for you. I have huge respect for people like Mor who progress through their Divemaster training at a more intense pace, but for me I am so glad I planned ahead and gave myself several months to really dedicate myself to becoming a better diver.
As a Divemaster a huge part of the job is communicating your enthusiasm for diving to your customers, the fact that I know the dive sites and have had awesome experiences that I can share makes this part really fun.
After 4 months working as a Divemaster I’m now considering my next step and the Instructor Development Course. However, I needed this time to learn more about the diving industry as a whole and understand it was the right career for me to pursue rather than just an awesome hobby and refreshing career break.
Working as a Divemaster has taught me so much about every element of diving from equipment maintenance to boat lists, the administration and of course how to solve any issues underwater. I am sure that the confidence I have with customers will make me a far better instructor when I do take the next step.
What’s next for you and what do you see for the future?
Well I know I’ve found my career for the future. Now I’m focused on getting as much teaching experience as I can, learning by teaching, continuing my own professional development and enjoying this incredible life! For the future, who knows, maybe a boat of my own, a set up where I can do a little cooking again and also teach and lead dives.
Who wouldn’t want to spend a few weeks on tropical waters, in a beautiful boat with a dive instructor who can also rustle you up a mind blowing meal… It’s a thought.
Right now I am enjoying life as a Divemaster, it’s the busy season so I’m getting paid to dive every day! What a life!! I’m sure in the next month or two I will sign up for the Instructor Development Course and gain experience teaching and in the future I’d also love to spend some time on a live-a-board.
Who knows, maybe Mor and I will go into business together! But for now I’m focusing on learning on every dive I take and enjoying sharing my passion with customers. It certainly beats the 9 to 5 in an office back home!
There really is no ‘one size fits all’ definitive answer to a question I hear more than most.
As Mor and Richard demonstrate, more than anything else, it’s down to the individual, how you feel about yourself, your diving skills and knowledge.
These are three of the main factors to consider when choosing the right time for you to become a PADI Instructor.
Award Winning PADI Course Director – 463599