Become a Dive Professional

Being a dive professional

There is nothing more fulfilling for a dive professional than to see a student who struggled with a skill finally get it or seeing someone they trained advancing up the qualifications ladder. Like a teacher in a school, a dive professional gives their students the skills needed to be successful in what they will do in the future. This is why becoming a dive professional should not be taken lightly. Diving is a fun sport but it also has its risks and managing those risks starts with your dive professional.


Through most training agencies you can progress to the professional level quickly, but does that mean you should? Having 60 or 100 dives may mean you are good in the water but does it mean you have enough experience to be a professional? My buoyancy may be perfect, my air consumption outstanding but does it matter if I can't spot or anticipate problems? If all I dive are shallow reefs and as a professional I lead a deep dive, do I have the experience to lead that dive safely? Once you become a dive professional its more than just a dive, you have the safety and well being of those on that dive in your hands. When I took my Divemaster course a large part of it was spotting problems students have. Diver doesn't sink. An inexperienced person may immediately go for more weights while an experience person would look to see if the diver is kicking.

I like to think of it like this, an open water diver has extreme tunnel vision, they see whats in front of them and thats it. An advanced diver expands that vision to 45 degrees. A rescue diver expands it to 90, Divemaster to 180 and when you become an instructor its 360 degrees. This field of view also expands with more dives.

There are many scenarios that only experience will prepare you for so get as many dives as you can at different shops in different environments. Before I became a dive professional I logged over 400 dives in 6 different countries. Cold water, tropical water, low vis, high vis, cenotes, wrecks, drift, deep the list goes on. This created a solid foundation to go to the next level.

The Training

The training to become a dive professional can be long and expensive, but also rewarding. Some Divemaster internships can last months to give you experience. The Padi Instructor Development Course is 2 weeks, but that's 2 weeks of training everyday day all day. Some shops offer pre IDC courses that prepare you for your instructors exam. I did my Divemaster and IDC at Pan Aqua Diving in NYC. The Divemaster course was for a whole season, 5 months and the IDC was done in 3 months. You first became an assistant instructor and worked with instructors having the ability to teach open water skills under an instructors direct supervision. Then you went on to the IDC with actual training experience, but no matter how your shop chooses to do training, it is intense both mentally and physically.

You will learn more concepts of dive physics and problem solving. Student teaching techniques, risk management, to demonstrate skills slowly and to perfection and most important, your training agencies standards.

The standards and legal liability

Every training agency has its own set of standards. Most are similar when it comes to dive physics and general safety, but some are different when it comes to certain equipment and procedures. Example: Padi teaches snorkel skills in Open Water training while SSI teaches them as a separate course. But no matter what agency you are with, their standards are the golden rule. As a professional you are faced with legal liability and deviating from the written standards can put you in a difficult situation. You will need to learn your agencies way of teaching and yes, their way of marketing. There are codes of conduct, specialized forms and things you can and can not say.

As a non professional for a dive you may say "Lets go to 120 feet." As a professional you would say "Lets go within the limits of your training." The divers training could be to 120 feet but as a professional you have established that training as a limit for safety thus covering some of your legal liability. There is no liability if a non professional offers medical advice but as a professional there is. These are things you will learn when you become a professional.

Role model behavior

Lead by example. You know those old fins you have, the ones held together by zip ties that you refuse to retire? They won't fly when you go pro. Neither will that wet suit with the holes in the knees or that improvised mask strap clip. Students and divers will be looking to you as an example. It's pretty awesome to see a student diver mimic your scuba kit, its an excellent way to promote safe diving practices. It also leads to students coming back for more training. Lets face it, you may love the sport but you aren't teaching for free. Not always at least.

Tips before you start your dive professional training.

  • Spend time diving at the shop you will do your training at, volunteer in the shop if you can.
  • Be comfortable and confident with your gear
  • Start looking at divers and note possible issues
  • Start looking at instructors and see what teaching styles you like
  • Dive in different environments, high vis, low vis, cold and warm
  • Review all your prior training manuals
So here you have a rough overview of what it takes to become a dive professional. Its a lot of work but the rewards are most defiantly worth it.