So you've decided to take your love of diving to the next level by joining the ranks of scuba diving professionals, and becoming a Divemaster! You know what you want (to become a DM), but the difficult decision is where to actually do it and how to do it? Most dive shops offer you your Divemaster certificate on an intern basis, where candidates spend anything from a month to six months learning the ropes, so choosing the right shop is an important decision - after all it's going to be your new home. Here's some top tips on choosing the right dive shop.
You are going to be spending a lot of time in one place, so pick somewhere you know you will enjoy! You may know a local dive shop that you have a great rapport with, where you can do you Divemaster training over weekends whilst still working. However, many people choose to go abroad, either for the new experience, or because diving isn't so popular in their home country. Perhaps somewhere you've been before, but if not, at least do your research. If you're jetting off abroad, think about weather, water temperature, languages spoken and culture. The kind of diving the area offers can also be a deciding factor. Does it fit with your love of wrecks? Or your keen eye for macro? You will be diving nearly every day, so it makes sense to be doing dives that you know you will love.
Then the Dive Centre
Once you are decided on your location, be it a country or even a particular town or Island, it's time to weigh up the shops in the area. If it is somewhere you have already been, you may already have a preference for a shop, and in that case you can contact them directly and ask about Divemaster programs.If you are heading somewhere you have never been, take a look on some of the shop's websites and see what courses they offer. Do they actually offer the Divemaster course? If you know you want to progress to instructor, do they run an IDC? How are their Tripadvisor ratings and comments on Facebook?
To start with it's sensible to send out some emails, and let shops know you are interested in a Divemaster program. Their reply can give you an indication on how professional and organised the shop is, and also if there are any "hidden" requirements, such as Divemaster Trainees not having any tattoos on show (this was a reply I actually received, so for me I had to rule the shop out!). If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! Also, it's not uncommon to request that you be put in contact with previous or current Divemaster Trainees, and then you can get a first hand account about what life as an intern really entails. Utilise all of the dive loving ladies connected through Girls Love Scuba Facebook page, and ask if anyone has experience with some of the shops you are interested in!
What to Expect
All Divemaster internships are different, and sometimes no amount of questions really prepare us for the reality. Try to find out how much time you will spend diving, and how much time you will be spending in the shop. Is accomodation provided? Are you expected to be outside trying to entice customers? Will you get days off? All these things you can at least ask in advance. The general opinion I have found from people who have completed their divemaster is that it was hard work, but very fun. You can expect no day to be the same, and last minute changes become the norm. You'll ache in places you've never ached before during the first few days, as a result of carrying A LOT of tanks, and you'll set up, break down and wash equipment so often you will eventually be able to do it wth your eyes closed. Don't let it put you off though, as you will make friendships that will last for life, learn more about diving than you ever thought possible, and spend most of your working day on a beach, boat or in the ocean, making all the hard work worth it!
Many people want to do their Divemaster as cheap as possible, but remember "nothing in life comes for free". If a shop is desperately trying to entice Divemaster Interns with free courses, even free meals or accomodation, ask yourself why no one is choosing to pay to become a proffesional with them? Generally, these kind of ploys are aimed at getting interns who will work much longer and harder, effectively giving the shop free labour, whilst the level of teaching you recieve is usually low. As a general rule of thumb, the longer your internship, the less you will pay, and also the more experience you will gain! If you are on a budget, remember to factor in rent, food, overall living costs in the country you choose, equipment needed and insurance, as these things will probably add up to more than you actually pay for the internship.
There will be times when you are ready to pack it in, feel under appreciated and over worked, and start to question if you've made a poor decision. Take time to think rationally, and remember why you started your Divemaster! It isn't supposed to be a walk in the park, but if you really feel you are close to quitting, or are being unfairly treated, speak to whoever is in charge before making any decision. Remember, the shop wants you to become a Divemaster, and Dive Master Trainees are extremely valuable to them, so most problems will at least try to be resolved!
About the Author
Demi is currently in Costa Rica doing a Divemaster Internship, and will progress to Instructor. Follow her diving journey through her blog at demidives/wordpress.com. She enjoys writing about diving and travel, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org