PADI Dive Master Internships = Slave Labor?!

How to Become a Divemaster

If you are thinking about doing your divemaster course, what are your options? Are divemaster internships really slave labor? These are both questions you may have asked yourself in pursuit of a professional diving career.

The basic options for achieving divemaster status are on a customer basis, or through an internship.

The customer route 

Basically, this option requires you to pay money to a dive center to be their student with:

  • An instructor that you are assigned
  • Self-study, instructor-led theory sessions, exams, skills practice, and execution in open water
  • About 6 to 7 days to complete

The only thing to watch for here is what’s included in the price you are paying and if there are any extras you need to consider. For example, one dive center might offer a dive course at a flat rate, but not include the extra agency fees or costs associated with study materials.

A customer-based dive master course is a great option if:

  • You have been diving for a long time
  • You have a good level of skill proficiency
  • All you really need is to complete the exercises and brush up on a bit of theory

This option is not recommended if you’re coming into a dive master program with the minimum number of dives required, which is around 40 based on the agency. You will then have a limited amount of time to:

  • Gain expertise in all of the theory
  • Pass all of your exams
  • Do all of the exercises acquired during the course
  • Run your skill circuit and get adequate scores
  • Assist an instructor and somehow amass an additional minimum 20 dives

This can all quickly become extremely overwhelming, which brings us to the second option.

Divemaster internship programs

These programs typically take place over a longer period of time, giving you more time to

  • Update your skills
  • Get to your required number of dives
  • Get a feel for what it’s like to work for an actual dive center

However, you need to make sure you know what you are committing to. There are two major myths about divemaster internships.

They’re not. These programs are completely optional. However, the problem is sometimes it’s not made clear upfront what’s included, what’s not included, what the costs are, and what the expectations are for the intern. Therefore, it’s up to you to do the math to see whether the program fits your expectations.

The equation involves: 

  • How much of your time you are going to spend working for the dive center, and how much that time is worth to you
  • The costs of any exclusions that aren’t included in the program

This then needs to be balanced against the value of everything you’re getting in the internship package, including:

  • Course study materials
  • Bonuses that you can earn through commission
  • If you work in a retail operation, any gear packages or rental gear included
  • Your instructor’s time
  • The opportunity to dive for free over six months, and how much you are going to be able to take advantage of that
  • Any accommodation or food packages included

If this equation isn’t balanced, it’s not a dealbreaker. If there is a deficit you need to decide if you would pay that amount.

Not really. Dive centers can hire dive instructors for the same price as divemasters, and dive instructors can do a wider range of jobs.

While opportunities for a divemaster are limited, here are some possibilities:

  • If you’re looking for resort work, focus on those that are looking for dive guides rather than dive instructors. In other words, those that are looking for someone to lead guided trips instead of selling and teaching courses.
  • The same goes for Liveaboard scuba diving cruises, as most of the guests aren’t looking to do an actual course. They just want to dive as much as they can!
  • The mega-yacht industry is also great for divers with divemaster certification. Although it usually would not be a full-time job. You would have to also take on the responsibility of being a steward, stewardess or deckhand with additional divemaster duties.

Doing a divemaster course, either through the customer route or by doing an internship, is a great way to work with great instructors and get a lot of diving done. However, doing an IDC (instructor development course) is another great option when looking to make scuba diving a career. If you are a newly qualified scuba diving instructor, be sure to check out how to prepare a professional scuba diving resume and narrow down your job search.




See our specific products used in the links above, and for a full list of the gear James keep in his dive bag, see his Gear List.
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Meet James Blackman

With a career in diving spanning twenty years, James has seen a thing or two in the dive industry. James grew up on the Southwest coast of Britain and learned to dive in the frigid waters of the English Channel. If your first dives were like being placed in a cocktail shaker full of cabbage soup and you come away with a love for the sport, then you know it’s going to be a life-long pursuit.

James spent his twenties in the British merchant marine which afforded him the opportunity to travel to and dive in far flung locales… 177 countries and counting. Between stints onboard a variety of vessels, James used his shore leaves to level up his scuba training… Rescue diver in Tanzania, DM in Indonesia, Instructor in Honduras, Tec Instructor in the French West Indies.

His last ship before moving to a shore-based life style was an expedition ship where he notched up some of his most impressive dives, including briefly holding the world record for most northerly scuba dive… 82 degrees north in the Russian arctic; diving the Amazon river; the Antarctic; and virgin reef systems in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia.

Moving ashore in his early thirties, James took on the role of General Manager for a luxury dive operator in St Martin and never had a dull moment! Hollywood visited the island and called upon James’ underwater skills for on-set safety. When Cat-3 hurricane Gonzalo devastated the area, James switched hats to salvage and public safety diver to help with the recovery.

Scuba Diving has given so much to James in his life… and first on that list is his brilliant wife Karina whom he met whilst teaching her AOW class! Yes, that old cliché! James and Karina are also business partners and co-owners of two power-house scuba brands. Miami Technical Diving has become the premiere scuba training facility in South Florida. Tired of seeing other dive shops compete in a ‘race to the bottom,’ James decided his model for teaching scuba would focus on keeping the quality as high as possible; using the best gear possible; teaching beyond the minimum standards on a 1-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio. The fullness of the MTD training calendar shows that people – student divers – prefer to receive premium, quality tuition, as opposed to cheap and fast.

James is the personality and knowledge broker behind ‘Divers Ready!’ a super influential Scuba Diving YouTube channelwebsite and brand. In just a year, Divers Ready! has become the fastest growing You Tube channel in the Scuba Diving niche, with 1000s of new divers joining every month. Their weekly videos range from Mouthpiece Mondays – where James shares his insider knowledge and opinions about controversial topics in the dive industry – to practical ‘hints & tutorial’ style videos, all with one simple goal in mind – to make you a better diver!

James and Karina started small group luxury dive trips for the Divers Ready! audience.

James and Karina live in Miami, FL with their rambunctious dogs; Ziggy The Husky and Bonham the Mutt, and their Maine Coon cat Foxy, who remains unimpressed.