Does it seem like I’ve been writing about my Divemaster course forever? It kind of does to me! It’s time to wrap things up on this subject before I lost the interest of all my land lubber readers, but I do have some final thoughts and pieces of advice I want to share first.
First, a look back at all the previous posts thus far in this series. Who know I’d have so much to say about becoming a PADI professional?
- Becoming a Divemaster: Who What When Where & Why
- Becoming a Divemaster: Theory
- Becoming a Divemaster: Skills
- Becoming a Divemaster: Practical Application
- Becoming a Divemaster: The Night I Almost Quit
- Becoming a Divemaster: Hazing
Now, are you thinking of doing your Divemaster? Awesome! As I wrote this series in part to provide information for those looking into doing the course, I want to end with some pieces of advice I wish I’d read before I started.
DO be ready to work hard
The Divemaster course can be a lot of fun, but it is also an intense internship and training program. You’ll be expected to be a part of a team, and do grunt work like carrying tanks and washing gear. You’ll need to take constructive criticism well.
DON’T be intimidated
Many commenters have noted that they would never be able to understand the theory, perform the skills, etc. Remember that by the time you get to the Divemaster Training level, you’ve already completed an Open Water Course, an Advanced Open Water course, and a Rescue Diving Course and ideally been diving for some time. You can do it.
DO look for schools in person, and DO know what you are looking for
Do you want a big school, where you’ll find built-in friends in your fellow DMTS and benefit from a more structured program, or do you want to take a smaller school with a more independent study and personalized attention? Write down a list of what you are looking for in your experience, and bring it with you when you start searching for school.
I cannot more highly recommend waiting until you are on location and can interview dive shops in person to make your decision. Emailing ahead of time to gather information or start the decision process is fine, but you’ll be spending a lot of money and time on this. You want to make sure it’s a good fit, and I think the only way to do so is in person.
DO look for scholarships and grants to offset costs
While considering doing my DMT, I applied for and won a Women Diver’s Hall of Fame continuing education grant. It paid $500 towards my course fees as well as $500 towards equipment, plus Big Bubble also extended a 10% discount to me for the gear I had, which saved me $100. But the value wasn’t only monetary — I made connections with an impressive group of women in the diving industry who I am still in touch with today.
There are a surprising number of opportunities for men and women of all nationalities to apply for grants and scholarships to help offset the cost of a dive program and develop a strong support network. Anyone looking into continuing dive education would be crazy not to check out the following, which I found with just a few moments of internet sleuthing.
DON’T rush it
I did my Divemaster course in just about five weeks. It was too short. Granted, I was trying to balance blogging, freelance work, and my course all at once, but even had I just been focused on diving I still think I would have felt rushed. If I could do it over again I would take 2-3 months. The course fees and the plane ticket are sure to be the biggest expenses — not to mention unlimited diving is included — so why not slow down and enjoy it?
DO have your own gear (at least some of it)
Not all dive shops require you to have your own gear, though many will extend you a discount for having your own. My BCD fell apart right before I started, but my dive shop still gave me 10% off for having a partial set. Customers will understandably be given priority over divemasters when it comes to equipment, and I can attest to how irritating it was to dive with the wrong size BCD when all in my size were taken. Thus there are a few pieces of gear I personally wouldn’t consider doing the course without.
First, buy a mask, snorkel and fins. They are relatively cheap and having your own will make all the difference in the world. Second, get a dive computer. It’s more or less essential for a divemaster, and while expensive they are small and easily packable. Third, I’d go for a wetsuit and/or BCD — in my case, my sizes were almost never available after gear was doled out to customers. Last on my priorities list would be a regulator, as they are one size and are quite expensive to buy and heavy to travel with. I have a post coming up next week with a detailed look inside my gear bag, so stay tuned!
DO know what you want out of it
Are you planning to go on to do your Instructor Development Course? Are you hoping to supplement a career in another field, such as marine conversation? Are you just looking for a fun way to spend a summer? All are equally valid! Be clear with your mentor about what you expect to get out of your course, so that they can tailor the program to you.
But DON’T be afraid to change your mind
While my course solidified my suspicion that I don’t ever want to becoming an instructor, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed guiding certified divers. My main objective in becoming a Divemaster was to become a more attractive underwater videography job candidate, but it’s nice to know that I’m capable of doing Divemaster work as well. Be open to the idea that this course might change your path!
It’s hard to sum up such a major life experience and conclude it in a fitting way. As they say, a photo is worth a thousand words, so rather than attempt to be wise or poignant, I thought I’d leave you all with a picture. Here’s my dog Tucker dressed as a scuba diving lobster. He says good luck with your Divemaster training.
Oh my. Lost it at Tucker dressed as a scuba diving lobster. What a champ! Haha.
You wrote a series that was exactly what I was looking for when I set out on this adventure. I wish I would have had this to read first! At least now I can link out to it when people ask me, thanks for doing the hard work of putting it all together 🙂 Your advice in this installment is spot-on. If I could add one thing, I would tell potential DMs – keep in mind that you are paying for an experience and mentorship – you are NOT a customer like the rest of the diving guests (see above about gear for guests first). If you like to party, you can definitely party during most DM training in ‘exotic’ places. Just keep in mind that the shop doesn’t owe you anything if you show up hungover daily and get sent back home every day! We have a lot of problems with this one. “But I’m PAYING you for my DM!!”… “yeah, but you’re hungover, and you’re not interacting with our guests like that, and you’re definitely NOT diving!”
Yeah, I wrote a bit about that customer/intern blurry line a bit in the “practical experience” post of this series. It is a fine line. On one hand, you ARE a customer in that the dive shop needs to provide you the ability to have a good experience. But you are an intern in that you need to turn around and provide that good experience to other customers. Interesting relationship.
I don’t think Tucker has near a large enough presence on this blog 🙂 Time to change that!
You’ve created such a resource for people who are looking into being a Divemaster, it’s awesome! I have to say, though, my favorite part is Tucker. Hands down. 😉
Mine too, Amanda. Mine too 🙂
Such a timely series of posts! I usually don’t have *any* of my own gear and rent *everythin* (that’s what rentals are for, right?). Taking a DM course will definitely step up my game, and I think I need to finally commit to some gear (geesh, marriage was enough of a committment). I kind of knew this day would come with becoming a DM!
I have a post coming up soon about my gear and recommendations for buying, so look out for that! Start slowly and build up. It doesn’t have to be scary 🙂
Really loved this series, even though it kinda scared me from time to time =)Thanks, for taking the time to write about it in so much detail.
but yeah I am happy to report I’m taking my first step and I will do my open water certification in Portugal after the surf and yoga retreat.Can’t wait to go diving again.I am soooooo excited.
I’m excited for you, Caty! Enjoy your course, and let us know how it goes!
I’ve definitely considered getting my Divemaster (way far down the line), so I loved this series and all the useful info. And omg, those photos of Tucker are making me miss my pup! Soo cute!
I miss my pup so much 🙁 I think one of the worst parts of traveling indefinitely is not being able to have a furry friend….
Great series, Alex! – the best info from first hands on the web. And incredible underwater photography!
Thanks! I actually found a huge lack of first hand DMT experiences online, which gave me a lot of inspiration to do this!
Aww, Tucker looks adorable as a diving lobster! 🙂
Tucker says thank you 🙂
Um this probably wasn’t the point you were trying to make with this post, but can we talk about how much I want to steeeaal (borrow? no?) your dog? Yep. That’s all I have to say.
Ha, that kind of was the point of the post 🙂 I miss my pup!
Yes! More pics of the pooch please!
Hi Alex, thank you for writing such a comprehensive series on becoming a DiveMaster. I love diving but I don’t think being a divemaster is for me. But still, I appreciate that you shared what goes on behind being one. Your determination is very inspiring. And Tucker is just adorable! 🙂
Thanks Jean! I agree he should win Cutest Dog in the World awards! Oh and yes, divemaster stuff too… 🙂
Great post! I just finished my DM too, my “advice” post is here https://gaiusdive.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/advice-for-those-considering-divemaster/
Thanks for sharing Gaius, and congrats!
Hi Alex ! Thanks for your articles about becoming a DiveMaster. The way you write and tell your personal experience shows how much you’re a passionate person. Your articles are really inspiring !
ps : the pictures of your cute puppy are awesome 😀 thanks !
Thanks! I’m glad you liked them… and the puppy pictures 🙂
The puppies are ridiculously cute. You are ridiculously gorgeous. Wise advice, and congratulations! I watched so many people go through this (and I’m not even certified to dive — pathetic) in Costa Rica. It’s intense.
It’s just one pup, photographed many times 🙂 He’s the best doggie, you’d love him. He’ll teach you to dive!
I never had a desire to do my DM but now after reading all your posts, I really want to! Alas, I don’t foresee having 2-3 months free anytime in the coming decade… =(
You can always keep working digitally while you do it, though I admit that most places I’m interested in diving aren’t known for great wifi! Argh!
I am about 99% sure I’ll never become a Divemaster, but it’s been fun to read about your experience and hear all the details!
Thanks Emily! What is blogging for if not to offer a voyeuristic peek into another world 🙂
After reading all about “becoming a divemaster” now I know that it is more difficult than I could imagine and that I want to do it one day. Like you said it could be a fun way to spend a summer. I am sure I’ll think about it.
I’ve been seriously considering investing into diving over the next few years, so this is awesome to read! & yes, I creeped your diving posts hard hahaha… Great job in completing Divemaster! & your dog is freaking adorable. x
I’ll pass along the compliment to him 🙂
I’m currently AOW and so impatient to go through DM this summer (after EFR and RD in the spring). I had been looking for a “what is it in reality to go through DM ?” for so long and found your blog. Thanks very much for sharing your personal experience in such an entertaining and objective way, that made me even more convinced I would go for it ! cheers !
Hey Cedric! I’m really glad you found me, I was looking for the same kind of info when I was considering my DMT. You are going to have a great time… good luck! And let me know if I can help!
Hey Alex! I found your blog a couple months ago and since then have been obsessively reading all and everything relating to your diving posts. I recently (last summer) obtained my OW certification and loved it so much that I have been searching on how to continue with it. I absolutely loved reading these posts about how you became a divemaster and found it incredibly helpful and encouraging! If you have the chance, I have a simple question for you…I’m traveling to Mexico in a couple weeks to dive (I’ve only ever dove in cold water) and I was wondering if you find you can just easily wear a bathing suit in warm water or if you recommend a rash guard or tshirt? Thank you so much for posting about all of this. It has really given me the motivation to pursue diving!
Hey Claire! I often have dove in just a bathing suit however I think a rash vest is always more comfortable to avoid weird rubbing with your BCD and any chills you might get. It’s always a good thing to have in your dive bag! Good luck girl!
Hi – Thanks for all the great information! I am thinking of doing my DM in the Gili’s. I did my open water there a few years ago and loved it and cant wait to go back. Was wondering what month you arrived there? I was thinking of doing mine in July and August and know that is high season there. So didn’t know if it might be harder to get a placement during that time or if you still think its best to just go and talk to places upon arrival. Thanks in advance for the advice.
I arrived on April 1st and stayed for six week. It was perfect timing. I don’t think you will have trouble finding a placement — believe me, they can always find room for a new customer! — but I do think the island is overall less pleasant in July. I returned again on July 1st and stayed for another six weeks, and I was shocked by how different the island felt, and not in a pleasant way. You also might want to check the dates of Ramadan — I’d avoid it if possible. Hope that helps!
thank you so much for sharing all your personal experiences! I am planning on doing my DM next year after I am done with my studies and have been looking for a blog like this for quite some while. There is just too little stuff out there writing about something else than the facts. I really enjoy reading your other posts, too, and have been reading the past two days whenever I got to it!
Even though I am still nervous about my navigation skills, reading about your experiences made it even more clear that I really, really want to give it a try and become a better diver.
Thanks once again and safe travels to you!
You’re welcome, Sara! I agree, I could find very little first-hand info when it came time to do my DM and that’s why I wanted to provide that for others. I’m so glad this has been helpful for ya! Good luck 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed account of your experience. I did the whole ‘quit the office job, sell the car, buy a backpack’ thing in Jan ’14 and have been in SE Asia since. I did my Open Water in Feb in the Philippines and have done a handful of fun dives since. I’m seriously considering doing the DMT in Indonesia in the next 6 months and your posts have really helped me become better informed about the options and process. Best bit of advice from you so far has been to shop around in person, I’ll definitely do this as I have the luxury of time! I have one key question I’m asking myself at the moment and would really appreciate your opinion…
Would I be best to do my AOW, EFR and Rescue courses first, and then start my DMT as a separate programme, or should I go for one of the ‘zero to hero’ options to take me from where I am now to DM in one continuous programme? I guess there’s no right answer but I’d be very grateful for your thoughts on the pros and cons of each approach.
Thanks in advance!
Hey Richard, so glad this series has been helpful to you! The upside to doing a ‘zero to hero’ program is that it will generally involve a financial savings and perhaps incentives like free specialties, etc. But the upside to doing them separately is you can experience different dive spots and shops! Personally I enjoyed doing my various courses in different places (Thailand, The Cayman Islands, and Indonesia) as I learned about different industry practices and facets of the dive industry, as well as getting to experience wildly different dive sites. But if money was my number one concern I might feel differently. Hope that helps, and best of luck!
Hello there! I’m currently planning out my DM adventures and Gili Trawangan is currently on the top of my list of possible places (among Hawaii, the Canary Islands, and Koh Tao as a safe fall). I would love any recommendations for schools. I will have a little more than two months at the end of this year and am going in with all my pre-requisites completed.
Hey Colie, I did my DMT with Big Bubble on Gili Trawangan but they have changed location and staff since I trained there so it’s somewhat hard to comment. My best advice is as stated here — show up on the island and have a wander around and see who you gel with 🙂 Good luck!
Great Post! Thanks for the guides and tips. Great underwater Photos too. I love Indonesia because of it’s amazing diving sites.
You are so welcome Jack! Glad this post was helpful to you!
Thank you for the insights of doing the DM course! My husband and I signed up for the EFR, Rescue, Nitrox & DM course not knowing that THAT much is involved in the process of becoming a DM!!!! We signed up only because we thought it was good skills & knowledge to have since our two kids dive too (1 JOWD and 1 Bubble Maker/Discovery).
Having said that I have you to thank for enlightening us with what’s in store and it gives us time to prep ourselves physically and mentally (we are both in our late 30s aka we’re almost over the hill!
I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Evelyn! I think that is great that your whole family is embracing diving and I’m sure you will love the process and sharing it with your kids. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
As noted above this is a great review of the DMT course, and as far as I know the only one aside from a few forum comments on Scubaboard.
Anyway been thinking of doing my DMT for a while now and have narrowed it to either Utila or Gili T.
I done my rescue at Trawangan Dive and had an awesome time but I’m keen to go somewhere else.
My only concern is if I’m staying long term I need a bit of life.
Couldn’t spend a month on Sipadan or the Maldives.
Utila sounds like the Gili T of central America.
As you’ve been around, wondered what your thoughts were??
Hey Noel, Utila definitely has a similar vibe… if you’re looking for something new I’d check out The Bay Islands or Bocas del Toro 🙂 Both have a good mix of life above and below the sea. They will of course not have diving as good as some locations but they have a cheap cost of living, great nightlife and fun people. Hope that helps!
Thank you for this blog which gives a day to day experience of a Divemaster course, which is something somewhat hard to find.
I have a question: between all the theory, skills and practical applications, were you able to do a few exploration dives? Is it something one can do in the “customer” side of the experience?
I am thinking about such a course, I like doing underwater photo as you do, and I would be sad if I come back with only “work” dives and no chance to spend some time with aquatic life…
Absolutely! Most divemaster programs allow you UNLIMITED fun diving along with your course dives 🙂 They really want you to leave the best diver you can be, so they welcome you to hop on the boat whenever you have free time. It’s awesome!
Hi Alex! I’m fresh out of High School and i’m planning my gap year between HS and College. I’m currently in Utila, Honduras where i’m getting my open water and advanced open water certs. I’m hoping to move to Indonesia in the next several months to continue my diving experience and was looking into Gili T as my next adventure! I am hoping to be there for several months and have some money saved but unfortunately I will need to find a job. I’m wondering if you know how easy it would be to find a job there even if its a bartending job, waitress, barista, etc. Also wondering if you have any dive shop recommendations/ what the cost of living is on the island. would love to hear your opinions!
Hey Abby, check out this post about the cost of living in Gili Trawangan. Finding work is possible but as a foreigner the more time you’ve spent on the island the better — business owners would rather hire someone they’ve known for six weeks than someone they met six days ago. As for dive shops, staff and management change often in the industry so it would be impossible for me to give a current recommendation. I’d say show up and spend a few days walking around the island and interviewing the various shops if you plan to do your DMT! Good luck!
Love the blog. I’m planning a divemaster internship myself. I’m currently trying to decide between Koh Tao, Bali and the Bay Islands of Honduras so your blog has been very helpful!
One thing I can’t seem to find much info on (though you covered gear a bit here) was traveling with dive gear. I’ve had snorkel, mask and fins for a while, I’m planning on a dive computer and after reading this probably a BCD as well.
My question is how you pack the gear. Do you just try and stuff it into a carry on? Add a checked bag? I usually don’t travel with a checked bag and I assume you don’t either so I was curious how you handle it.
Hey Derek! Check out my packing section… I’m a chronic overpacker and basically never travel with just a carry on 🙂 Yup, I just stuff it all in a checked backpack along with the rest of my junk and remove it into a dive bag when I’m at my destination. It’s not so bad. Best of luck!
I read every one of your divemaster posts and have to thank you for laying it all out for me! Diving is something I’ve wanted to do for years and, now that I’m traveling full-time, I’ve decided to invest into a course in Labuan Bajo / Komodo Island. Unlike you, I’m hoping to help it will support some of my travels – it’s a huge chunk of change that could go toward adding more countries to my portfolio! (Crossing fingers and hoping they don’t do the snorkel test where I’m getting certified! LOL.)
Would you recommend renting my gear first or purchasing it? Isn’t it a lot to haul around as a long-term traveler?
If you are hoping to work in the dive industry, it is absolutely essential that you will have your own gear. So if that’s your plan, I would start piecing some gear together 🙂 Have you seen my post on my dive gear?
I love this series of blogs so much! Just the advise I needed as I am just at the very start of my diving adventures but will certainly be continuing my education! Thanks a lot!
So glad to hear it! Keep diving… it’s led me on so many amazing adventures.
Your blog has been a great resource when planning! Thank you for all the honest advice and recommendations.
I will be embarking on an extended backpacking trip later this year (8+ months), and am looking to start it out on the gilis to get my dive master cert. It won’t be realistic for me to bring all my dive gear with me, but should I set aside space for some gear (I’m thinking computer, mask, and maybe thin full-body wetsuit)? Or at that point should I just rent all my own gear? I know space is going to be precious on this trip, but I do plan on diving at least some in most places I go to. Thoughts?
Hey Sam! It might be worth shipping your gear one way or the other — for me, I received a 10% discount off my course for having it. So pretty significant. I ALWAYS travel with my mask and computer even if I’m only going to be doing one or two dives, and yeah, if I’m going to be doing some significant diving I bring my own shortie wetsuit too since I hate wearing rentals. If you’re petite, shops often run low on XS dive gear like BCDs so keep that in mind! I think having your own gear is pretty crucial for the DMT.
More I read your posts more I find you an amazing person. I like the way you look at things!
I probably missed mentioning Koh Tao in terms of taking Divemaster course. So, could you suggest any dive club there you would prefer for yourself! (Sorry for my English!%))
Thanks in advance and good luck!
Hey Paul! I recently have taken courses with Master Divers and Sairee Cottage on Koh Tao and I would recommend either for your DMT course! Stay tuned for more posts coming up on diving in Koh Tao.
Great post, Alex. I’m absolutely buzzing to head out to Koh Tao in November to do my DM. Thinking about going with Crystal Dives. Have you heard anything about them? Also, which computer would you recommend for DM level?
Hey Chris! Crystal is one of the big schools on the island and while I know of them I don’t know the school or anyone who works there closely. As always, I’d recommend going and checking out in person before committing. As for a computer, whatever you can afford! I prefer computers with liberal profiles. Have fun!
Hi Alex! Your serie is really helpful!! I want to do it for the same reason as you, in order to be more confident underwater and better underwater camerawoman. However, I find difficult to fnd a video job. So far, I have made a few underwater videos for some NGO here in Dominican Republic, but my internship is closed to the end and I don’t know what should I do next when I come back to Europe. I’m open to travel the world and go wherever I can work as underwater filmmaker or photographer.
Do you have any advice for me? That would be amazing! Thanks in advance 🙂
Hey Andrea! To be honest, I’ve only had two jobs doing underwater video so I’m not sure how much advice I have about how to get and work in the industry. The first I got in the Cayman Islands basically out of luck; the photographer I was assisting wanted to train someone in underwater video since she was phasing out of it. The second I got was in Koh Tao and mostly through friend connections. So staying connected to the diving industry and perhaps working as a divemaster until you can find video work is probably the best tip I have. As with any industry, it really is who you know! Plus once you are a divemaster you can check PADI’s dive job listings online!
Hi! Thank you for your blog posts about DM internships! I’m on a gap year traveling before college and am looking to get my divemaster certification in the spring. Like you, I love diving and want to do it everywhere I go, as much as I can. I just spent three months in Southeast Asia and absolutely loved it but didn’t get to do as much diving as I’d have liked to. I’m about to spend around three months volunteering in Ambergris Caye, Belize, so I’ll dive there for fun and in nearby locations like Roatan and Costa Rica. At some point I’m going to India to get yoga instructor certified so I’m trying to figure out where I want to do my DM certification- if I want to stay in Central America or go back to Southeast Asia, or anywhere else in the world. I just want to see as many places as I can but I want to go where the diving is great and a location with lots of other backpackers and divers! Do you have any suggestions? Would you recommend Indonesia? And where are your favorite places to dive?? Thank you!
Wow, sounds like you are having an incredible gap year! I absolutely loved doing my divemaster in Indonesia and think it was the perfect choice for me. In Central America, you’d be hard pressed to find as dive-focused of a destination outside The Bay Islands or perhaps Ambergris Caye/Caye Caulker and Bocas del Toro. Personally, I’d look for a destination with a high volume of certifications so you can get plenty of experience assisting courses and watching a variety of different instructors work. Honestly, you can’t go wrong — I’d just pick a place that makes sense and fits in with the rest of your travels 🙂 Best of luck deciding!