Becoming a Divemaster: Theory
Recently I explained what the Divemaster course is, why I decided to sign up, and how I chose where and when to do so. Now I’m breaking down the course into four sections, starting with theory. I hope this will be helpful to those looking into doing their DMT and searching for a first hand account of someone who has been there, as well as interesting to those simply looking for a peek into a different industry!
With the exception of the sections on physics and decompression theory, I was looking forward to the theory portion of the Divemaster course. While I found my fair share of things to complain about throughout high school and university, I actually love being a student and enjoy the process of learning.
In one hungover day – in which I refused to so much as look at a boat – I knocked out seven of the nine chapters in the PADI Divemaster Manual. They were manageable and interesting, covering topics like The Role of the PADI Divemaster, The Business of Diving, Risk Management and Diving and the Environment. Each chapter had a quiz at the end, which I had to review with an instructor so that we could talk through any concepts that I missed.
The final two chapters – covering things like physics and physical effects of diving on the body – really challenged me. Science was always my worst subject, and so I struggled with the concepts of things like tidal flows and lung embolisms. Becks, one of my instructors and mentors at Big Bubble, pretty much had to walk me through the final chapter page by page. One of the most irritating sections requires the use of an eRDPML computer and dive tables to painstakingly plan the length, depth, and surface intervals of dives. It sounds important, but this practice has been made irrelevant by modern dive computers that do the calculations more efficiently and precisely than we could ever dream of with the tables – I hope the eRDPML will be phased out in future editions of PADI courses as it’s more or less a waste of time at this point. Basically, those chapters were a struggle for me and I’m glad I had a patient instructor to explain them to me without making me feel dense.
Studying the effects of gravity by the pool
Later I also had to watch a DVD that basically regurgitated the information from the manual – luckily there are some awesome 80’s-tastic wetsuits throughout that kept me interested. It was also a good review before the two dreaded exams. The first one was actually a breeze — it took me only about half an hour. I missed three out of the sixty questions, resulting in a 95%. Gold star for me! The second exam was a different story, as it covered the science-y stuff I mentioned before. Even with my intense preparations, it took me well over two hours and a few frustrated tears to get through the second exam. I was elated though when I passed with a 91%. So if you happened to be in Gili Trawangan recently and saw someone weeping over a textbook and then later doing a happy dance on the beach — that was me.
Finally, I had to submit an Emergency Assistance Plan based on my readings from the Manual. This was more time intensive than anything else, though I luckily still had the plan from my rescue course in the Cayman Islands on my computer and was able to build from that.
For me, this was an enjoyable and mostly painless part of my Divemaster. Others I have spoken to, such as those who have been out of the classroom environment for a long time and perhaps never fit in there to begin with, or those for whom English is a second language, actually found this to be the most difficult and least rewarding part of the course. At the medium-sized dive school where I did my DMT, theory was mostly self guided, with extra help generously provided when I reached out for it — this was the right fit for me. Larger schools with more DMTs might have lectures and scheduled exams and more structure.
For those considering doing their DMT in the future, it’s probably good to keep in mind that it’s not all just dive dive dive! and fun fun fun! all the time. There is also paperwork and bookwork to be done, as there would be in technical training for almost any career. But okay. Yes. It is mostly diving and fun.
Next up, I’ll go into the skills, teaching, and hazing portions of the Divemaster course, and spill about the emotional moment where I almost called it quits. Readers, please contact me if you are looking for a recommendation on where to do your DMT in Gili Trawangan.
I know I’m going to come off as a curmudgeon, but there is value in learning the tables. I never thought there was either, and after being a divermaster since 2000, I had my computer fail on a trip. It was nice to be able to fall back on using the tables.
I’m happy to hear that you are done with the course. For me, the swim tests were what made me want to cry. I’m just not a strong swimmer. They still require those, right?
Just read your post… I know for my own piece of mind when ever I travel I take my old computer with me rather than rely on the tables. – Call me lazy 😉
Indeed they do! It’s all coming up in my skills post 🙂 I can see what you mean about the tables, at least in terms of learning the science behind what the computer does. But basically all I do is multi-level diving. I can’t imagine being a slave to the tables!
Cute pics! Another fun post! 🙂 Always great to learn the behind-the-scenes of different careers/pathways.
Thanks Maddy! I wasn’t sure how popular this post would be… glad to hear your feedback!
I couldn’t agree more on the eRPDML. In the age of computer chips and satellites why on earth is it still apart of the PADI curriculum to work all that out? me thinks they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Anyway, congrats on the passes! big job well done.!
Thanks Dave! I agree. It’s hard for a major organization to make a big change like that, but I have a feeling it is coming soon.
I would so fail!
I’m sure that isn’t true miss Chinese medicine practitioner! I’m sure it took some science-smarts to get there!
Oh this is so helpful Alex! I’ve only just started diving but can see myself going onto Divemaster eventually… but not yet. Lots of fun diving to be done before then 🙂
Nice Michelle! Yeah, enjoy the ride! I enjoyed taking a few years to get to this point. Those “Zero to Hero” programs where people go from open water to instructor seem awful to me!
Dear Alex,You have taken on a “challenge”and You’ll be up to it.I have done a lot of things;never anything”by the book”In this case, with your diving;it is not only what you want out of life; but Your life depends on you learning your new skill RIGHT!Be happy it is difficult, You’re a”romantic”,an artist;and your blog is great!I’m hooked now,and enjoy you letting me be part of your life and adventures.Be careful!John
Thanks John! Appreciate your support!
I admit, I am such a huge nerd that when we did our OW course, I was ecstatic about having a textbook and quizzes and all that geeky stuff! That’s not to say parts of the course weren’t exceedingly dry at times, but the science and math stuff were right up my alley… I agree that dive table are far more limiting than computers (especially since unless you use the wheel, they only allow you to plan for single-depth dives), but I still enjoyed working through the various problems in our course book… but now I leave it all up to my hot pink Cressi dive computer!
I absolutely loved the Advanced Open Water… that’s the one where I nerded out 🙂 Sounds like you would be a great candidate for a DMT someday!
Helpful post. Thanks, Alex! Cant wait for the one about the skills tests and teaching details. More pics please 🙂
Glad you are enjoying the series! I will try to pop more underwater photos in there 🙂
Ha – I did those 7 chapters on a hungover day too 😉 I think PADI is phasing out the eRDPmL… there’s already a dive computer-based open water course that doesn’t even teach the tables really. So it’s definitely going in that direction. I can’t wait…I hate teaching that crap!
Ha, I can only imagine how you feel having to explain it every day! I was lucky that the Open Water course that I “taught” as part of my course, the students were super sharp and I didn’t really have to correct anything they did. Phew!
Cool! I’m glad you’re going in depth with the DMT process from a regular person point of view. I think being interested in the subject (diving) always makes even the normally tough stuff (science) easier to learn. ps – still absolutely love your Tron-esque wetsuit!
Ha, thanks Cat! Really glad to hear this series is striking a chord with some of my regular readers 🙂
Haha I’m such a nerd – I love the RDP table and the last two chapters of the manual. Hated chapter 2 though where the knowledge review requires so much writing!! 🙂
Ha, see since I’m a writer I don’t even remember Chapter Two… it didn’t even register 🙂
Very nice diary about your experience and I like the teaser at the end to heighten anticipation of the next post on this subject.
Suspense! Dun dun dun duuuuun!
Wow, I had no idea how much work it involves to become a divemaster. I would definitely fail the theory part I think. Looks way to complicated to me. 🙂
It’s actually not too bad, it’s just that science is my kryptonite! Most people comment it is quite easy 🙂
Currently planning a dive trip for my dad and I, and I stumbled across your blog! Love it! I recently just got open water certified through a class at school and I absolutely love it. How did you know you wanted to continue to get more certifications? And how did you start?
Hey Mary! I just knew that I loved being underwater and wanted to keep going 🙂 Maybe you can complete your advanced open water while on your trip — it’s a really fun course with very little classwork. As your dive center about it!
Hey Alex, Currently doing my DM in the uk. Any Tips? Freaking out about my final exams. Thanks.
Hey Bee! I actually have a post of Divemaster tips which you can find here. Best of luck with your exam!