Choosing your PADI Divemaster Program
When I was 22 years old, I was sitting in a little hut in the Philippines staring at my laptop, writing a paper about the geographical distribution of Humpback Whales in the Northern Pacific. Seems amazing right? Wrong. For those of us that have hyperactivity coded into our DNA, it is near impossible to sit in front of a computer for anything more than the 5 minutes it takes to watch a Planet Earth trailer, letting David Attenborough’s melancholic voice drop us into a dreamlike state where we envision our next plane ticket to a new country and take divemaster.
Naturally, my mind wandered often as I wrote this paper, and for some odd reason it hooked into an idea that I couldn’t shake; I desperately wanted to complete my PADI Divemaster, and get back into the water where a laptop screen could no longer plague me with weird eye infections and zombie-like sleep patterns. So I began my two month journey to selecting the PADI Divemaster program that was perfect for me. No, I didn’t sit down and write pros and cons, it just naturally evolved into an elimination process based on the following factors, all of which were key determinants in my final choice.
The quality of Diving:
The PADI Divemaster program is often the point at which divers have that lightbulb moment, where they realize what it is to be a good diver. Their breathing gets better, their buoyancy becomes second nature, and they begin to understand the mental and physical benefits of a diving lifestyle. This is accomplished through, get ready for it, DIVING- and lots of it. Unlike your Instructor course which focuses heavily on pool sessions and teaching styles, your PADI Divemaster focuses on guiding and dive skills, all of which are tackled in the open water. For obvious reasons, you want to be completing your Divemaster in an area that has quality diving, and a wide range of opportunities. Currents, wrecks, caves, muck diving, the more you can expose yourself to as a Divemaster candidate, the more knowledge you will have to transfer on to your instructor course, should you choose to accept that mission.
While money may not be an issue for many, I was a 22 year old Marine Biologist living in a hammock. I did not have any money. My search was focused on countries that provided a reasonably cheap standard of living, while still having good diving and decent infrastructure. Divemaster programs are all reasonably within the same price range, but how much you will be paying for food, accommodation, and non-diving related activities might make the difference. Also, pay attention to how courses are priced, there are often hidden fees that will only make themselves clear once you arrive, or even worse, once you have completed the program.
Other stuff to do:
We all love diving, that is why you are reading this article. But let’s face it, we all need a break from time to time. Sometimes we just need to gain our terrestrial sanity back, or the ocean decides to give us an ear infection and set us back on land, playing hard to get. Whatever the reason may be, if you are stuck on an island that has nothing else to do, you might go a bit stir crazy. I needed more options, things to do to keep myself balanced. Yoga, surfing, birdhouse building; choose a few things that you’re interested in and find a place where you can balance your energy. The dive industry is full of burnouts, and many people don’t last because they can’t hang. Practice balance from the get go.
The Shop, the Team:
During your Divemaster program, you will be surrounded by the same people and the same team for the duration of your experience. You want to make sure you know that team, and understand their philosophies before you make a commitment. Often shops will not offer refunds if it just “doesn’t fit”. The program I work for now tries desperately to get our potential candidates on Skype to meet everybody so that we all know from the beginning who is a Justin Bieber fan, who has a funny accent, and who has split fins. This saves awkwardness later on. Don’t just focus on the quality of the website or the cheap price, dive deeper into the program to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
Beware of Free:
We get enquiries all the time, asking if there is an opportunity to work for your PADI Divemaster. You will find programs that offer this, but please be careful that they do no intend to use you as an unpaid employee, doing all the work others don’t want to do, to pay for a program you could easily work off as a certified Divemaster in a few months. Look past the numbers and look at the investment of time and focus. Spending three months filling tanks will not help you become a better diver. The best programs will sometimes carry a higher price tag, as they may be trying to provide a higher quality of diving or training which makes their costs higher.
Choosing the program that is perfect for you will take some time and research, but I encourage you to set your own set of priorities to help narrow your choices. At the end of it all, a good program will allow you the opportunity to fall in love with diving even more and hopefully continue on to join the rest of us who have found a way to make it a living. Trust me, we are all happy with our choice!