Divemaster Guide 2021! Learn everything to reach your goal and have fun along the way.
Updated: Feb 5
The divemaster course is your entrance door for the professional level in the recreational scuba diving world.
It's one of the first recognition at the pro level and it's a mandatory step to keep advancing in your career and reach the instructor level or more if you desire.
For being such an important step in your career and the diving world I will unfold the program in some main points:
- What is a Divemaster? What can a Divemaster do? - Goals during your Divemaster training - How do you become a divemaster? - Divemaster Course - Divemaster course at Koh Tao - How long does it take to become a divemaster? - Divemaster Internship - How to choose your Divemaster program? - What’s the price for the Divemaster training? - Divemaster requisites to finish - Do divemasters get paid? Working possibilities and salary - Next steps after Divemaster - Is it worth becoming a divemaster?
So, let’s start with this exciting course:
What is a Divemaster? What can a Divemaster do?
A divemaster normally is known as a dive leader, it’s a professional diver that understands the operation and can organize, plan and guide a dive trip/ experience.
In every boat and operation the role can be different and depends on the work model that the diving company applies in its service, but for general rule the DM jobs when on duty are:
Organize and prepare dive gear for the guests
Make sure the boat, tanks are ready
Receive the guests / Sign perspectives paperwork
Make sure the transition (shop - pier - boat) are safe for guests
By standards, the divemaster is only allowed to deal and work with certified divers while scuba, so this can be the clear line defining the border between DM and instructor roles.
There is an exception in this rule, as the SSI Divemaster course also certified the professionals to be Snorkeling Instructors, being an extra role and a possibility to gain experience and increase income.
Guiding dives is the most common task and definitely, the most loved between DM’s. Divers love to dive.
Goals during your Divemaster training
During my career, I trained and saw different goals for the divemaster candidates, so it can be positive to define: Why you are training and design the program for your needs.
We can define the candidate goals in basic 2 groups, the ones that want to be a professional in the future or the candidates that want to enjoy the experience and do it as a hobby and leisure.
Here there is no right and wrong but be honest with yourself. The program will not be easier or harder depending on your goals, and remember the divemaster course is one of the best experiences as a diver.
Become a Professional: With a clean goal in the future, I would recommend to focus your training in navigation skills, group control, customer service, and be open to collect all the knowledge around the dive center.
Do as a Hobby: As an amazing activity, scuba diving attracts people that want to enjoy and live a lifestyle by the sea, sailing, and encounters great animals underwater. So, the divemaster course can be a great opportunity to dive as much as you can during the training with a smaller budget than fun diving and also gain some amazing skills and knowledge about an activity you love.
As the program is designed in Koh Tao each dive can be cheaper than 7US$, hard to beat.
How do you become a divemaster?
As the divemaster is one of the first professional levels you will need some experience before the start, here you get the requirements to start.
Be a minimum of a Stress & Rescue Diver from any recognized agency.
Minimum age of 18 years old (to become a pro)
Display experience (at least 5 dives per subjective) in Deep Dive, Navigation, Night Dive & Low Visibility. A lot of candidates cross this requisite with the Advanced Adventure course besides being a specialty in all, but both patches are valid.
40 logged dives in open water accounting for at least 25 hours.
You are probably asking yourselves, but if I don’t have 40 dives? Should I wait or What can I do here to start my Divemaster course?
This requisite can vary from dive center to dive center, there are places like Pura Vida Diving Koh Tao that don’t charge extra for the dives previously reaching the minimum 40.
As our DMT program is longer than most places we can set up at least 2 or 3 weeks of fun dives before starting all the theory and practical applications of the DMT program, allowing the diver to reach the experience level and most important finishing the course with more than 100 dives in 2 months.
Once, you reach all the requisites above you can roll with your Divemaster Course.
Independently where you are training to become a divemaster, the course should prepare you to be a versatile professional abording a vast list of themes:
Dive Theory - Science of Diving. All the physics, physiology, equipment, decompression theory, and the aquatic environment behind scuba diving.
Dive Guide - This should embrace navigation skills and group control. At the end of the day, your main task is to be a dive leader.
Diving Industry. As a DM you should understand the diving operation and how the dive centers work from the inside out.
At SSI (Scuba School International) the divemaster is a recognition ratio and it’s a level you reach when you complete 2 different specialty courses: Science of Diving and Dive Guide.
Divemaster course at Koh Tao
The Divemaster course at Koh Tao is a must-do if you love scuba, community, and tropical islands.
With beautiful beaches, incredible viewpoints, numerous trekking, and balanced life, Koh Tao is an amazing island to enjoy and to live in and also got to be one of the meccas for professional training around the world.
A great deal of professionals graduates here every month, making the island one of the main destinations for divers seeking the diving job and lifestyle.
There are 3 reasons for Koh tao being a great professional diving career development spot:
Diving possibilities every day: with more than 25 dive sites the island holds possibilities and conditions for dive in any season.
Quality of training: really experienced trainers/ mentors are based on the island.
Prospect for the future job: the Island counts with more than 70 Dive centers and almost 1 million tourists every year. So building a connection would increase your chances for a position just after graduation.
We at Pura Vida Diving Koh Tao are really proud to be the number one dive center in the number of certifications by SSI around Southeast Asia and even more proud to say that many of our students are now successful professionals and or managers/ owners of dive companies all over the world.
How long does it take to become a divemaster?
The duration of your journey will depend on the level that you encounter yourself at the moment you emerge in this patch.
The Divemaster course itself varies a lot depending on the method and location, so during my diving years, I already saw 10 days of Divemaster course until years in exaggerated cases.
At Pura Vida, our DMT program (divemaster training) as known around the Island is conducted intensively with 2 months non-stop emerging in the Dive center our candidates exceed the minimal requirements and display vast experience in all the course fields, being able to complete up to 120...140 dives during the course. Going further we also offer 2 extra weeks of free diving after the completion of the course.
The Divemaster program involves theoretical sessions, a diving experience, assistance with real students and professional instructors, and social activities all followed closely by our 3 trainers designed to conduct the Pro department in Pura Vida Koh Tao.
The word internship is misunderstood in the diving industry and a lot of times used as a way to gain a cheaper workforce for the dive centers.
So, probably you are asking yourselves: What is the concept of the internship?
Basically in the diving industry is an exchange from your time in return for the training.
I know sounds really tempting to get your professional training without "paying", but here It’s necessary a break to think and take care with some points:
A lot of times the internships don’t cover your fee costs, so your certification payment and pro-registration need to be done directly to the diving agency, so look for hidden costs.
If you are not paying someone is not charging for the service. Sometimes we received DMs trained by internship methods and sometimes they were poorly trained since nobody was controlling the progress of the program.
Read the small letters in the contract maybe you don’t want to get stuck for a LONGER period of time in a Dive Center being just responsible for specific tasks like carrying, filling tanks, cleaning, and booking guests. I have nothing against any of the tasks but as a divemaster-training, you should see and live the full experience and gain knowledge in as many areas as you can.
Now the most delicate point, so now if you are “working” in exchange for the course, Why will the dive center pay you when you graduate? Many people advocate that the internship scheme drives the salaries down in the diving jobs.
So, after saying all this it sounds that I am against the Divemaster Internship, but that’s a really delicate subject that needs to be thought carefully. I think that the Internship can be an amazing opportunity and experience for both sides. Everything needs to be planned and used in moderation without overload the DC with interns.
But, I am totally against substituting too many paid positions with a “free” workforce and or increasing the responsibility of the intern in the same level as a graduate fully trained professional. Someone in the payroll always should be responsible.
Doesn’t matter if you paid with money or time the Divemaster Training is a learning period, so the standards and education aspect should be followed and analyzed for a designated instructor that should be paid for this job. Maintaining the quality and the goal for the program.
Here at Pura Vida Koh Tao we understand that the word Internship means training with intensity and submerging yourself in the workplace and subjective. So, we teach every course in the same way, trying to obtain the best result for every diver and giving a full picture of the industry. Providing the best training for professionals.
At the moment we don’t have any exchange program so all our DMs paid for their course and they are really happy about that, check some reviews of our students:
- En Tierra y Agua.
How to choose your Divemaster program?
This point will vary from your goal during the training but look for a dive center that guarantees your dives and have a structure to accommodate divemaster training. So what’s really important:
Real clients: During your program, you should have contact and see real divers in action.
Designated mentor. Sometimes it is not clear who is responsible for the DM training, once this happens you don’t have who to account for your progress.
The number of dives (In my opinion one of the most important points). The DMT is the course that really teaches the fundamentals of navigation and group control. This will come with experience and daily work, so look after a program that can guarantee time underwater.
Dive Center Structure - Own Boat. It’s always handy to be with a dive center that owns a boat so you don’t risk a shortage of rented space to dive.
What is included? Make sure what is in the price that you are paying, some dive centers don’t account for the fees and it’s not a pleasant surprise at the end of the course to discovering.
Atmosphere and philosophy: Feel and experience the dive shop before you sign up for the course, you can be around for 3 months in some programs, so make sure you feel at home and can have a good relationship with the staff.
Job possibility: Since you are in professional training the best you can do it’s to train where you can start your career. Also, take this point even more seriously if you are willing to become an instructor.
Go for quality and check what the previous students have to say.
Once you find a dive center that fills your needs go for it and don’t mind which agency and certification it is, since who makes the experience worth is the instructor, dives, learning opportunities, and atmosphere.
All the agencies recognized by WRSTC still cross-training in this level that means if you are an SSI Divemaster you can become a Padi Open Water Instructor as the next step, the other way also happens but the SSI Instructor Training course has more requisites, so for Padi Divemaster to enroll SSI instructor course, the candidate would need to complete the Science of Diving course before.
What’s the price for the Divemaster training?
Another question that I listen to pretty often, but it can vary a lot depending on the location, the agency, the fees, and what is included.
In my experience, the DMT program can vary from US$ 1000 to US$ 2000.
What can change:
Extra programs as eco/ conservation, specialties, tech dive experiences, and apnea
Fees included and not
Rental gear or own gear
Agency price for materials and fee
So, How much is the Divemaster in Koh Tao?
At Pura Vida Diving we teach and believe in the SSI system and there are 2 major advantages for that:
Interactive Online Material (as a Salty Warriors member reduce waste is super important for me)
The price for the SSI Divemaster course at Pura Vida Diving Koh Tao is 35000 THB ( more or less US$ 1125) in this price is include unlimited diving for the 2 months course, basic gear (the candidates must own at least a dive computer, compass, and SMB), discount in gear and courses, all instructions, learning materials, DM crew t-shirt, all the fees, and no hidden cost.
In comparison with the Padi Divemaster also offered around Koh Tao, the SSI course is around 20% cheaper offering a higher level according to WRSTC and ISO standards.
For a Padi Divemaster course in Koh Tao, the candidate would pay around 38000 THB (1220 US$) + the registration fee of 199 AUD (4500 THB/ 144 US$).
Divemaster requisites to finish
The Divemaster course is a demanding course in practical aspects and in theoretical knowledge so you would face a lot of reading, homework, exam, presentation, workshops, co-teaching, and a lot of diving. So to become and achieve this so desired level in diving you should overcome the following challenges:
Minimum of 60 dives accounting for more than 40 hours underwater in open water.
Complete all theoretical exams with a 90% score or above.
Complete all practical applications in water and dry.
Display navigation skills, group control, and guiding.
Physical tests: 700m swim at max 20 minutes with mask, snorkel, and fins or 375m without fins or mask (mandatory in some areas), 25m underwater swim with mask and fins, diver rescue (tow a diver for 100m in 8 minutes) and 15 minutes floating without any aid.
Do divemasters get paid? Working possibilities and salary
Divemaster is a really important position in a dive operator since it is the staff that has the contact with the certified divers underwater during fun dives/ guided dives and can witness /feel if the guest is satisfied, so a good DM can be the key to keep the guest experience above the average and be the difference between a guest returning or never coming back.
To work and act as a Divemaster you should analyze the location and have a view about the business in different aspects as season and kind of activities in the area.
Since the DM job is limited to deal with certified divers you will succeed better in locations with higher amounts of fun dives than courses.
Acting as a Divemaster in a Dive Center you will probably have different duties as organizing the boat and gear, so be efficient and follow the procedures so the operation can run smoothly.
The deal as a DM depends on where you work but the income can vary a lot and the way to charge as well, you can be on a fixed salary, commission-based, pool-based, etc. Some deals provided full board, so check all these details before jump into a position.
Some places offer a fixed monthly salary as low as 300 US$ up to 2000 US$ in luxury liveaboards, you also can add up the tips depending on the location and selling commissions.
Here in Koh Tao, Thailand you can act as a DM with a fixed salary or as a freelancer, for the second option normally paid around 10 - 25 US$ per pack of fun dives (morning or afternoon boat), but it all depends on how many divers you are guiding and how many days you are working to build a considerable income.
During my first months working in Koh Tao, I act as a Divemaster in a freelancer scheme, during that period I was focused in gain experience and do ends meet. My income as a DM back there was around 300 US$ to 500 US$ monthly.
During the season in Similans Islands (Oct-Apr) it’s possible to find opportunities as a DM guiding fun dives and being a crew in the vessel, here the commission is around 30 US$ up to US$ 50 per day in the vessel.
Wanna know more about job opportunities and how to increase your chance as a pro diver, check this out:
It’s important to mention that there are countries where the divemaster positions are fully taken by locals, so it’s really hard (not impossible) to compete in places like Indonesia, the Philippines, or even Brazil.
Next steps after Divemaster
Divemaster is the entry-level as a professional in the diving industry so taking your career further would be a wise decision if you are willing to make diving a way of life and income.
The most natural step for people that enjoy teaching is to become an Open Water Instructor, this step opens opportunities to teach various courses and you make yourself more versatile for the Dive Operator.
If you enjoy photography or video it is a promiscuous work-line. I also know many DMs that took the path to become a photographer or videographer and they make a living enjoying the dive and registering memories for divers during their experiences in holiday and exotic locations.
To learn the art of underwater photography in Koh Tao contact Carlos, a great photographer, super professional, a nicer person that I totally recommend as your mentor behind the lens.
Is it worth becoming a divemaster?
Doesn’t matter what is your goal and deal for the diving, I can say that the divemaster course totally worth and I recommend investing some time in your DM training, you will meet friends and buddies for life, enjoy numerous dives and get better skills in something you love, SCUBA DIVING.
During the last 10 years as a diver, I never met anybody that regretted enrolling in the divemaster course, so I totally define this step in your diving life as the best experience for divers.
If you have any questions about the Divemaster course or you are interested in becoming a DM in Koh Tao, I am open to chat and answer your doubts and questions, just contact me.
So, See you by the blue, enjoy the ocean and live the best experience.