PADI Divemaster Course

Doing your divemaster in the Roatan will be one of the best decisions you have made!  It is a training ground which turns out exceptionally good divemasters, shops in the Bay Islands are well-known worldwide for the quality of their PADI PRO internships and courses.

Divemaster is a brilliant course in terms of value for money.  If you are traveling with no particular deadlines, give some serious thought to becoming a divemaster.  Firstly the couple of months it will take will be great fun, but you then have an actual qualification which can get you employed in beautiful places all around the world.  For $800 usd, you will get about 100 dives, that's cheap! You can find a 12 weeks course including accommodation for as little as $1950 usd including materials.

 

If you love diving and are trying to decide what do to in your GAP year, or for a career break, you may have just found it.

 

Choosing the shop to do your divemaster course needs careful consideration.

  • ASK HOW FAR AND HOW THE LONG DRIVE BETWEEN THE ACCOMMODATION AND THE DIVE CENTER BEFORE YOU COMMIT.  THEN CHECK TO SEE IF THE ACCOMMODATION IS IN A SAFE AREA WITH GOOD NEARBY DINING FACILITIES. 

  • Make sure you aren't going to be one of more than 8-12 divemaster trainees.  Too many people taking the divemaster course at one time will result in a less personalized experience and fewer opportunities to assist on those unusual courses such as Tec Diving, TRIMIX, Deep, Wreck etc

  • Small "Boutique" shops may sound great, but when you want to learn through a variety experiences, including assisting on many different courses and leading a large number of different divers on different dives small boutique shops will not be able to offer that. You want a shop that has a lot going on, and offers as many different courses as possible, ideally including technical diving.

 

  • The bigger shops will give you more varied opportunities.  Big shops have lots of courses running and a greater selection of courses.  Every shop is limited to teaching courses their Instructors are qualified to teach.  The more Instructors a shop has, the more courses they are likely to offer.  This translates into more opportunities for their divemaster trainees to become involved in different courses such as Tec training and other specialties.

  • Cost of living.  Since the course tends to be a long one, choose a region which has a low cost of living, this is one of the reasons Roatan is so popular, with rent as low as $300/month for a private room, and multiple international flights to the island every week, Roatan is a very economical destination.

  • Don't just shop by price.  The lower the price, the less the Instructor will be paid for teaching you.  Good Instructors don't sell themselves cheap!

  • Check out the dive ops reputation on Scuba forums such as scubaboard.

Here are some questions you want to ask the Dive Centers you are thinking of doing the DM course with.

 
Dive Center Courses and Volumes

  1. How many boat dives per day do you do at the dive center?

    • The number of organized dives a dive center offers will depend on many factors.  The more daily dives they offer the more dives you are likely to do in a day!

  2. What is the average number of Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue and Specialty students annually?

    • Your training involves assisting on courses in part.  The more courses are being taught at your chosen dive center the better and more varied your training will be.  Choosing a dive center that certifies hundreds of students a year and teaches many different courses IS ESSENTIAL.  DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS.

  3. Is Tec training available?

    • You may not be interested in Tec diving yet.  But a dive center that offers it is a dive center with highly experienced instructors.  Tec training availability is a sign that you will be trained by some of the most accomplished instructors out there.  You will benefit hugely from exposure to this type of diving, even if you do not choose to do it yourself.  It’s nice to know the option is there as well!

  4. Is the Instructor Development Course available?

    •  You may only plan to do your DM at the moment, but that may change.  Having the option to continue to Instructor level is something that you should look for.  A dive center that offers the instructor course is also another sign of a dive center with experienced instructors, offering a better all round divemaster course than the competition.  Many divemaster trainees at instructor development centers get the opportunity to assist on IDCs role playing students for the instructor candidates.  This is an excellent addition to your training and better prepares you to become an instructor should you wish.  Many divemasters that have trained at Coconut Tree have commented that assisting on the IDC was one of the highlights of their internship.

  5. What is average numbers of Fun Divers per day?

    • As a divemaster trainee leading certified divers on ‘fun’ (non-training) dives is the bread and butter of your course.  You will want to train with a dive center that has plenty of certified divers for you to gain experience with.

  6. How many and what type of boats do you have?

    • You want to be sure there are plenty of options to get out and dive, the more boats, the more boat trips you will be able to join. The size and comfort of the boat is equally important.  You are likely to spend a lot of time on them and want to be comfortable. I would prefer a dive center with one or two large comfortable boats than four or five small pangas.

 

 
The DM Course
  1. What is the average number of Divemaster students at one time?

    • This is a balance, you don’t want to be one of only 2-3 interns as this will exclude you from one of the best parts of the experience, the social side and camaraderie.  Likewise you don’t want to be one of 30+ and just lost in the crowd.  A key factor is the Divemaster trainee to instructor ratio.  In my experience having more than 2-3 divemaster trainees to each instructor is too many for quality training.

  2. What is the average number of Instructors working at the shop?

    • The best Divemaster internship will allow you to work a variety of instructors.  You will learn far more from watching different people with different experience levels and backgrounds doing the same task differently, than just working with one or two instructors.  Learning that there is rarely only one right to accomplish a task is very important to a dive pro.  We need to be flexible and accommodating of our customer’s strengths and weaknesses.  The best way to develop this skill is by working with a variety of instructors during your training.

  3. What is the average experience of instructors in terms of years teaching and certs issued/year?

    • You want to learn from people who have years of experience.  On the other hand, it is also nice to be able to work with reasonably new instructors with fresh ideas and observe the difficulties you may have when you get your first job.  Don’t just consider the number of years someone has been an instructor, a better indication of their experience is the number and variety of courses they teach a year.

  4. Are there fixed course starts dates ?

    • Some dive centers will have specific dates for DM courses, some will let you start whenever works best for you.

  5. What is the course duration?

    • This I have some strong opinions on!  It is possible to teach the course to standards in only a week.  What does ‘to standards’ mean though.  It means the bare minimum.  Do you want to achieve the minimum knowledge and skill level required, or do you want to be a well trained with superior knowledge and skills?  In my opinion to develop the knowledge, skills, judgment and experience necessary to CONFIDENTLY do the job of divemaster you will need to spend at least six weeks doing the Divemaster internship.  Six weeks is the minimum time at a busy dive shop teaching 10+ recreational level courses a week and offering 20+ dive trips a week.  If the center has lower volumes than that you will need to do a longer course. Even in a busy dive center allowing 12 weeks for the course is preferable. Some dive centers will stipulate a fixed course length, others will let you take as long as you like!

  6. What is the average number of dives you will log as a Divemaster trainee per week?

    • This will all depend on the number of dives available at your chosen center in a week and the number of trainees vying for a place on those dives.  A reasonable number of dives to expect per week is 10.

  7. What is the cost of Course?

    • The course involves different factors.  Training, materials, tank fills, boat fees, equipment rental, PADI fees etc.  Be sure you understand what you are getting for the quoted price.  No one likes to discover a number of unexpected costs which throws their budget out.  Some less scrupulous people offer a low costs with the intention of nickel and diming you once you are committed. Be wary of courses that offer free training in exchange for labor, this is more often than not a marketing gimmick.  There is an old saying ‘no such thing as a free lunch’.

  8. What is the cost of materials if not included?

    •  The materials can represent a significant proportion of what it costs to become a divemaster.  The materials are required, and PADI will not process your certification without the Decal that comes with them showing you purchased them.  Make sure you confirm the price includes materials, and if not what they charge for them.  It can be worth asking for a price excluding materials allowing you to shop around for the materials yourself.  If you do this make sure you get that GREEN PADI DECAL with them!

  9. What is the cost of equipment rental if not included?

    • If you are going to be a dive pro, you should probably have your own equipment.  If you don’t, make sure you are not going to be charged extra.  A dive computer is essential, if equipment is included find out if that includes a dive computer – it is highly unlikely.  Owning your own computer for the course is very wise; you may find that the center you are going to sells computers, if they do buying one from them is advisable so that you will get warranty service in case it fails while you are on the course. This is especially important if planning to train in a resort area that has limited postage.

  10. Is accommodation included?

    •  If you are going to train in a resort area accommodation can be very expensive.  Many dive centers have special accommodation for divemaster trainees.  Utilities such as electricity are very expensive on tropical islands, so find out if this is included as well.

  11. What are the daily hours?

    • What is the course timetable, how many days a week and between what times.  Some places will require you to do very early starts, some have later starts.  If you don’t like the idea of getting up at 5am every day, choose a dive center that has its accommodation close to the diveshop and opens at a reasonable hour.  Cutting out a commute gives you extra time in bed in the morning!

  12. Opportunities to get involved in conservation?

    • Conservation activities can be very rewarding.  It is to often used as a sales gimmick.  If conservation is important to you be sure to properly research the conservation activities that have attracted you to a divemaster internship, are you really going to make a difference, or is it a meaningless activity that has been thrown in to the course so they can call it ‘Eco’ divemaster or similar. Any true conservation activities will likely be run by local marine park organizations or similar.  If they are not endorsed by a reputable local NGO they are probably not scientifically worthwhile.

Accommodation 
  1. Do you offer accommodation?

    • Some centers have their own accommodation, some will help you find local accommodation, some avoid responsibility altogether! If they promise to help you find accommodation when you get there, make sure that you get a guaranteed maximum price INCLUDING electricity. You probably want some other commitment regarding the proposed yet currently unknown accommodation they will help you find when you arrive such as location, and whatever else you may feel is important to you personally. 

  2. What is the cost?

    • The cost may be monthly, or maybe nightly.  If you plan to stay for six weeks do you have to pay for 2 months?  ELECTRICITY is it included if not what is the average monthly cost.

  3. How far is it from the dive center and bars restaurants?

    • A selection of restaurants and supermarkets - THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Dive centers are usually located in the center of the tourist districts which can be expensive to live in.  Alternatively they can be located miles from anywhere, close to good dive sites or cruise ship docks.  You want to stay in accommodation which is close to both the dive center and not isolated from any kind of nightlife such as the popular tourist bars and restaurants.  It is often hard to achieve both, but in my advice you want to find a dive center where you can achieve both.  ASK HOW FAR AND HOW THE LONG DRIVE BETWEEN THE ACCOMMODATION AND THE DIVE CENTER BEFORE YOU COMMIT.  THEN CHECK TO SEE IF THE ACCOMMODATION IS IN A SAFE AREA WITH GOOD NEARBY DINING FACILITIES.

  4. Does it have AC?

    • AC in certain months may be very important.  Does it have it, is there an extra charge etc.  Remember AC is Power intensive and electricity on islands is expensive.

  5. Does it have cooking facilities?

    • Being able to cook basic meals can extend your budget significantly.

  6. Private or shared bathroom?

    • Often accommodation is loosely described as shared.  Will you be sharing a bedroom with 1 other person or six!  How many people share the bathrooms and kitchen?

  7. Is there Hot Water?

    • In winter months this is nice to have.  Don’t assume the accommodation has it, if it’s important ask.

  8. What is security is there? 

    • The Bay islands don't suffer from the crime problems that has made mainland Honduras infamous. However petty crime still exists. Fences, dogs, CCTV, alarms and watchmen can make a big difference.

  9. Swimming pool?

  10. Restaurant?

    •  Check out trip advisor to see if the local/nearby restaurants are any good.  An onsite restaurant may offer specials to the DM interns.

  11. Internet at the house?

    • You are going to want to stay in touch and make your friend jealous by posting photos on Facebook.  Internet charges can be expensive.  It’s nice to see if it is included at either the dive center or accommodation or both.​

If you are thinking of doing you divemaster make sure you can pay for course ONCE YOU HAVE ARRIVED AND MET THE INSTRUCTORS WHO WILL TEACHING YOU.  The course is great if you get on well with your instructors, but not if you don't. A dive operation that wants you to pay all course costs in advance probably has something to hide! They know there is a chance you may not happy with some aspect of the training or accommodaion and want to make sure they have your money so you can't leave and go to another shop once you see the reality of what they sold you!

A small deposit of maybe $300 or less is standard. A good dive shop needs to do this if they keep their promises regarding class size. If they regularly have to turn people away because the class is full, they need to take a deposit to be sure that those people who are already booked really are coming. There is nothing worse than having students cancel at the last minute after they have turned away multiple hopeful candidates for that spot!

 

Before you do your DM you need to have done some other courses:

PADI Courses

The first course for total beginners is the 'Open Water' course.  This involves watching a few hours of DVDs, a couple of hours classroom work including a few quizzes, a couple of hours in shallow water and four boat dives.  It is spread over three to four days.  Choose a dive school with a comfortable classroom!  It focuses on making you a 'SAFE' diver.

The second course is Advanced Open Water.  Many people are put off by the name of the course.  You DON'T have to be experienced to take the course.  If you really enjoy open water then you may as well do advanced - you'll get a good deal for doing the two together, you already know the instructor and the advanced dives are a lot of fun, the last course taught you to be 'SAFE' advanced tries to make you aware of the different underwater activities available. It is task focused.

Rescue - This course starts you focusing on other divers well being as well as your own.  The focus is on prevention of incidents through observation. It then moves on to deal with incident management It is a great course one of the most fun to do and to teach, but it is where things start to get more serious.  There is more academic stuff to do and it takes a degree of physical fitness.

You need to decide how you want to do the divemaster.  Many shops in both Utila and Roatan will do the divemaster differently to how it is done in the US and Europe. 

 

Longer Term internship - 1-3 months (generally as long as you want it to take)

With this option it is a real internship, you will be treated more like an employee than a customer, you will be expected to help fill tanks, and do all the same stuff the instructors are doing.  Remember Instructors who work on 'dive islands' like Utila and Roatan are REAL dive professionals working in the water 6-7 days a week.  They are not weekend warriors who have an office job during the week and work as instructors at the weekend.  This means they tend to have stronger opinions on what a divemaster should be capable of - as a result they interpret the Instructor manual differently to less experienced instructors - they will give you a harder, but better course. As a result you will be a very good divemaster that will fit in to any dive shop that offers you a job.  You should allow two months minimum.  You will also need to be pro-active throughout the course to get the most out of it.  You will do at least 100 dives and be more than ready to do the IDC.  These dive shops tend to take great pride in the divemasters they teach.

 

10-30 day Divemaster Course (simulated training sessions)

This option is to go to a shop which is a 'divemaster machine'  They do it like any other PADI course, much like it is often done in the US and Europe.  These guys do lots of divemaster courses and run you through it in 3-4 weeks.  These courses should be avoided at all costs, they simply don't give you the breadth of experience you can get from the internship style of course.

Consider doing the academics at home.  If time is going to be a problem you can get a lot of work done while you are still at home.  Buy the divemaster manual, encyclopedia of recreational diving , RDP Wheel and diving knowledge workbook.  If you do all the knowledge reviews in the divemaster manual and work through the workbook you have just reduced the divemaster course length by about a week! DM crewpaks can easily be found on Ebay

 

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