THE DIVE PRO HUB
DIVEMASTER vs INSTRUCTOR
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
"Right! That's it - no more courses, I don't need to go any further." How many times have you told yourself this since becoming a baby Open Water diver? Yet here you are thinking about pro levels!
If you're trying to plan out your PADI Dive Pro career, you might be wondering whether to aim for Divemaster vs Instructor level. In this article, I'll tell you the difference between them, the role of each and which one will give you the most chance of landing a job!
DIVEMASTER VS INSTRUCTOR | DUTIES
Before I go into the official spiel about the duties you'll be allowed to perform as a Divemaster vs Instructor, let's talk about the unofficial roles of each. In my 10+ years in the dive industry, I've learnt that Divemasters and Instructors are WAY more than what's defined in the PADI Instructor Manual and your exact role will differ depending on where you work in the world.
AS A DIVEMASTER...
You are the life and soul of the party. It's your job to make sure that your divers, students, customers... anyone who comes into the dive centre is happy and having an absolute blast. You'll be the person who...
- meets them at stupid o'clock in the morning with a big smile on your face
- makes sure their gear is packed and all logistics taken care of
- makes the journey to the dive site fun with good banter
- takes them on incredible dives, pointing out all the cool marine life as you guide them
- is always available to answer questions and sort problems
- is the social butterfly, meeting divers in the bar after an awesome day of diving
If you're working in the UK, you'll do everything above but you also play another massive role. You're the assistant on courses and more importantly - the safety diver who is essential to meet HSE requirements.
When I taught in Malaysia, I rarely had the luxury of a Divemaster assisting me on courses. They were far too busy with fun divers every day! On rare occasions, if I had a big group or I knew that some of the students could do with extra supervision, I'd ask a DM to jump in with me but that was only a handful of times in my 4 years out there.
Teaching in the UK, I'm really spoilt - I have a Divemaster with me every time I'm in the water. And it's law that they're there... so I'm forced to be spoilt! 😉 Delivering courses in the UK can be challenging at times. The viz can be low and it tends to be on the nippy side. Having a DM bringing up the rear makes me feel much more confident that my team are safe.
AS AN INSTRUCTOR...
You're the teacher. You introduce people to the underwater world for the very first time and I seriously can't think of a job that is more rewarding. You get to share my passion with others and then watch that passion blossom in them! PADI always say that Instructors work in the transformation industry - it's super cheesy but it is true! We literally have the opportunity to change people's lives.
My favourite part about being an Instructor is that as I'm teaching, I get to inspire my students to protect the ocean. Environmental conservation is super important to me, so I always encourage my divers to recognise their new skills and how they can use them to protect delicate corals and remove marine debris.
As an Instructor, you'll spend the majority of your time with students. If you're working in a busy dive centre, you'll split your time between the classroom, confined water and open water as you deliver various courses. The bread and butter of most entry-level Instructors is made up of Discover Scuba Diving Sessions and Open Water Courses. As you progress in your career you'll start to teach more varied courses, dropping in a few of your favourite specialty programs here and there.
You'll still get the chance to party like the DMs, you'll socialise with your students and it's amazing the bonds you make with your divers. Some will even become friends for life!
DM OFFICIAL DUTIES
- Supervise training and non-training related activities by planning, organising and directing dives.
- Assist an instructor during confined and open water training.
- Take students in for Adventure dives while the Instructor stays dry.
- Teach and certify PADI Advanced Snorkelling
- Conduct ReActivates, Discover Snorkeling and Discover Local Diving program.
- Take Discover Scuba Diving participants on their second dive in open water or if you do your Discover Scuba Diving Leader, you can do the confined water stuff too.
INSTRUCTOR OFFICIAL DUTIES
As an entry-level OWSI, straight out of training, you'll be able to teach:
- Scuba Diver/Open Water Diver
- Adventure Diver/Advanced Open Water Diver
- Rescue Diver
- Advanced Snorkeler and Discover Snorkeling
- Discover Scuba Diving
- Seal Team and Bubblemaker
- ReActivate and Discover Local Diving
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Project AWARE Specialty
- Coral Reef Conservation
As you climb through the levels of pro certification and gain more specialities, you'll be able to teach more.
DIVEMASTER VS INSTRUCTOR | EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
I know a lot of Divemasters who are adamant that they're not going any further... despite me begging them because I know how good they'd be as Instructors (you know who you are!). There are many employment opportunities for DMs all over the world, but there's no denying that there are fewer jobs out there for Divemasters vs Instructors.
There's one really simple reason for this - an Instructor can do all the duties of a Divemaster. But a Divemaster can't teach like an Instructor can - they can't deliver the core courses which are the lifeblood of most dive centres.
So, if I'm advertising a job for a Divemaster and I get an applicant that's actually an Instructor, my business brain kicks in and tells me there's a chance I can get more bang for my buck if I employ the Instructor. They can do the job of the DM, and if I need them to, they can do some teaching too. Obviously, I've made that whole process sound really basic for the purposes of this article - there would be more going through my brain than that! It's not like the Instructor would automatically get the job - there might be some outstanding DM applicants in the CV pile too.
The best place to find work as a Divemaster or Instructor is on the PADI Pros jobs board. Dive centres all over the world post their vacancies here, and there's also a section where you can sell yourself and let people know you're actively looking for work.
Let's talk about what really matters... if you compare Divemasters vs Instructors, Instructors make more money. Wages in the diving world tend to be commission based and because Instructors have invested in their own personal development, they can expect their commission to be the highest. Just like in any industry, those with more experience and further training will earn more money.
DIVEMASTER VS INSTRUCTOR | CAREER PROGRESSION
There's two types of career progression in this industry. The first is to rise through the pro level ranks - you've seen them on the PADI flowchart I'm sure. If you're sticking at DM level... well, you won't move anywhere! But where's the fun in that? Become an MSDT, a Staff Instructor, a Master Instructor, a Tec Instructor... dare you even aim for Course Director too?! (The answer is yes by the way) You will become an amazing professional who can teach ever course under the sun and you'll see your wages increase too.
Being able to teach a more varied range of courses is also beneficial when it comes to how you feel at work. Teaching back to back Open Water Courses can take its toll on any Instructor - as can guiding fun divers day in day out as a DM. If you can throw in a spec course here, assisting on an IDC there or chuck a Tec 40 in the mix, it helps to prevent burn out. You get to teach the things you love the most and you're also challenging yourself more often.
The second type of career progression is in terms of promotions within the dive centre. From personal experience, I have learned sooo much about the business of diving by taking on increased responsibility during my career.
I've come to realise that dive centres are a weird beast. They're not a one-trick pony. There are actually multiple businesses under one roof. Dive centres have all these "departments"...
- Recreational training
- Technical training
- Pro level training
- Fun diving
- Free diving
- Equipment sales
- Air fills
- Boat charters
- Environmental activities
- Social activities
and depending on the centre you might also need to throw in accommodation and travel agent in there too!
In theory, you could take each section of a dive centre and turn it into a legitimate business in its own right. It's pretty mental that we need to have all of those departments under one roof, a dive centre is kinda like a one stop shop where divers expect to be able to get everything they need.
As you start to take promotions, you will learn how to manage every single aspect of a dive centre. You'll get more responsibility and you'll get a higher wage. During my time as a centre manager, on top of dealing with everything above, I also learnt about marketing, website development, how to run a hotel, how to lead a team, how to speak another language (badly), how to run a bar, how to deal with customers... the list just goes on and on. The learning curve was insane and I can't put into words how important everything I've experienced in my career has been to me. It has been instrumental in setting up The Fifth Point and making it successful. There's no way we'd be where we are now without that decade grafting and progressing in the dive industry.
DIVEMASTER VS INSTRUCTOR | WHAT SHOULD I AIM FOR?
Well, I've given you all the information. The choice between Divemsater vs Instructor is now down to you. You can earn a living as a PADI Divemaster, for sure - especially if you're working abroad (there's unfortunately not as many paid opportunities for DMs in the UK but that's a rant for another day). You can also become a dive centre manager as a Divemaster.
But if you really want to make the most of your career in the diving industry, I urge you to consider becoming an Instructor. It opens a lot more doors for you and earns you more money along the way. The best things in life happen when you step outside your comfort zone, so if you're hesitating because you don't think you're good enough or you're not sure that you are the right person to be a teacher... just try it. There are very few people in this world who enter the Instructor Development Course and walk it (me included) and that's not what it's designed for. The clue is in the name - it's all about Instructor development and that will continue for the rest of your career I promise!
If you're thinking about becoming a PADI Divemaster or Instructor, or if you'd like to have a chat about whether you're ready for it, then hit me up! We can jump on a zoom call (or if you're local come down to the centre for a cuppa). My own journey in this crazy industry has brought me to Course Director level - it's my job to develop you into an amazing PADI Pro and I'd love to help!