6 things i wish I knew before completing my Divemaster course

So you’re looking to take the next natural step in your dive training. The challenging, yet immensely rewarding PADI Divemaster course. Many divers register for their Divemaster training because it opens them up to the beautiful world of professional diving. This appeals to those who are eager to turn their passion into a career. Others decide to become a Divemaster simply to improve their recreational diving skills! Regardless of the reason for starting, everyone comes out of the course with greater confidence in their abilities underwater. Also a deeper knowledge of dive theory, and a heightened awareness of fellow divers.

So who am I?

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Meagan and I am a PADI Divemaster, marine conservation diver, and conservation writer. When I chose to pursue the PADI Divemaster course, I was hoping to break into the professional diving scene. I had a life-long admiration for the ocean, having lived my whole life on an island in the middle of the bitterly cold North Atlantic Ocean in Canada. Winter was quickly approaching in my home town and I knew that I needed a change from the dead-end job that I had worked in for the past three years; not to mention that I desperately needed a break from the harsh Canadian winters.

I decided to follow my gut and pursue my passion for sharing my love of the ocean with others. So I bought a one-way ticket to tropical Costa Rica with the intent of completing my PADI Divemaster Internship with Go Pro Costa Rica in Quepos, Costa Rica, and it’s the best decision I ever made.

Before I started my Divemaster journey, there was so much information available to me and it was honestly overwhelming trying to find what was important, and what was not. Looking back, there are some big things that I wish I had known before I started my Divemaster course. That is why I am here today – to make your life a little easier, and to hopefully get your diving adventure started on the right foot, or should I say fin?

What are the prerequisites of the PADI Divemaster course, you ask?

  • At least 40 logged dives, you’ll need 60 logged dives to complete the course.
  • You must be 18 years of age.
  • EFR training, or equivalent, in the last 2 years.
  • A medical statement from a doctor stating that you are “fit to dive.”
  • Having completed the following PADI courses: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Rescue Diver.

If you do not have some of these prerequisites completed, don’t worry! Contact the dive center where you plan to start your Divemaster training and they will happily get you caught up to speed. 😁

Without further ado, here are the 6 things that I wish I knew before I started the PADI Divemaster course:

1. Be Ready to WORK

The amount of work that will be expected of you varies depending on the dive center. The number of hours you put in will be subject to whether you are completing an internship, as well as the time of year (high season/low season). One thing is for certain, everything to do with diving is hard work, but that’s why it is so worth it.

You’ll often find yourself working six days a week, which is typical in the dive industry. But, it honestly doesn’t even feel like work when you’re having boatloads of fun every day! When you are not below the surface there are so many other tasks to be done, and things to learn. Tasks may include gearing clients for a dive, administration work in the office, filling tanks, servicing equipment, assisting instructors, and studying for your exams. These extra tasks can seem monotonous and boring, but remember that mindset is everything. So, start building your best early 2000’s playlist because you’re going to do a whole lot of dancing with your dive buddy while waiting for the tanks to fill!

2. Have Most of Your Own Gear

Having most of your own gear is one of the main recommendations I would give to anyone starting their Divemaster training. The majority of dive centers will include gear rental in your tuition fee, allowing you to have full access to all BCDs, regulators, tanks, etc. Although, I would recommend at least having a personal mask, snorkel, fins, dive computer, and compass. It’s best to purchase a complete set of personal gear, but I understand that gear is expensive and it can add up fast. Don’t worry about buying it all immediately, I accumulated bits at a time as I saved up money starting with my dive computer, then my mask, snorkel, and compass, then my fins.

checking the time underwater
A Divemaster trainee checking his dive computer on a safety stop

Why is having my own gear important?

Picture this, it’s the middle of tourist season, and you come in one day to find that your favorite BCD or regulator rental that you use every day is currently being used by a client, forcing you to use another. Dive shops tend to only have a handful of BCDs and wetsuits in small sizes, so some days I had to use a BCD that was too large for me. Ultimately, it’s not a big deal, my friends and I just made fun of the fact that I looked like a child in my enormous BCD. 🤷‍♀️

Most dive centers offer an awesome deal on gear to their students and I would recommend taking advantage of it and investing in gear that will last you for years to come.

3. Take Your Time

You could complete your Divemaster training in a matter of weeks, or months if you choose. My recommendation is to take it slow if you have the luxury because you know what they say, good things take time. There is just so much to learn and become familiar with. So the more time you have to suck up all of the information available to you, the better. This is especially the case if you plan to pursue a career in the dive industry. Employers like to see that you have completed an internship because it shows that you have learned the ins and outs of the way that everything works over the span of a couple of months.

4. Research the Diving Environment

Are you used to diving in the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean but plan to complete your Divemaster training at home where the water is, well, freakin’ freezing? Diving conditions are different everywhere, and each brings their own individual challenges. It’s smart to be aware of the challenges that come with your unique environment before starting your training.

You should always research the diving environment that you will be spending 20+ dives in. In colder water, you will need much more gear such as a dry suit, thicker wetsuit, or more weight than you may be familiar with. In some warm water areas, you may have to deal with algae blooms which can cause low visibility at times. Both of these challenges are perfectly normal. You will adapt to them, it’s just important to be aware of them and mentally prepare as much as you can for the environment.

Pro Tip: Contact the dive center where you would like to complete the Divemaster program with. Ask them about the diving conditions and what you will need to know! If you can, head out for a practice dive and see if it is the right environment for you.

5. Become Friends with Your Compass

This is something that countless trainees have difficulty with, and by practicing you can avoid unnecessary headaches! You learn navigation in the previous PADI courses. However, you will need to use your navigational skills more in the Divemaster course because you are learning how to plan and lead dives. It is to your benefit that you practice using your compass to avoid frustration and embarrassment. This is when you spend thirty minutes searching for the bright yellow snorkel that the instructor hid for you to recover during practice. 🙃

Plus, it’s fun leading dives and having full confidence in where you are. When I learned the exact navigation for one of the dive sites, I went to visit a shark cave daily, where a white tip reef shark, who I named Henry, liked to have his afternoon nap.

All jokes aside, not being confident with your compass can also become a significant safety issue. Not all dive sites will have perfect visibility 24/7 and you need to be prepared for a situation where you will have to rely solely on your compass due to murky conditions. These skills separate the good divers from the excellent divers.

6. Choose a Dive Center That is Eco-Friendly

Choosing an environmentally friendly dive center may be more important than you think. Shockingly, very few dive shops have close relationships with conservation non-profits and initiatives. Call up your dive center and ask them what they are doing to conserve their diving environment, or check out their website and social media handles. If they are practicing sustainable work, then they will want to talk about it!

coral restoration costa rica
Happy divers assisting at one of Marine Conservation Costa Ricas coral nurseries

At Go Pro Costa Rica, we work closely with local marine conservation non-profit, Marine Conservation Costa Rica. They are doing amazing work to restore and conserve the health of our marine environment and reef.
Check them out here.

And… you’re all set!

These are six things that I wish I had known before I started my Divemaster course. I’m sure that by considering these, your Divemaster journey will be a heck of a lot easier! Do your research, use your time wisely, and remember to have fun. It’s good to remember that not every day will be perfect, but that is all apart of the wild ride that is the Divemaster course. I promise that it will be an incredible experience.

Meagan Walsh joins us from Newfoundland, Canada. She studied Environmental History & English Literature at Memorial University of Newfoundland and soon after joined Go Pro Costa Rica to complete her Divemaster Internship. She is currently waiting for the pandemic to blow over so she can return to Costa Rica, but for now, writing will have to do!