Career Insight: SCUBA Dive-Master / Scuba Gear Technician
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I lead groups of certified divers to different dive sites, and I check and service SCUBA diving gear, including tanks and breathing apparatus, to make sure that it’s well-maintained and safe.
Why did you choose this career?
Having completed 2 years of a commerce degree, I realised that I really wanted a job which was hands on and outdoors. I had always figured that I would learn to dive one day as the idea appealed to me from quite an early age. Reaching a crossroads in my life, I decided that I could learn to dive and make a career out of it. I could travel and dive most days. Perfect.
What path did you take into it?
Having made the decision that I was going to be diving for a living, my first step was doing an Open water SCUBA diving course. I had decided that I wanted to be a Dive Instructor, spend my working life travelling to and working in exotic locations. I did my Open water course through a local dive shop and loved it. I couldn’t stop telling my friends about the awesome feeling of diving.
I was really keen to get working in this industry as soon as possible, so I approached the owner of the dive shop about the chances of doing some work in the shop while I continued my diving education. I started working part time for the retail side of the business, Friday afternoons and Saturdays, in lieu of course fees, and began doing every course available to move me closer to my goal.
After 3 months of part time work, a full time job became available in the shop and I was offered it and accepted. I was at this stage really beginning to doubt that I would make a good dive instructor. I was spending a lot of time around divers of all levels of experience and I didn’t have the makings of a great teacher.
Around this time, the workshop was getting really busy and the manager began getting me involved in helping with servicing gear. I absolutely loved this and grabbed the opportunity to be involved in that area as much as possible. My eagerness obviously showed and it wasn’t long before I was being sent on service clinics and began taking on more of the technical work, while my manager could focus on running the shop. I was still doing many dive courses but had made the decision to stop at Dive-master and not go for instructor.
What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being a SCUBA tech / Dive-master?
I am someone that enjoys being the expert in something and both these roles provide that for me. I get to be hands on and troubleshoot when I am servicing equipment and I enjoy the chance to lead qualified divers and show them some great dive spots. It’s also an informal and very sociable industry; I get to go to work in boardies and T-shirts, and I’ve made some great friends.
Every job has its downsides. What do you think are the worst bits?
It’s a 7-day-a-week industry, with often anti-social hours. When the weather’s great, that’s when everyone wants to go diving, so that’s when you’re called into work. You also have to socialise with all of your customers; it’s in my contract that I have to go along to dive club nights, and spend a certain amount of time socialising at the beach. That’s great if you like the customers (and mostly I do), but you don’t get to choose who you socialise with. It also means you spend all your time with the same group of people, which can be limiting.
Sometimes you lead people on dives who don’t take safety seriously and they can compromise everyone else and make your life difficult. You have to walk a thin line between keeping people happy and keeping them safe.
I work in a retail environment so there’s always the sales side. I’m involved in up-selling and commissions, which I don’t enjoy. There’s also not much room for progression and the pay isn’t good. You do this job because you love diving and the diving industry.
Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what’s different?
Originally, I thought I’d be working as an Instructor, and travelling overseas diving, so it’s different to what I expected when I started. I’d anticipated spending more of my time diving, but you only really do that if you’re based in a resort or on a live-aboard, whereas I work in a retail dive shop. Having said that, I’m happy with my choice, particularly working as a Technician (something I had never thought of).
What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do?
They think I spend all my time on boats with beautiful women, getting a tan. In reality, I spend a lot of time in a retail environment, watching other people get ready to go diving. I also work outdoors in all kinds of weather, and I’m behind the scenes in a servicing workshop a lot; not what people imagine.
What kind of people tend to do well?
Firstly, you have to be a good diver and to love diving. You don’t do this job for the money. You need to be sociable, flexible and easy-going, able to get on with everyone and happy to muck in whenever you’re needed.
It’s also a highly responsible job, working in a high-risk environment, so you need to be responsible and take safety seriously. You have to be willing to be unpopular and make the call that it’s not safe to dive, even when you know you’ll disappoint customers and lose the company money.
Finally, any advice you’d offer to people looking to get into this line of work?
Get lots of diving experience, and join a club so you can get involved in the industry. Offer to help out in a dive shop or on dives, it’s the kind of industry where this is usually welcomed and it’s a good way to get a feel for things. Often helping or volunteering can get your foot in the door. Watch others and learn from them, that’s how most people start out.