Setting Yourself Apart

Every year, thousands of new dive professionals enter the industry looking to turn their passion into a career. When exceptional dive skills and a love for the sport are the standard, successful Divemasters and Instructors find a way to make themselves indespensible to a dive store, boat, or resort.

Who Trained You?

Where you are trained makes a difference. While the industry is not small, it is closeknit and most dive professionals can easily find out the type of program you went through to earn your professional certifications. You want a professional development center with experienced staff and a reputation for producing exceptional dive professionals. The easiest way to figure out what type of center you are dealing with is asking them how they handle professional level certifications. For some dive shops, making dive professionals is a small part of the program and they focus on entry level divers or tourism. There are dive centers that focus on professional development. A specialized program built around developing dive professionals will yield much better dive professionals and can include career mentorship that helps young dive professionals navigate a complex industry.

Can You Only Teach Open Water?

Dive professionals who have the ability to teach specialty courses are much more valuable to a dive center than those that can only teach the basic certifications. Divers have specialized interests and dive centers want to cater to their customers’ interests. If you can teach courses such as Digital Underwater Imaging and Wreck Diving, you can help your divers explore many more facets of the sport.

Can You Handle Challenging Conditions Safely?

Where you learned to be a dive professional tells a dive resort a lot about your skills and experience. Divemasters and Instructors who did all their training in warm, clear, and calm water tend to struggle when first teaching in more challenging climates. In California, we frequently see dive professionals trained elsewhere struggle to control their classes through the surf, while wearing a 7mm wetsuit.

Repair and Service Skills

Dive professionals who have experience working with gear are better at instructing students and make themselves much more appealing to a dive center. Ask yourself: would a dive center rather hire a technician and a Divemaster or a Divemaster who is a technician? While learning to service regulators can be a challenging process, dive professionals with enthusiasm and work ethic are able to learn the process and begin helping dive centers relatively quickly. Manufacturer certifications are required to service gear, so talk to the dive center that trains you about what gear they service and carry.

What Gear Do I Need to be a Dive Professional?

Which gear to dive is one of the most hotly contested concepts in the dive community. While there is no one perfect set of dive gear for all dive professionals, there are certain characteristics that make gear more appealing to those of us who work in diving.

The Basics

Great dive gear fits you well, is streamlined, and helps the diver move effortlessly through the water.

What do you need? Below, you can see the current list of required dive gear for a dive professional from the PADI Instructor Manual. While this is not necessarily all the gear you may want, it is a great starting point:

  1. Fins, mask and snorkel
  2. Compressed gas cylinder and valve
  3.  Buoyancy control device (BCD) with tank mount or separate backpack, and low-pressure inflator
  4.  Primary regulator and alternate air source
  5.  Breathing gas monitoring device (e.g. submersible pressure gauge)
  6. Depth monitoring device
  7. Quick release weight system and weights (if necessary, for neutral buoyancy, or if required for skills practice)
  8. Adequate exposure protection appropriate for local dive conditions.
  9. At least one audible emergency surface signaling device (whistle, air horn, etc.).
  10. Dive computer or RDP (eRDPml or Table)
  11. Time monitoring device
  12. Compass
  13.  Knife/diver’s tool (Exception: Where prohibited locally.)
  14. Two surface signaling devices – one audible (whistle, air horn, etc.) and one visible (inflatable surface tube, flare, signal mirror, etc.)
  15.  Dive flag – where required locally
  16.  Instructions for use for dive computer or RDP/eRDPml*

*PADI Instructor Manual – General Standards and Procedures

Instructor Specific Gear

Gear that is great for teaching SCUBA diving is not necessarily the same gear you love to dive in when diving recreationally. The differing challenges of being a dive professional require particular gear solutions.

Most of our instructional team have separate pool and ocean gear sets. Those of us who favor backplate / harness set ups in the ocean have more traditional BCDs for the pool. The purpose behind this is being able to demonstrate skills in a manner appropriate for student learning. You want to have gear that, as much as possible, resembles the gear your students will be using so a good place to start is finding out what type of gear the dive shop you hope to work for uses in their rental fleet.

Additionally, you may need a second wetsuit if the pool you teach in is a drastically different temperature than the Open Water site you do your dives in.

If your dive shop teaches students to use a dive computer, you must use a dive computer. Students learn from role-model behavior, so you should be using the gear you are teaching them to use. You should also have the instructions for your computer and the computer that the shop you work for keeps in their rental fleet available to you. Most dive computer manuals are available to download for free on the manufacturer’s website.


While recreational divers enjoy the ability to not dive if they experience a minor gear problem, such as breaking the strap on their favorite mask on the boat ride to the site, instructors ending a dive for the same reason could hinder a dive operation and provide poor customer service. Dive professionals should do their best to prepare for gear issues by practicing redundancy. Some of the more popular redundancy options among our senior staff include having both pressure gauges and transmitters, having two dive computers on every dive, and having an extra full tank at the dive site. All current and future instructors should consider carrying two masks with them when they teach (some of our staff are known to have two masks on them, one in their float, and another one in their car at the dive site just in case).

Specialty Instructor Gear

Many instructors use dive lights on day dives to highlight things to new divers or to peek inside holes on a wall dive.

Depending on what specialty courses you train to teach, you will need specialized gear for that course. Ask your Specialty Instructor Trainer what gear she or he recommends for that course. Some examples of common specialty-specific gear include wreck or cave reels, dive lights, and fish identification slates.

Where to Get Your Gear

Go to your local dive shop! As a new dive professional, you can gain a lot of insight into gear choices by talking to the senior instructors at the dive shop you are training at. Do not buy dive gear online unless the dive shop you are training with does not sell gear and there are no good local dive centers near you. You do not want to spend a lot of money only to come into your first day of the Instructor Development Course and find out that the gear you purchased will significantly hinder your success in the program. A dive shop that is a professional development center will usually work with future dive professionals to create dive gear packages to fit their dive and budgetary needs.

If you are in the San Diego area and need help finding gear for your professional development program, stop by and we will help you find what you need!

Renting Gear vs. Buying Gear

If you are looking at working as a dive professional, renting gear should not be on your list of viable options. The volume of rental fees you would incur renting for just your Divemaster and Instructor Development courses would pay for a full set of dive gear. Additionally, it is much more difficult to show demonstration quality skills, such as hovering, when you use different rental gear every time you dive. You are embarking on a lifetime adventure and your gear is your constant companion through the world. You want to find great gear that works for you and will keep you, and your students, safe.

What Do Dive Professionals Do?

Dive professionals have a variety of opportunities available around the world. While working in diving is a full-time job for some, others find it to be a great opportunity to earn money in their free time while doing what the love: diving. Some of the jobs available to Divemasters and Instructors include teaching SCUBA diving, leading dive tours, crewing aboard a dive boat, and working in a dive center.

The most common occupation involves teaching diving to new and experienced divers. Depending on the dive operation you work with and your training, you may spend time doing everything from introducing others to the wonders of the ocean to teaching specialized diving practices such as wreck diving.

In many vacation-locations around the world, dive professionals run Discover SCUBA Diving programs during which divers get a chance to try diving under the careful supervision of dive professionals.

Aboard both live-aboard and day-trip charters, dive professionals work monitoring divers, helping lead groups in the water, and briefing divers on dive sites. Dive professionals interested in working aboard dive boats should work on achieving their captains’ license from the Coast Guard.

Most full-time dive professionals work in dive centers in multiple capacities, such as sales consultants, repair technicians, guides, and instructors. If you are interested in working in a retail dive center, educate yourself on the products available in the dive industry and learn how to guide divers to great gear that works for their needs!