It’s the ideal goal… diving and getting paid to do it! The lifestyle is appealing, you love diving, but you’re not sure how to do it. Hopefully this post will help you along in achieving this dream. There are a few different ways to get paid for diving in the civilian world: going pro recreationally, scientific diving, commercial diving, and underwater photography/videography. Each has pros and cons, but all have potential to make a bit of money on the side or even full time!
Going Pro. It’s what every dive shop encourages enthusiastic and able divers to go for. You see the smiling divemasters and instructors, you go on the awesome dives to cool sites, and you think: “I could totally do this!”. The pros of this particular route are that travel is more than likely; there are often more instructors than there are jobs, so you may end up spending your first few years in less than ideal locations, just scraping by financially until you build up experience and a reputation. The risks are pretty simple: burnout and better paying land based jobs. Burnout comes from leading dives repeatedly to the same locations, teaching the same classes over and over, and loss of interest in diving as a sport or as something fun; it just becomes part of the 9 to 5 grind. The other is a common occurrence as well, diving becoming a side job to your real job. Basically, if you can take the grind and find yourself a good position with a good shop, this can be a rewarding but not necessarily high paying path.
Scientific Diving is generally only profitable if you can do it as part of a university program or with a government agency. Other times, it’s conducted by commercial divers at the behest of research firms. It can sometimes be combined with recreational instruction qualifications into a Dive Safety Officer position at a university or marine research station. Pay ranges from fair to alright, and is both hourly or salaried depending on your position. Having additional, non-diving skills is often key in this area, where maximum employability is needed because of the limited budgets scientific operations often work with. On the flip side of the coin, the only other type of diving that can take you to Antarctica is Commercial, and scientific diving will often take you to amazing and infrequently seen areas! There are no real risks with this sort of diving, save that it’s hard to land a full time, long term job with it.
Commercial Diving, big money and big risks. Commercial divers have the highest levels of training, and have the highest earning potential of any type of diver. This comes at a cost though. Training is very, very expensive, and you’ll have to foot the bill yourself or through student loans or a line of credit. After that, you’ll need additional training to go offshore where the real money is. A real tripping point here is qualifications. Currently Canada and Australia have the highest levels of training required for divers, followed closely by the UK’s HSE training. In addition to that though, you frequently need to make sure your school is recognized by a major training organization like ADCI, IMCA, DCBC or IDSA. There are lots of jobs, inshore and offshore, but pay varies widely by employer, but tends to be good. The real thing with commercial diving is the risk; decompression or SurD-O2 dives, saturation diving, and the like can take a toll on the body. Plus it’s similar to the military in that you may be spending prolonged periods of time away from home on the job.
Underwater photography and videography are a hard area to break into professionally, but even if you don’t, there are ways to make a bit of dosh on the side with it. Frequently combined with an unrestricted commercial scuba ticket, if you’re good, you can get work with a variety of employers, but seldom for the long term. Selling photographs and running a monetized video channel online are options, as is using your better pictures to create merchandise with groups like Zazzle, CafePress or other similar types of websites. By and large, jobs in this sector are few and far between, but as you build up a portfolio and a reputation, you may find more and more work coming your way.
There are a few things that will help you succeed in making money from your diving passion, no matter what path you take: both diversify and specialize, be positive and professional, and know your own abilities and limitations. For the first, it’s important to have a broad area of experience and a diverse skill set, this makes you more useful to potential employers; it doesn’t hurt to be really good at a few things though. Being a SME (subject matter expert) is never a bad thing. Positivity and enthusiasm go hand in hand; an MSDT once told me “When diving in paradise becomes boring, it’s time to move on before you lose your spirit.” when explaining why he’d left a job in the Red Sea for one in Cyprus. Basically, once you lose interest, you lose enthusiasm and soon you’ll be “that” diver. Professionalism is key at all professional diving; conduct, appearance, subject knowledge, and being able to work with a group are all important. Finally, know your own limits and abilities, and don’t be afraid saying “I don’t know, but I can find out.”, or “Can you explain it again?”; diving is inherently risky, and there’s no point in making it more dangerous than you need to.
Well, that’s my take on making money from being a diver. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but I plan to expand each point in the future with a kind of “how-to” series on diving. This has been an extraordinarily long post, so I’m going to call it here. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Google+, and peak in the shop! Good Luck and Good Diving!