Monday, April 23, 2018

Scuba lessons for the beginner should cost more and less as one continues. Don't over pay for Divemaster training.

I recently got a call from a prospective Divemaster student. During the discussion, he asked why dive shops charge so much for their Divemaster and Instructor Programs. He got quotes between $1,500 and even over $2,000... 

For the most part, it's because they can. There really is no reason to charge that much to be a Divemaster. I think there is an industry-wide problem with charging more for professional rankings --  it ultimately turns out less qualified people through those programs and manifests in historically high drop out rates.

I charge more for introductory courses and less for advanced courses because I want people to continue learning and growing without the obstacle of the "entry fee" getting in the way. Additionally, if you're going to pay $1,500 to learn to be a tour guide while earning minimum wage, you should sign up for my Extreme Underwater Ironing course first. If a Divemaster I haven't taught doesn't know how to prevent decompression sickness but my open water student does, I'd rather have you hire my student as your guide!

I believe that one should charge more for introductory courses which would precipitate finding people who want to make diving a regular activity for themselves. When the price of becoming a dive professional ends up costing the diver more than they could realistically afford or want to spend, the determining factor often becomes who can pay for that training rather than the quality of the individual that wants to become one.

I don't know if there would be an influx or disproportionate amount of physicians, lawyers, or IT professionals if the educational expenses were the same as union plumbers, electricians, carpenters, or various technical schools. I definitely know that I have seen more dive professionals that are terrible divers, lack interpersonal skills, and couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag than ones that were innovators, industry pioneers, and trendsetters.

Every field has those that were in the right place at the right time and because they had resources, a primary vocation with a generous salary or political access, get there because they can buy their way in.

That's not to say that instruction shouldn't cost thousands of dollars, but I guess the level of risk and the amount of training that comes from that education and who teaches it will have a place. I paid $2,000 for full cave and $2,000 for trimix, and that's not including the additional expenses needed for the travel, equipment, and ongoing training to get to be proficient in those specialties. Good education should be at a premium and when you can afford the best training that comes at a higher price, it is an investment in oneself especially in the higher risk courses.

Through the years, I've regularly seen scuba diving education that didn't add up to culminate in being an instructor, rather a diver with a wallet full of certification cards. Why should a diver pay for and take a dozen specialties that don't add skills up cumulatively? A Divemaster should be a master of the specialties they've taken by the time they achieve that ranking and not have to relearn the gambit of physics, physiology, dive tables, and decompression theory.

With that said, ITC's don't train instructors how to be good facilitators or educators or to know who Boyle, Charles, and Dalton are. ITC's teach instructors about policies, procedures, paperwork, business practices, and selling equipment (particularly for SSI Instructors). Most jobs I've had including the ones that required degrees, certifications, and licensure were all learned "on the job" and sales techniques and those particular nuances of that organization from within -- usually a mentor if not a training center. Interestingly, I never had to pay to take jobs as a pizza delivery driver, Social Worker, or Investment Banker, but I did to be scuba instructor.

I teach Scuba Diver (Open Water). The specialties I teach are Night, Navigation, Nitrox, Deep, Drysuit, and Search & Recovery. Those can lead to an Advanced Diver rating. Once mastered, adding Rescue Diver, Oxygen Administration, and BLS/CPR & First Aid can lead to Master Diver ranking. That's it... With those specialties and rankings you get a piece if plastic but you aren't responsible for anyone else's life!

However, while I can teach Underwater Archeology and Boat Diving, the student can take it upon themselves to learn those on their own. They shouldn't pay for certification cards in "fluffy specialties" they don't need. 

When a student is ready to become a Divemaster, I'm not training them to award a ranking or add that card to their wallet. Rather, to be the foundation of the diving community and responsible for the lives they interact with and for whom others put their trust in.

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