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The Economics of the Scuba Diving Professional

Discussion in 'Going Pro' started by Pedro Burrito, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. Pedro Burrito

    Pedro Burrito Moderator Staff Member

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Boussens, Canton de Vaud, Suisse
    1,872
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    Let's discuss employment of diving professionals. This could be about instructors, service technicians, boat operators or mechanics or anyone else in the industry. Are there too many scuba diving instructors? With a high supply of instructors, who benefits?

    For an example, I see ads regularly for a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) in the PADI professional help wanted. One year contracts paying about 1000 £ with minimal food and housing where they are requiring very experienced instructors who are technicians and boat operators. Who are taking these jobs and why?
     
  2. Pedro Burrito

    Pedro Burrito Moderator Staff Member

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Boussens, Canton de Vaud, Suisse
    1,872
    978
    113
    Also, what about internships? Are they worth it?

    Is the industry selling a dream? Is there any reality to this dream?

    What about the Dive Masters who work for tips only?
     
  3. michael-fisch

    michael-fisch Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Germany
    644
    371
    63
    Lets start off with the whats easy to understand:
    If you want to make money in the industry you either have to cut the cost of the goods you sell, cut your expenses or be able to offer a service that others cannot offer.

    Guaranteed annual buying amounts with a vendor are a good way to cut your costs, but getting the same prices as someone who has been buying for millions every year is not very likely.
    "Dealer Cost" is a nice term but means nothing, many stores end up selling under dealer cost and are still not going out of business.
    If you score a good pricing agreement with , lets say Scubapro, that doesn't do you a lot of good when many of your customers want Aqualung and you can't offer great prices on Aqualung.
    So now you have to become a big shop with lots of goods at great prices - kind of hard to do with $50K of your own money, another borrowed $50K from family and friends, and a crippling bank loan of another $150K.

    You can cut your expenses by buying boats and engines that are way past their prime, buying a used compressor with 5000hrs on it, and arranging for young bright eyed wanna be Divemasters and Interns that are willing to work for their share of tips (You need your share of the tips to pay the rental on the storefront).

    What you should not do is sell old equipment in your shop, the customer expects to buy the newest model of whatever you're selling.

    It really helps when you can start out somewhere with no competition, a huge budget, and a large supply of marks. What is a mark? Thats easy - a mark is someone with no prior experience in scuba who because he doesn't know better will pay your prices for boat rides, training, and dive gear. After they get enough experience many of them will buy off the internet or get their boat rides from someone who offers a better package, so you only have a limited time to take the mark's money.

    Dealing with knowledgeable customers is either easy or very hard. It's easy if you get a reputation as one of the best cave instructors and live west of Gainsville, or If you are really good at fixing drysuits overnight. Having a perfect mixed gas fillstation that will fill the customers tanks between late evening and 07:00, and not being too upset with the standard overpressure cavefills is another way to keep your customers coming back.

    If your customers know more than you do, how are you going to keep them coming back?

    Instructors that teach at a diveshop normally get a percentage of the course fees, a discount on the necessary boat rides and new equipment at cost (the instructor has to use whatever the store is currenty selling), if they are good they may be making more than minimum wage - many don't. Other instructors, usually young good looking and with a sexy aura, do ok with VIP instruction packets for students that want that service. If you go that route, it may not always be possible to keep your pants on, but try not to end up as a beach boy in Kenya.

    In order to make a good living in diving you have to offer something that others cannot offer.

    Otherwise the easiest way to end up with a small fortune in diving, is to start out with large fortune, and many retired professionals are quite happy doing that.

    Michael
     
  4. Wookie

    Wookie Secret Field Agent ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    22,559
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    As I mentioned in the RR thread before I was moderated as well, scuba diving is a lifestyle job, not necessarily a profession. I ran a successful liveaboard for 20 years, but I never made a dime until I sold it. I was making a little over $100k a year as an environmental scientist on a small island in the South Pacific, and $30k as a liveaboard captain and owner. But it was truly living the dream and a great adventure, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the monies.

    Obviously, living on an island, puttering around fixing the compressor and the outboards, and showing folks cool stuff in the ocean isn't for everyone. But if you have the means and inclination, I highly recommend it.
     
    Bubble Junky, ChuckP, txgoose and 3 others like this.
  5. michael-fisch

    michael-fisch Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Germany
    644
    371
    63
    Dive Boats:
    are by definition a hole in the surface of the water that you keep trying to fill with money.
    If you think that maintainance of normal boats is very expensive, think what dive boat repairs end up costing as your dive boat drifts nearer to the reef while you have divers down - with luck you'll just buy 2 new propellors, without luck your hull is holed, with really bad luck your boat along with the customer's gear is sitting underwater on the reef.

    You go out with 2' waves, it's a little bit worse when your customers splash, and gets a lot worse while they are underwater. Now you're trying to collect your divers in 6' seas while the weather gets even worse. If it gets really bad you will either send a PAN-PAN or not be able to dock because of the waves in the harbour - with 12 paying and puking customers on the boat.

    Life as a boat captain doesn't always smell like a rose garden, and your customers will always think that you made the wrong decisions.

    Michael
     
  6. michael-fisch

    michael-fisch Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Germany
    644
    371
    63
    Before you think that everything is negative, I should tell you that for around 15 years, the income from my mixed gas fills covered all my diving expenses including my gear.
    For the last 2-3 years my diving expenses have been covered by selling spare regs, a dozen sets of doubles, lots of stages, 2 compressors, and a load of spare gear.
    I still have over $100K in gear including 4 rebreathers.

    I found a niche, and while keeping the customers costs low, I was able to dive for free.

    If you can find a niche and keep customers coming back, diving suddenly becomes much more affordable.

    Michael
    Anybody need over 40 sets of 1st class 6.75" tank bands and 30+ sets of 8" bands? Since the bands are still sitting in my garage I can offer a great price.
     
  7. michael-fisch

    michael-fisch Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Germany
    644
    371
    63
    as far as internships go, I was advised to take a look at this posting to show how bad internships can get, appearantly its worse than I was expecting:

    I'm sure that not all internships are quite like this, and that there are plenty of dive operations that expect and give a fair deal to their interns. Here it appears that the business model requires the exploitation of the interns to the extent where they are spending a great majority of their time working as unpaid employees. Unfortunately, after examining this thread it has become appearant that the operater has also specialized in cattle boat operations as an additional way of cutting their costs and maximizing their profits:
    Review / trip report Rainbow Reef Dive Center, Key Largo FL

    Michael
    In the last few hours I have also recieved PMs from more than 1 dive professional with training from RR in the past that say the same things as Ellemerkulov.
     
  8. Wookie

    Wookie Secret Field Agent ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    22,559
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    Sure, and when Divers Den in Nacadoches TX “invented” the career development center, PADI’s ears perked up and they took notice. Who wouldn’t want free labor to trade for classes you are holding anyway? When I became a PADI instructor, I went to a course director and paid a grand for the course, plus housing in Maui, plus meals, plus boat, plus pool rental. Remember, I was banking a decent salary so I could trade money for training.

    But if I didn’t have $5,000 (x2), and I was interested in trading labor for tuition, and I was young and naive, I would think I was getting a deal.

    And it doesn’t matter if it’s RR, Halls in Marathon, any of 100 in Kao Tao, Thailand, Pro Dive in Miami or Cairns, etc. Instructor mills all run much the same profile, free labor to run the profitable part of the dive operation. That’s the diving and the paying instructor students.

    But it’s still a lifestyle job, not a career. [sarcasm] It’s important to disillusion your instructors early and often. Might as well start them off wrong, it doesn’t get any better.[/sarcasm]
     
    Satrekker, txgoose and Sam Miller III like this.
  9. ams511

    ams511 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Miami, Florida
    7,200
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    I often wondered the same thing as the OP. Years ago I bought a box of dive books from an instructor leaving the business and one of the books was a Dive Master's manual (I also received the NAUI instructor's manual). I thought it was funny (and a bit fraudulent) to wait until the very last chapter of the manual to tell you that being a DM is basically worthless. If you want to get hired you need to have other skills such as sales or mechanical skills. If you want to sell then go into real estate. If you want to repair diesel engines then become a truck mechanic. Either profession is going to be more lucrative than becoming a dive master. I would assume dive masters want to dive. They also mention you really want to be an instructor. Wookie is right, DM or Instructor is a really a lifestyle job. I am sure that there are people that make a good living being in the dive industry, but I am also sure they are in the minority.
     
    TMHeimer likes this.

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