Becoming a dive pro is on many a diver's cards, and it can be challenging to choose a location and dive center with which to pursue the first level of professional diving. With a sea of dive operators under a myriad of internationally recognized dive agencies (PADI, SSI, CMAS, SDI, BSAC, NAUI, RAID, and more), along with an even vaster number of course providers in amazing dive destinations all across the globe, many divers simply don't know where to begin.

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There are also various important things to take into account when choosing where to take a divemaster course or internship, in which this handy article goes into detail. So, for the ins and outs of choosing the right dive center and destination, dive headfirst into this guide.

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Consider These Things First Before Enrolling On A Divemaster Course Or Internship

When scouting dive centers for your divemaster course or internship, there are a few things to look for - especially if searching for a reputable operator is a priority. One vital thing to check is if there's a limit in the number of dives the course includes, in addition to time limits and course durations. Many internships and courses allow for unlimited dives and may have various time lengths in which students can complete the course. Some offer four weeks, whilst others may allow 12 weeks or even up to six months with or without extra fees incurred - so it's important to choose the right course or internship for you. Of course, internships are more in-depth and longer, so they always cost much more than a standalone course.

Number Of Students Per Course And Syllabus

The numbers of students or interns per course is also important to check. Reputable dive centers will keep numbers lower (no more than around five or so at any given time), which ensures each trainee gets top quality teaching and more time and opportunity to learn dive theory and practical skills in full. It's also a good idea to check exactly what is contained in the course syllabus - whilst not mandatory for course completion, many good dive centers will teach students the ins and outs of working as a dive pro, such as equipment maintenance, compressor use, tank filling and maintenance, and other useful (though less glamorous) skills that bode well when working as a professional diver - like marketing and front desk work.

Marine Park Fees, Equipment Rental, And Exclusive Discounts

Another thing to check is marine park entry and diving fees - in some regions of the world, diving within protected marine sanctuaries incurs an additional fee on top of the price of a course or a dive. Check whether a divemaster course does include these extra fees or not in order to avoid any nasty surprises when the final bill is produced. Furthermore, knowing whether or not dive equipment rental is included is handy - many dive centers do include gear rental in the course price, while others may offer it at a discounted rate. It's also common for divemaster trainees to have access to generous equipment discounts as well, with 20% off gear being fairly standard.

Quality Over Price And Vetting Dive Operators

Whilst price may be a determining factor for many, try not to let it be the be-all and end-all. Choosing the right dive center and the instructor is more important, and students can do this by getting a good feel for the center and the instructors beforehand. Contact each dive center, email them, speak to them on the phone, check their social media accounts, and get a feel for who they are and how they operate. Pick the one that stands out the most to you personally - this is much more valuable than price, and will ensure you get the most out of your divemaster training experience.

The Philippines

With 7,641 islands, the archipelago of the Philippines is a tropical dreamland that offers insane diversity. The whole nation promises exceptional diving, however, the most popular places are scattered around Luzon, The Visayas, and Mindanao, with Palawan, Malapascua (home to thresher sharks), Bohol, and Negros Islands all serving up some of the very best diving in the Philippines that's as diverse as it is mind-blowing.

Divers here can enjoy both shore and boat diving, with dive sites boasting the likes of magnificent wrecks, plunging walls, rainbow-hued shallow reefs, mighty current-swept drift spots, and prolific muck diving hubs - Anilao and Dauin are absolute showstoppers for those who love rare macro critter action.

Divemaster courses and internships start from around 800 USD, though they often include generous extras like deep and enriched air nitrox certification, as well as equipment rental and accommodation. Living costs are extremely cheap, which applies to both food and accommodation. Plus, English is one of the main languages in the Philippines, which means communication is not an issue for most people - the locals are also super friendly, smiley, and welcoming. Combine wallet-friendly lifestyle and epic diving with stunning attractions, awe-inspiring natural landscapes, exciting shopping, and awesome nightlife, and the Philippines is heaven.

Thailand

Thailand's diving scene combines with incredible nightlife and is as diverse as it is affordable with no lack of budget-friendly dive operators offering all levels of courses. Dive sites range from calm shallow reefs to plunging walls, eerie wrecks, caverns, caves, and action-packed drifts that teem with tons of tropical fish and turtles, as well as sharks and rays in some regions. Diving is accessible by both shore and boat, with liveaboards being a better option for more far-flung sites such as the Similan Islands - which play host to large pelagics like mantas and whale sharks. Throw in perfect white beaches and crystal seas, along with lively bars and parties, and it's a backpacking diver's dream.

Great places within Thailand to take a divemaster course or internship are Phuket and Koh Phi Phi on the nation's western side, and Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan on the east side. Thailand's reputation for dive education isn't the best due to plentiful shoddy dive centers that pack courses full and cut corners. However, look for operators with PADI or SSI five-star dive center or resort status or those that have earned IDC or CDC center rating, and you won't be disappointed.

Divemaster courses typically start from around 1,200 USD but try not to place too much importance on cost if possible - prioritize quality first and foremost, whilst taking the time to properly vet dive centers that spike your interest. Many dive centers in Thailand also include marketing and selling as part of the divemaster internship, which is great for those who wish to work in the industry after completion, however, it is illegal for foreigners without work permits to do so.

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Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is a relatively small island home to a few dive centers and resorts that offer courses to a limited number of divers at any given time, which means more one-on-one teaching and more opportunity to practice theory and skills. Divemaster students get to learn the ins and outs of being a dive pro, assisting instructors with courses, and teaching Discover Scuba Diving experiences. Costs can vary, depending on if a student takes a shorter course or a full-length internship - the latter which pumps up the price.

Typically, it'll cost on average around 2,0o0 to 2,500 USD, give or take a few hundred depending on the operator - but as mentioned, opt for the dive center that appeals to you personally after vetting your shortlist. Prices normally include all diving, training, course manuals and materials, transportation to and from the airport, and the occasional extra program. Accommodation is not commonly included, which is around 450 USD a month.

Enough about costs though - what about the diving? Well, it's nothing short of mind-blowing - Cozumel is famed for its clear water, abundant tropical fish, occasional manta and whale shark, and leisurely wall and drift dive sites.

Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica is gaining in popularity as an outstanding dive destination. It's a world of contrasts, with the Pacific side boasting offshore islands featuring underwater pinnacles that serve as magnets for pelagics - including sharks and manta rays, and even humpback whales on occasion. On the other hand, the southern region of the country is a protected marine reserve, which accounts for its stunning, healthy reefs all bustling with tropical species.

But what makes Costa Rica more attractive than many other locations to aspiring divemasters is the approach to training. Many students report enjoying more in-depth training and personal mentoring from their instructor, which not only means a higher quality course, but also a more laid-back, relaxed learning experience.

What's more, some dive centers even offer comprehensive divemaster internships that sometimes include free specialty courses and extra training and workshops, like equipment maintenance, resort training, and marine conservation education. Overall, divemaster courses here range anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 USD and usually include course materials. Accommodation and food also may or may not be included, though they don't cost an arm and a leg anyway (some places charge a mere 200 USD a month!)

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Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

In the Western Caribbean is the Island of Roatan, which lies on an ancient coral reef system home to spectacular marine species from colorful fish and turtles, to dolphins sharks, and even whale sharks if you're lucky. The island also boasts outstanding eco-initiatives, with local people and the government executing protective efforts for the purpose of preserving the reefs of the Bay Islands. As such, Roatan is perfect for environmentally-conscious divers seeking to learn and work in a clean, green destination - expect to get involved in weekly beach clean-ups and underwater clean-up dives collecting plastic and litter.

Divemaster courses in Roatan typically start from around 1,000 USD, and may or may not include discounted accommodation. Course duration can be anything from four to eight weeks, though longer is better for those who want to enjoy everything the island has to offer. Combine excellent teaching standards and diving with a lively social scene, great (and cheap!) food, and Rotan is superb for aspiring dive pros seeking both professionalism and fun on a budget.

Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

Utila - the louder, lower-cost sibling of Roatan - is a backpacker haven, and exceedingly popular with divers thanks to its affordable diving, awesome social scene, and epic whale shark action. Sitting on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this stunning Caribbean gem includes wrecks, caverns, pinnacles, sheer walls, and fringing reefs all home to diverse fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles, and even whale sharks.

As it's a world-class destination, there's no shortage of courses, divers, and students, which is great for gaining experience and meeting new people, though it does mean that courses often have high numbers of candidates. A divemaster course can last anywhere from four to eight weeks, and ranges between 800 to 2,000 USD depending on course length and added extras. Also, due to the sheer volume of divers, many of the longer-standing operators offer additional courses like technical diving, rebreather, ecology, boat training, and even underwater photography and videography workshops.

Most accommodation is affordable and within a short walking distance from the dive centers. And, Utila's social and nightlife scene is something to behold - there's a bounty of bars, restaurants, and parties to ignite the hearts of even the most lively of travelers.

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Sharm El Sheik, Egypt

With access to the iconic Ras Muhammed marine park, Sharm El Sheik is a top diving destination in the world-renowned Red Sea - which is home to some of the planet's best and most famous dive sites that never fail to drop the jaws of even the most seasoned diving veterans who think they've seen it all. The region has overcome years of political volatility to become once again an incredible location for lovers of the underwater world, and thankfully, there are hundreds of dive operators to choose from - all of which are highly rated.

Divemaster training here varies, starting from around 900 USD at the lower end. There are smaller operators and larger ones that have their own benefits. The larger dive centers may provide a more regular experience with both day trips and longer safari boat excursions, though the smaller ones may provide a more personal experience.

What truly puts Sharm El Sheik on the diving map however is the sheer abundance of mesmerizing marine life. Corals are kaleidoscopic and bountiful, fish species are diverse, and the unbelievable reefs are home to a myriad of larger creatures too - regular encounters with dolphins, sharks, and rays all make diving here a life-changing experience. And, with plenty of accommodation options that range from affordable to high-end, along with an impressive nightlife scene, this destination is a solid contender for those looking to become a dive pro.

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