Internships…yes or no?
Now I am an advocate for internships in the scuba diving industry, BUT, and this is a BIG but, if they are done the right way. There are always some very vocal advocates on diving forums and boards about the bad sides of it and yes, there are internships out there where you will have to commit months of your life to working in the dive shop, possible long hours, and be referred to as “dive slave’ or “tank #$%^&” but I am not an advocate of those. I have helped develop, whatI like to think of as a fair internship system. Where for spending an extended, reasonable amount of time on your professional course, you would get a discount on your training. This for many people is still not enough, or maybe they are not entirely clear on an “unpaid internship” and I get that, so, here are some things you need to consider when embarking on a scuba diving internship for a professional level;
- You cannot guide, or officially assist, make up ratios on a scuba program or course, until you are qualified and have an official guide number, – so really you are a glorified rescue diver until that point.
- If you need extra dives to make up your dive numbers to get qualified or start your training, until that point, you are a diving client filling space on a boat
- You cannot “work” as a rescue diver or below
- As a dive professional you should have your own equipment, you are a professional! Take that into account when you are “renting” equipment from the dive center during your program.
- During your programs you will be receiving professional training or courses
- In many cases, you will be embarking on internships in foreign countries where you are not legal to work or do not pay taxes, so do not compare pay and compensation to your home country.
- Cost of living and pay is again different if working in a foreign country.
I just list these above as they are all things to consider when you look at an internship and working if possible either in the same place or somewhere different afterwards.
I will give you an example, in this area of the world, minimum pay here is around $400 a month, obtaining a working visa here may take you months – years and for the majority of dive instructors who come in, they are seasonal so are therefore working “under the table”. So, not paying tax, and their employer basically is announcing the money they pay you as profit.
Looking at an internship work exchange type deal, take into account, you would not receive US wages here and on top of that, what you would receive is not being taxed.
I invariably receive emails for people not even rescue divers, asking to work in exchange for all of their professional courses, (DM and IDC/MSDT alone with fees this is around $5000 without equipment and accommodation). I can only offer short internships 2 – 3 months with small discounts, as 1) I don’t want to have someone signing their life away and 2) they may not be a great fit ultimately for the center and the last thing you want is someone at the center for a few months that noone else gels with. I’m sorry but no matter how bubbly someone is on skype and emails you cannot know them truly until you have worked with them in a busy environment.
This above, is basically my little bit of a rant, mixed with explanation so that those of you embarking upon, or thinking about embarking upon an internship, can really consider if it is something that works for you.
Internships, as I mentioned above, is something that I firmly believe in for gaining experience. One of the things we try and do at Oceans Unlimited and Go Pro Costa Rica is compensate with training. We have tried to develop one of the most comprehensive programs in the region, jam packed with courses, and preparation for working in the industry, making sure that the person who finishes the course is a prepared as they can be to start a good career diving.
I hope this little ditty helps for those of you out there looking at going pro, doesn’t put you off in anyway, but just gives you some food for thought when you are out there looking and getting ready to take that leap!