“Why don’t you get a real job?” was what a friend of my parents asked. He was not the first to ask, and I’m sure many dive professionals have encountered this question at least once.
I like to assume that questions like this are asked with the best intentions or maybe just come from ignorance about what the job actually entails. In this (and many other) particular case though, it felt like judgment and was almost definitely intended as such. So here is, once and for all, the definitive answer.
I already have a real job. It’s called being a Dive Instructor.
Reasons why being a Dive Instructor is a Real Job.
What is a ‘real job’ anyway? Do you have to make a certain number of hours? Do you need to have a certain level of responsibility? Do you need to study really hard and get a lot of training before it counts as a ‘real job’? Does it have to involve a lot of hard, physical labor? Do you actually have to NOT enjoy it or be surrounded by a boring office environment? (really?)
These are the criteria I think people have in mind when they ask such questions. Let’s have a look why all of them apply to working as an instructor.
We make crazy hours.
Working in the dive industry often involves long, long, irregular hours. And as with any job in the tourism/hospitality industry, you will always be busy when others are on holiday.
Fair enough, the place I work now is a bit more relaxed but previously I was making 12-hour days (add a nightdive and it comes up to 14) and this is totally normal. No-one complained, everyone just kind of died after having dinner from the three (or four) dives they had done that day and went to bed. Or to the bar (same like people with real jobs do on a Friday, you know, but we don’t have a weekend).
Working three months straight without a single day off, and when you have one it’s only because your visa runs out and you have to make a border-run? Been there done that, and then went back to work.
No complaints, we love our job. Just keep in mind that we might be putting in more hours than your average CEO.
Sometimes we save people’s lives.
How is that for responsibility?
Diving is a pretty safe sport, as long as you stick to the rules. Sometimes people don’t, or they do and shit happens anyway. Especially with new divers (in case you didn’t know: that’s the ones instructors usually dive with) panic can be only one drop away. Guess who will be there to save their ass? Yep, that’s us.
It only takes one time performing CPR on a drowning victim and not being able to revive him to realize that even though this job might involve a lot of palm trees and pretty colored fish, shit can get real, real fast.
Experience is key, so is knowledge
Sure, technically you could become a dive instructor after making a mere hundred dives. But will you be a good one? It takes a lot of time to gain experience, confidence and knowledge.
Like any other professional, a good instructor needs to have a lot of in-depth and up-to-date knowledge about their field. So the next time you want to know why it’s actually OK to do your deepest dive first or who the hell is J.S. Haldane? Ask your instructor.
We bust our ass.
Just, please, please come visit us out of your office and make three dives a day, plus carrying dozens of 12 kg tanks (sans equipment) up and down the beach and up the boat. That’s all I need to say about this.
But we love it, and then it doesn’t count.
No, diving is not what I spent five years at university for. Nor does it make a lot of money or is it a particularly ambitious career choice. I’m not in this for the money. I’m not even saying I’ll do this all my life. But I chose this job because I love it. I love diving, I love teaching, voila. Apparently that fact alone makes it not a ‘real job’.