It is easy to get a bit lost in terminology. Recreational divers often don’t distinguish between the various ratings that exist and as such it can lead to a little ambiguity between two ratings in particular. I am of course, talking about Divemaster and Master SCUBA Diver. The similarities in the name are clearly obvious, they both contain the words ‘dive’ and ‘master’, they both sound very important - which they are, and they both require diving commitment to achieve. The differences however are just as great as these similarities and that is what we will be talking about as well as how to achieve each rating and what they signify.
What is a Master SCUBA Diver (MSD) and how can one achieve the rating? A Master SCUBA Diver is often referred to as the black belt of recreational diving, meaning that it is the highest rating achievable. Statistics indicate that fewer than 2% of divers ever achieve this rating which rightly makes them part of the elite. Master SCUBA Diver is not a single/one-off course that a diver would take, it is the culmination of multiple courses denoting a vast experience and skill level which is why the certification card should be respected. Becoming a Master SCUBA Diver is often something that a diver will look to achieve after having already amassed a few of the required certifications and realising that they are maybe not that far away, or it is a goal that a diver will set for themselves as a way of slowly adding to their skill set by completing a new course periodically as part of personal development and/or progression.
To achieve the rating of Master SCUBA Diver a diver must meet the following requirements;
* Be at least 12 years old (12-14 year old earn Junior MSD)
* PADI (Junior) Advanced Open Water Diver certified
* PADI (Junior) Rescue Diver certified
* Earned five (5) PADI Specialty Diver Certifications
* Logged a minimum of 50 dives
* Complete application to be a Master SCUBA Diver
As you see, a diver works their way through the core PADI courses which builds up experience and exposes them to a variety of environments. Completing five (5) PADI specialty courses allows divers to attempt different techniques and possibly try new dive gear not-before-used, like full face mask, compass, sidemount, DSMB’s, nitrox, lift bags to name a few. It does not matter which speacilty courses are completed or at what stage in a divers development because this list is a set of ‘exit requirements’. The combined knowledge and skill variation obtained from this variety of courses shows a dedication to diving and an investment in ones self which is why it sits at the top of the pile in the recreational diver credentials. For these reasons, Master SCUBA Divers are also privy to PADI promotions otherwise reserved for professionals. They relieve the publications and exclusive offers in areas like PADI Travel so it is not without it's perks.
So how does this differ from Divemaster? For many, the main reason to become a Divemaster is to earn a professional rating which allows you to look for work within the diving industry and benefit financially from diving. If one is not interested in this then MSD is the more logical option although there are still a lot of divers who pursue the Divemaster rating for their own confidence. Another major reason for seeking out Divemaster training is because it is required for those who wish to become SCUBA Instructors, the increased responsibility, supervisory skills, logistical awareness exercises learned within the Divemaster course are all necessary to progress into the instructional side.
A Divemaster is like a professional supervisor who aides the instructor in delivering SCUBA courses. The duties are wide ranging and will depend on many factors which is why it is such a respected credential. No dive professional ever stops being a Divemaster no matter how far they progress, it is the foundation of what every successful instructor is and we never stop applying what we learned in this course. A Divemaster is not only an assistant to the instructor during courses but they also carry out many duties independantly such as running a number of programs themselves. A Divemaster qualifies to teach certain specialty courses once proper training is completed, guide certified divers, complete Reactivate (refresher) and even run Discover SCUBA Diving (DSD) again, once the proper training has been completed.
To enroll in a Divemaster course the following prerequisites must be met;
* PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certified
* PADI Rescue Diver certified
* 18 years old
* Logged 40 dives
* Completed EFR Primary and Secondary Care training within 24 months
* Medically evaluated and cleared for diving by a physician within 12 months
To achieve the rating, a Divemaster trainee must have completed all course requirements of which there are numerous. All are designed to increase skill level, supervision techniques and knowledge of the PADI system as well as introduce you to the duties and functions of a Divemaster by having you participate in real courses (preferably, although some mock-ups are allowed in the absence of real students). A major difference between Master SCUBA Diver and Divemaster ratings is that you are now responsible for others and their safety. Of course we always strive to have a great time and provide an amazing experience for those under our care but safety is always at the forefront of everything we do. The Divemaster philosophy of hard work, dedication, professionalism and responsibility is one that all who achieve the rating are proud of, and it is also why the rating holds great respect in the diving community. If you feel this doesn’t sit with your personal ambitions or requirements then Divemaster is not necessarily something for you and another reason why pursuing Master SCUBA Diver and/or additional specialties exist - as a way of continuing your education in a direction that suits you.
Hopefully now you know the difference between these two unique ratings. As you’ve seen, both are indicative of highly experienced and knowledgeable divers. Completion of one does not mean that the other is rendered moot, on the contrary the best Divemasters are also Master SCUBA Divers.