Diver Down: Things are looking up for those looking for a career underwater
Bill Chalfant has always loved diving and he has taken a hobby he learned and loved as a youth and turned it into a full-time career.
Here is how: Chalfant started diving back in 1969 as a young teenager.
He later joined the military and started diving recreationally around the world, when he traveled due to his military obligations.
In the 1980’s, Chalfant became a dive instructor for the YMCA and the professional Diving Instructors Corporation (PDIC), an international SCUBA training and Certification agency. From there he moved into the business side of the dive industry, working as a wholesale representative for several different lines of dive gear. He also opened up a dive shop with a charter boat.
In 1992 he became an adjunct dive professor at Florida Keys Community College (FKCC) in Key West, Florida. Today he is the Director of the James E. Lockwood Jr. School of Diving and Underwater Technology at FKCC. He has 34 years of experience in the diving industry and is a PADI Master Instructor.
According to padi.com, being recognized as a PADI Master Instructor means you are classified as an elite dive educator. These educators, like Chalfant, have trained over 150 PADI divers and are considered industry leaders who help shape and develop the future of diving education.
To learn more about opportunities in the diving industry, see JobMonkey’s Diving Jobs section. To learn more about what it takes to get into a career in diving, the types of opportunities available, education needed, and more tips, read the interview with Chalfant below:
Diving can be broken down into five career areas, says Chalfant:
- Recreational Diving: This is the type of diving offered by a local dive shop in every city in the U.Ss and warm water destination resorts. Job titles in this area include instructor, divemaster, dive shop manager, dive boat captain, repair technician, retail sales and dive travel sales. Related area is journalist for diving publications. This aspect of the industry is self regulated.
- Commercial Diving: This is the type of diving that is often referred to as “deep sea” or “hard hat” diving. This is misleading because much of the work is performed in shallow waters and may utilize a variety of equipment to include scuba. The main concern is that all commercial divers must comply with OSHA regulation 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart T. This part of the dive industry is strictly regulated. Types of jobs in this field are: Underwater salvage, underwater construction, underwater inspection, underwater welding and cutting, maintenance and ship husbandry. Job duties are diver, tender and supervisor.
- Public Safety Diving: This type of diving is not OSHA regulated. This type of diving is performed by law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue teams. Job Titles in this area are: Dive team member, team leader, explosive ordinance diver, underwater port security specialist and underwater investigator.
- Research Diver: This type of diving is not regulated by OSHA but is governed by the American Academy of Underwater Scientists. This type of diving is often performed by educational institutions and private firms involved with submerged resources management. Fields in this area are: Underwater archaeology, biological research, oceanographic research, environmental protection and conservation. Jobs include: remote vehicle operation, underwater data collection, Underwater photography, specimen/artifact collection and Underwater surveys.
- Hyperbaric Medicine: This area has evolved from the dive industry and does not involve wet diving. Dive in this field are done in a recompression chamber. These chambers were originally used to treat diving injuries such as decompression sickness and arterial gas embolisms. Now chambers are used to deliver high concentrations of oxygen to individuals with hard to treat wounds and brain injuries. Jobs in this field are: chamber operator and dive medical technician.
Where is the best place to obtain training for a career in diving?
Recreational training for a career in diving may be obtained from a school sanctioned from the many dive certifying agencies. The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) is the largest.
Commercial Diving schools are generally members of the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADC). Public safety diving is offered by many organizations a resource for team training.
Research diving is carried out by universities and colleges and does most of the training in these areas. One is the American Academy of Underwater Scientists. Hyperbaric Medicine is offered through various locations and is governed by the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society. Dive training is mandatory and more background can be found at Dive Training Magazine.
There are several colleges that offer certificate and two year degree programs, including the program at Florida Keys Community College. The certificate program can be finished in less than a year and the degree program takes 2 years and the school offers training in all aspects of diving.
What are some necessary skills a person pursuing a career in diving needs?
Individuals pursuing a recreational track should like working with people. Commercial divers should have construction or engineering skills. Public safety divers are generally members of a public safety organization with police or firefighting skills. Research divers should pursue academic courses in their areas of interest. Hyperbaric Medical Technicians need to be at least an EMT before applying for DMT. All areas require a diving physical.
Where are people finding jobs in this career? Is there a “hot spot” in the U.S.?
Recreational diving is worldwide and everywhere in the U.S. Florida is the leading state in scuba certifications. Commercial divers in the oil industry dive off of California and Louisiana. Most of the other commercial diving is construction and maintenance in all near shore and inland waterways. Public safety divers are located where ever there is water, and the same goes with research diving. Hyperbaric medicine is practiced near major hospitals offering wound care.
What other advice can you provide about careers in diving?
“People will always mention sharks or some other perceived hazard whenever diving is mentioned as a career,” says Chalfant. “Recreational diving, for instance, is no more hazardous than most sports people participate in every day. Learning diving is going to require an investment in money as well as time. But it is worth it.”
Chalfant says demand varies according to the particular economy, just like everything else. Some areas such as offshore commercial diving has tremendous competition for high paying oil rig diver positions. Many trained divers may work a year or more as a tender before being able to dive. Other areas have openings seasonally.
If you are interested in this career, Chalfant has one more piece of advice:
“What are you waiting for? Get started now, the opportunities are there!”