Re: Socal beach diving on Saturday, the first place to look for a dive instructor

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Posted by TomR on March 29, 2005 at 17:28:54:

In Reply to: Re: Socal beach diving on Saturday posted by Richorn on March 28, 2005 at 15:07:52:

In response to the statement "training is great, but doesn't replace experience", I definitely agree and the following treatise is not directed at at the author of that statement. The following is my general view of the state of the industry/training and the seemingly prevalent attitude that training is overpriced and overhyped in terms of usefulness. (By the way, I too have a year of diving and some advanced certifications)

For starters, I might add that the converse of the above quote is generally true...

"Experience is great, but does not replace training".

Personally, I am very glad to have been trained on how to perform CPR during my Rescue class. I'm also happy that I've been trained on dive tables during my Open Water class as well as the effects of Oxygen Toxicity during my Nitrox Class. Learning about liability laws in my Divemaster class is also probably better than during bankruptcy proceedings after a lawsuit. These would all be disasterous things to learn about through trial and error experience.

The point is, while I agree that nothing replaces experience, I submit there are many things you don't want to "experience". Training is indispensable and the perfect opportunity to learn in a safe environment. For many scenarios, training is the only option besides some serious hurt.

Yes, agencies have artfully staged their programs so that folks always have an incentive to put another dollar in, but most of these agencies aren't in the game for free. They must profit to stay in business and the graduated level of certifications is probably the only way for them to achieve profits. Even so, I would bet their profits aren't as rich as the naysayers think. In fact, last time I checked, about 5%-20% of my course fee went to the agency and the rest went to the instructor. Yes, agencies also have a vig on instructors and divemasters in the form of dues, but benefits such as updated learning, job, and legal services are provided for such dues. Besides, the issue is how much it costs to get training, not be an instructor.

To summarize point #1: Agencies don't seem to be collecting unwarranted fees off training students.

This leads us to instructors, who also aren't in the game for free. They gotta eat and last time I checked the salaries, they weren't buying houses in the Palisades. Advanced certifications are likely a large part of their salaries and something that keeps them, shops, and boats afloat (excuse the pun). If you doubt, here's a quote from a career website on the matter

"Scuba instructors earn low salaries, often starting between $15,000 and $22,000. Although those with experience can earn slightly higher salaries, no one gets rich teaching SCUBA diving or leading SCUBA diving groups."

Here's the link:

To summarize point 2: Instructors don't seem to be getting unjustly rich off training students.

This leaves us with shops, which also get a piece of the training pie. Past data suggests average shops gross $350K a year in revenues with a maximum 20% profit margin. This means your average shop owner is pulling in $70K a year, max. Sure, that's decent dough, but it's not a fortune when you consider the average shop owner is taking huge financial risks on industry swings and lawsuits as well as sweating it out 7 days a week trying to keep the shop ship shape. So, this piece of the training puzzle ain't gettin' rich either.

Summary Point #3: Shop owners, on average, ain't gettin' rich.

One final note, if the agencies didn't break up the training into multi-level certifications, you would get a way fewer graduates from the Open Water Class. A fraction of folks would sign up if there were CPR and difficult skills requirements. If the class was extended beyond a few weeks or required more than a couple of hundres pages of reading, that would also inhibit sign ups. Dropouts would dramatically increase. None of this would be any good for anybody. It would mean higher prices all round and less options on everything from gear to boats to stores to instructors. It also reduces the number of ocean advocates out there.

By my counts, nobody is getting rich off of training, but at the same time the trainers are providing an invaluable service. Further, having fewer certification levels seems impractical for bringing new divers to the sport and it limits an already low income industry's profits.

Does anyone disagree? If not, why do the training agencies and their spawn seem to get a bad rap? Is it simply because too many folks with advanced C-Cards have big heads? Can you tell that I'm bored at work today? Did you actually read this far down this post?

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