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How Becoming a Dive Pro Changed My Life

It’s more than a career change—it’s a total life transformation.
By Scuba Diving Editors | Published On October 27, 2022
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How Becoming a Dive Pro Changed My Life

Being a dive professional isn’t your typical career. Your office is the ocean, your coworkers are fish and your commute is a boat ride! For these six PADI Pros, selecting this work changed everything.

Caitlin McCall, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor

Diver gets ready for her dive in Florida.

Caitlin McCall's international dive journey shaped her entire career trajectory.

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When I became a PADI Pro, I had no idea that it would catapult my career and give my life purpose. I earned my Open Water certification when I was 11 years old and never thought of going pro until after I Texas State University in May of 2011, right into the recession. I struggled for several years to get a well-paying job I actually enjoyed in my chosen field of advertising.

I decided to move abroad to Australia for a fresh perspective. At that time, I read a blog that recommended becoming a Divemaster because it was a great job while traveling. Little did I know that I would fall in love with diving all over again and live not only in Australia, but also New Zealand, Key West and South Florida. I went on to get my Open Water Scuba Instructor certification, and a second degree from the College of the Florida Keys in Marine Environmental Technology, which included a PADI Research Diver certification.

With my combined educational background and PADI professional certifications, I’ve launched two businesses: Eco-Conscious Diver, an online marine conservation education platform, and McCall Digital Marketing, a marketing agency for dive, eco and travel brands. I’ve also been beyond fortunate to work with Scuba Diving magazine and PADI’s corporate office! This year, I was awarded the Distinguished Alumni award at the College of the Florida Keys because of my work. It’s safe to say I owe all of this to becoming a PADI Pro. I can’t imagine my life had I not pursued scuba diving and my passions professionally!

Andy Leisner, PADI Divemaster

I grew up diving with my father when I was a teen, and we regularly visited a small dive resort in the Bahamas. It was on a wonderful little island with a great dive shop and fantastic diving. I loved it so much, I worked out an opportunity to live there during breaks from college and train to become a PADI Divemaster while working at the dive shop and dock.

I hauled and filled more tanks than I can count over that period, but it enabled me to complete my PADI Divemaster training and allowed me to work on the boat and lead dive groups. I did hundreds of dives seeing amazing things and meeting the nicest people—some of whom I stay in touch with decades later. And off the boat I was living in paradise with a relaxed lifestyle. I treasure those times, and I look back on them almost every day from my current world of video calls and PowerPoint presentations leading PADI's consumer division so others can have the same incredible experiences under the water. I wish I had the opportunity to do it all over again—tanks and all.

Becoming a PADI Pro sets you on your way to living the dream—full-time or as a side hustle! Take the plunge today.

Ariella Simke, PADI Specialty Instructor

Diver is set for her dive from a boat.

Ariella Simke's passion for diving led her to a career in science communication and dive media.

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Becoming a dive pro was hands-down the best decision I’ve made. Although I became a Junior Open Water diver at ten (thanks to my diver parents), I never considered it a career path until college. I became interested in marine biology and linked up with a shop in my college town of Boston as well as my hometown in California. I split time working at both shops when I was in classes or home during vacations. Working in the shops allowed me to get discounted classes and gear while I soaked up every ounce of knowledge from the passionate divers that surrounded me. I wanted to join the ranks and was encouraged to “go pro”.

That encouragement really launched me into what is my biggest passion. I fell in love with cold water, and the opportunity to train with two shops simultaneously was a unique opportunity. Becoming a pro built so much self-confidence, created a community for me, and took me on a very fun journey through marine biology, research and AAUS scientific diving. It ultimately landed me where I am today in science communication and dive media. Teaching is still my favorite ‘side gig’ and I am delighted that I get to help new divers get in the water with confidence and solid skills.

Linda Sue Dingel, PADI Course Director

Diver with Whitconcrete

Linda Sue hovers next to Belize's purpose-sunk Witconcrete.

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While backpacking around the world, I got certified to dive in the Bay Islands before becoming a divemaster in Australia and Open Water Instructor in Thailand! I ultimately taught my first Open Water class in Tanzania. Upon my return to the United States, I left my job as a kindergarten teacher to build a career in the dive industry. After diving in so many places and experiencing so many new things, I felt compelled to share my knowledge with anyone who would listen. I started teaching people to dive full-time. I continued to educate myself as I taught others, working my way up to becoming a PADI Course Director.

Being a PADI Pro has literally introduced me to thousands of people and hundreds of places. I worked for Sport Diver magazine and now I run my own company, Dive Marketing Media, through which I help dive resorts and destinations around the world connect with dive travelers. There’s nothing more rewarding than instilling in others the excitement and passion I feel in diving. Thanks to diving and going Pro with PADI, I have friends around the world. And as my journey continues, the adventure awaits—because you never know who you might meet, where it will take you, or what kind of fun you will find along the way, because this is the coolest job you could ever have!

Jack Fishman, PADI Course Director

Diver cleans up debris in ocean.

Conservation diving shapes Jack Fishman's daily life.

Raya O'Nan/@oceanraysphotography

Diving was a part of my family culture thanks to my dad. I grew up visiting the dive haven of Bonaire and at age 19 moved from New York to Key Largo to become a dive instructor. Here I led a conservation team for four years at Rainbow Reef, where we cleaned up local waters with PADI AWARE Dive Against Debris, planted corals and surveyed fish. This conservation diving stoked my passion the most—I was able to give back to local organizations and empower their staff with dive courses so the entire community could expand its knowledge. I was honored as a PADI Ambassadiver for this work, which gave me a platform to protect waters statewide by sharing effective conservation models with dive communities across Florida. I now implement conservation globally from California through PADI’s Blueprint for Ocean Action as PADI AWARE’s Community & Campaigns Officer.

Few other industries will provide more opportunities to travel the world, meet like-minded people and take action to truly preserve the places we love. The most important takeaway from my 10 years in the professional dive industry is to keep going. Even when you feel your passion is being challenged by day-to-day stuff, try to remember how special this underwater world truly is. All of your actions create a ripple that can lead to big waves of change.

Candice Landau, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer

Candice divemastering topside

Candice, Shireen Brazier Cassol and Mike Allen relaxing after teaching a (cold!) class in Florence, Oregon.

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I learned to scuba dive in 2016 in the murky green water of Woahink Lake, Oregon. Neither the lack of visibility nor the thick wetsuit could temper my desire to learn everything possible about this alien world. Over the next six months, I took every continuing education course I could—Nitrox, Underwater Navigation, Advanced, Rescue, Night Diver, and on and on. Eager to introduce others to this life-changing world, I signed up to pursue my own divemaster training. Six months later I was right there with the instructors that guided me, talking people through their trepidation, sharing in the thrill of discovery as though it was once again my first dive.

As I got better at anticipating my student’s problems and needs, I became eager to take the next step: Instructor. Fortunately, my mentor and our shop’s primary Course Director, Mike Allen, was there to help me. He taught me to teach—methodically, with a sense of humor, and to standards. He knew exactly how to bolster my confidence through the right opportunities or students, and when to deliver a learning moment: “Don’t bad mouth split fins. They might not be right for you but for someone with knee problems, they’re perfect.”

To this day, I have him and my other mentors—Troy Knabe, Jeff Carr, and Rogelio Cassol—to thank for relentless training and fun, connection to this mismatched and passionate community, and for providing me with experiences that have formed the foundation of who I am today.