As a PADI MSDT and former dive center owner, I have seen many that have gone on to the pro diver ranks and become working divemaster or instructors. I have also seen where divers have gone down the path to become employable as a divemaster or instructor and had very little luck in finding work that would sustain them financially for any length of time. Do you really want to keep on subsidizing your diving career?
So what are the things that you can do to make it so that if you do go down the pro diver path and get all of the safety and dive certifications needed to qualify as pro diver, that you find meaningful work in the dive industry.
I would say that the number one thing is don’t stop at divemaster! The reason is simple; there are more dive masters than there are instructors. Dive instructors can work as dive masters but not the other way around, so a dive center when given the chance to hire a divemaster or an instructor, if they have one slot, they will take the instructor more times than not. The exception would be dive masters that have lots of local experience, might get the nod over a brand new instructor. There is a saying around the dive industry that you can never have too much lead or too many instructors.
Look on the scuba diving boards and see what jobs are being offered and what jobs are being sought, and then look at what are the additional qualifications that are being required.
As a general rule the more languages that you speak, especially if you are in big backpacker scuba destinations like Koh Tao, Bali or Sihanoukville, the higher the likelihood that you will get picked up by a dive center to work for them. Popular languages like Japanese, French, German and certainly English if that is not your mother tongue, are always in demand. If you are fluent in more than one language, increases even more your chances.
Equipment and Compressor repair. Having a dive live aboard and having some one that can repair equipment on staff, can be a huge relief for the boat owner. As a general rule, people who know how to fix equipment usually know how to prevent problems. They understand the importance of maintenance, and are not intimidated by machinery.
Develop a relationship with a dive center. If you have lots of time around a dive center they have a known quantity in you, they know that you know the local dive sites, they know how good of a diver you are, and that you are familiar with the dive centers operations.
Each dive center is a little bit different and having someone that already knows the system makes you easier to train. In Hawaii, before I jumped into diving full time, I use to get phone calls asking me if I could come in and lead divers when they would be short staff. They knew that I had a regular job, but I let them know that I was always available if they needed some coverage. I was lucky in that my regular job it did not matter if I took days off as long as I gave them 24 hours notice.
Get jobs selling dive equipment, even part time, nobody really likes to do it but dive centers love people that have sales experience, even more so if it is selling dive gear! Guess what dive shop owners spend a lot of time on? That’s right, buying and selling dive equipment.