Countless divers dream about a full-time career in scuba – leaving behind the daily grind and cube-farm views for open water and fun in the sun. Not everyone can make it happen, but some do. And then there are some, like Michael Steidley who’s had not one, but several diving-related jobs.
Here is a sampling (in no particular order)
- PADI Instructor and Course Director
- Manufacturer Rep for Aqua Lung, SeaQuest, Deep See, and Apeks
- Commercial Diver and then a Chemist for Kelco
- Diving Safety Officer for SeaWorld
- Contracted Law Enforcement / Public Safety Diver Trainer for the US Naval Amphibious Base, San Diego SWAT and the Los Angeles Port Police
- … and author
Steidley’s diving career has spanned 45 years, and during that time he’s not only indulged his own passion for the sport, he’s also inspired others. In his first job, as an instructor at the University of Oregon, he certified about 150 students per year, As his career expanded, he landed contracts with the Naval Amphibious Base and the San Diego Police (as well as other jobs), and his certifications climbed to as many as 450 a year. He says that the trick to teaching so many students over the years has been organization and a top-notch support staff.
“It’s important to have a burning desire to teach the best divers possible with strong skills and knowledge,” he says. “It also helps to love diving and to enjoy sharing that with people.”
When asked about other career opportunities for divers besides scuba instructor, Steidley discussed the opportunities available for PADI Public Safety Divers.
“There are many opportunities around the country to participate in law enforcement and public safety dive teams. These teams are often composed of full time sworn officers and volunteers. For those interested in this as either a career path or as a volunteer performing community service I would recommend the following.
- Develop strong diving skills and knowledge.
- Learn how to use both a full face mask system and a dry suit.
- Focus on safety: start all dives with a thorough buddy check (BWRAF)
- A strong use of the buddy system (if not diving surface supplied with a communication system and tender).”
Steidley can also claim author as a job title. He wrote for Discover Diving magazine and co-authored an early book about dive computers.
Asked to choose his favorite job, Steidley has a lot to pick from, but he’s able to settle on one. “The best job that I have had in the diving industry was being a PADI Instructor and Course Director. Being a PADI Instructor has afforded me the opportunity and honor to share diving and the underwater world with thousands of people.”
Advice for Divers Who Aspire to a Career in Diving
When asked about career advice for divers, Steidley emphasizes education,”Get as much diving education and experience as possible. The most important step along with self development is to become a diving instructor. You perfect those 24 skills and you will be a diver of incredible ability.”
Even if you’re not considering scuba as a full-time career, Steidley recommends the Instructor Development Course (IDC) as a way to improve your skills as a presenter and public speaker.
“I don’t know how many people have told me the ‘taking the IDC changed my life.’ Becoming a PADI Instructor teaches you how to be a good presenter which will help you in almost any career because [good presenters] are the ones people listen to.”
Advice for Dive Professionals
As they saying goes, a good diver is always learning, and Steidley recommends this philosophy for dive instructors as well.
“Many instructors do not fully understand how scuba diving gear performs and functions. I would encourage all divemasters and instructors to participate in as many equipment manufacturers’ repair, servicing, and technician courses as possible. I would also encourage all diving leaders to take a Professional Scuba Instructors (PSI) Visual Cylinder Inspection and Fill Station Operators course.”
After years working in the dive industry, is there anything Michael Steidley hasn’t seen or done? He told us he looks forward to visiting some of his favorite dive spots again with his children, and his critter wish list still includes a nautilus, humpback whales, and narwhals.
Interested in what jobs are available for a scuba instructor?
Read about other scuba diving jobs open to you as a PADI Professional.