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Diver, Professional and Instructor


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What to Expect

Commercial diver training is definitely not like most academic programs. Half the time, you're below the surface of the water. And the equipment that allows you to stay down makes you as nimble as a fridge.

Christopher Rivers figured he was in for something different when he decided to take an underwater certificate program. But he was surprised by one aspect of his training.

"I knew we would be working in a dirty environment, but I didn't think we would actually be diving in raw sewage tanks and stuff like that," he says.

This experience, however, only confirmed Rivers' choice. It made him stronger, he says.

You certainly have to be strong to go through a commercial diving program.

Moving through water is not like moving on land, even without the heavy diving suit, the helmet and any additional material that you may need to carry.

Plus, you need to keep your focus all the time. Your safety and the safety of others depend on it.

"I do think about it, just because if I don't I am setting myself up to have an accident," says Rehanna Talanian. She took the underwater technology program at Santa Barbara City College.

One way programs enforce a high level of safety consciousness is by raising standards to a high level. You may have to get a mark of 80 percent or higher in some or all of your courses.

"I definitely push myself a lot harder because I don't really see this as school," says Talanian. "I see this more as job training."

Students must also commit to the idea of learning and working as a team.

One assignment, for instance, pits two teams of students against each other in a two-day race to build an underwater pipeline. The idea is to encourage competition between teams and cooperation among students.

"You are always relying on somebody else underwater," says Rivers. "You want to be able to trust everybody there."

Other exercises teach students how to react in an emergency. One taught Talanian how to use her emergency bottle of breathing gases in case her tether should snap.

Talanian says she did this exercise in a tank. Other exercises take place in real-life environments. Students at Santa Barbara City College, for example, dive in the Pacific Ocean once they gain the necessary confidence and skills in the tank.

And during those dives, they often meet the local marine life up close.

"The sea lions are pretty playful," says Talanian. "They kind of jump out and give you a little scare."


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