Divemasters working on Blacktip Island’s dive boats will soon be able to earn their Doctorate of Scuba Diving at Tiperon University’s Blacktip campus.
Tiperon University-Blacktip officials announced Thursday the school will offer advanced degrees in divemastering when the winter semester begins next month.
Dubbed the ‘Ph. Dude’ by local dive professionals, the program will place less emphasis on pedagogy and more on scuba research, its creators said.
“Every divemaster has been trained to teach,” TU-B professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Our studies will focus on the more cerebral aspects of divemastering that are too often overlooked. We’ll question why we dive and why that matters, with a goal of addressing the existential angst in the heart of every scuba diver.
“This being a scuba-based degree, doctoral dissertations will be written on underwater slates,” Mojarra said. “Oral exams and thesis defenses will be done underwater via an expanded series of hand signals we developed to convey the requisite nuances of thought.”
Island dive managers have embraced the program.
“Diving’s seeing that radical credential creep like everywhere else,” said Club Scuba Doo dive operations manager Finn Kiick. “Used to, you could blast through a DM course and jump on a boat. Now there’s wannabes with diplomas, even bachelor’s degrees.
“You don’t need the doctorate to do the job,” Kiick said. “But you totally need it to land the job.”
Industry analysts, however, aren’t as upbeat.
“It’s a status thing,” said Lou Luxfer president of the Dive Industry Coral Keepers. “Ops managers like to beat their chests about how highly trained their staffs are. They overlook whether customers are getting better supervision because of these advanced degrees.”
Local dive professionals echoed Luxfer’s concerns.
“It’s an empty piece of paper that doesn’t ensure diver safety,” said Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm. “The university’s encouraging silly credentialism, and making a fortune in the process.
“The research and the dissertation require years of work,” Helm said. “With the uni collecting tuition and fees the whole time. There’s no way to pay off that sort of debt on a divemaster’s wages.”
TU-B’s Mojarra brushed those criticisms aside.
“Most of our candidates aim to work in academia,” Mojarra said. “Expensive? Sure. But what better way to break free of the dive bum lifestyle that traps so many people for decades? You divemaster for more than five years, people start looking at you funny. As well they should.”
NAUI, SSI and IANTD have approved the program for their dive leaders. PADI does not yet recognize the program’s accreditation, though the agency is working on a PADI-specific divemastering doctorate of its own.