This program is relatively new, and was developed by the major diving companies in the industry in cooperation with the technical school. The training is a no frills, and gets down to business. The school is located in center of commercial diving activity and is perfect place to get hands-on experience. Students can work part time at one of the major diving companies that are all located in this area. This means that you get experience in exactly what you will be doing when you complete your training. You can see first hand how the industry works and have a golden opportunity to talk with working divers and dive supervisors about what it means to be in this career.
The companies monitor your training and if you do well, you can be almost certain of continued work with the same company, only on a full time basis. If you decide that Young Memorial is not the school for you, I suggest that you at least talk with one of the instructors there they are available in the afternoons to talk with prospective students by phone. They will give you a 'real' insight on the industry and what you need for training. The hours are lower than the ACDE standard, but there are two reasons for that.
This gives you the choice in what you want to do, either the basic course, or one with all the 'extras'. There training is in a 4-day period instead of, say, six, so that students can also work part-time if they need to. Gulf Coast has a preference for a more minimum training standard to please the companies and does not meet ACDE standards. You should keep this in mind when selecting a school if you are looking for good standards of training and good safety considerations.
Training facilities are questionable, by reports that have been received from past students, and student services is very limited. Gulf Coast was unavailable for follow-up questions on the status of the school for our revised report.
Management and admissions were impossible to get a hold of. This is a no frills, fast paced course geared to the specific needs of the inland industry, with all the deep-sea 'stuff' left out. Their course is listed with Central Lakes College even though you do the training at the dive training center. So you have an education institution backing it directly. You could take college courses hand-in-hand with the level of dive training you decide on. Most inland work is in relatively shallow water but have their own specific problems with things like sever cold, confined spaces, and lack of visibility.
These folks have all those environments to train you in. The draw back is that your certification will limit you to working in 80 feet of water. But if that's where you are looking to work, then you won't need anything else. There are many inland divers that have never been deeper than 50 feet or have never dove in sea water.
They will work with you to try and gear further training to specific needs that you plan to work, such as inspections and welding. The choice of a diving school does not have to be limited to the United States. There are many fine diving schools in other western countries that offer far more extensive training, certify you to work world-wide, include room and board and are still often cheaper in cost than the US diving schools.
Schools outside the US usually get a lot of foreign students and are geared to assist them with travel, immigration, and other special arrangements that may need to be made. Most of the English speaking countries such as Canada and the UK are usually no problem to enter in as a student.
But each country has its own immigration laws and you should double check any restrictions or special needs when you inquire to any school outside the US. So if you are looking to work in that capacity, you will have to attend a school outside the US. Financial aid may be a consideration as well, since countries that have grant or loan programs generally reserve them for their own citizens.
Schools that admit a lot of foreign students may have arrangements with local financial institutions to assist their students, and some US financial institutions and federal programs will allow you to use the money to pay for education in another country. Talk to the institution you are interested in attending, they generally have all the details on this subject because they deal with it on a daily basis.
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The school is on an island which gives you the opportunity to concentrate on training with no outside interferences. Room and board are furnished and included in the cost of tuition. Accommodations are 2 per room and three meals a day, seven days a week. I find having room and board included can be a plus for students in many ways.
It eliminates the need to hunt down places to live and part-time jobs in order to pay for living expenses while your trying to train.
Having everything furnished for you on site, allows you to concentrate on nothing but your studies. I had very productive conversations with two of CWDI's instructors who were very informative, knowledgeable and accessible. Canada has a Free Trade Agreement with the US, but I'm not sure how this will work for financial aid from either country. I'm sure the school will be able to get you that information and assist you in that area if you are interested.
The course is entensive, with hour days, so be prepared to buckle down hard if you decide to attend CWDI. If you have training and experience as a "hard-hat" diver in the Navy, grab your log books and your certifications and go directly the the dive companies.
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Off-shore companies will start you out as a tender like everyone else, no matter your experience, but you do not have to attend a commercial diving school, even though the ACDE schools will tell you that. A nice resume' will help make you look good. All the schools offer tours to the prospective student.
If you live near the area of one, then by all means take them up on it. However, don't waste your money on a major trip to see the training facility. A diving tank, is a diving tank. Facilities are all more or less the same and knowing what they look like before hand is of little significance unless you want to know something about the area for working or living conditions.
School visits are usually great pressure sessions to get you signed up and your paperwork started. If you want to see what your getting into before you make a decision, spend your money on a trip to one of the larger dive companies. They will give you a tour just as readily if you call them in advance, and you can get a far, far better picture of what you will be getting into. To apply for one of the commercial diving schools you need to be at least 18 years of age at the time of enrollment, and have a High School Diploma or GED equivalent.
Most schools start training from the ground, so you do not have to have any previous diving experience. Only, Young Memorial require you to have a basic scuba certification before starting their diving training. This is required so that they can keep the their courses short and training costs down. Assistance is available to obtain your c-card in the local area, if you need that, for an extra fee.
As a commercial diver, it will be rare that you have to swim in water unattended so you don't have to swim like Mark Spitz. Most divers simple drop down to the job site and usually don't even wear fins unless they are doing inspection work or rolling video that requires them to move around.
You at least feel 'comfortable' in and around water. Any added abilities is just gravy. If you apply and meet these simple requirements, you will get admitted to any of the schools. Some of the ACDE schools have some sort of selection board to approve admission, but it is rare that anyone is refused unless they do not meet the minimal standards mentioned above.
Most of the diving schools will start your training from the bottom as if you have no diving experience at all. The training usually starts with SCUBA basics, and you will get a recreational scuba diving certification along with your commercial certification upon graduating as an added bonus.
If you already have some level of SCUBA certification from one of the recognized recreational associations, then you are ahead of the game and have a good background on the two more difficult areas most students have the hardest time in, physics and physiology. If you plan on going to Young Memorial, who require you to have a scuba certification first, my advice would be to try and get it locally rather than at the location of the commercial diving school.
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Any local dive shop can instruct you in basic scuba and it will more than likely be much cheaper and easier for them to work around your present work schedule. Certification from any of the major recreational diving associations will be acceptable. Most of the diving schools have agreements with secondary education institutions or are accreditated colleges themselves, and give college credits for a lot of their course work. Ask the training facility what kind of college credits they offer for their courses.
If you are already a certified scuba diver, you probably already own most of the diving gear you will need.
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If you have not been diving, you will need the basics-mask, snorkel, and Fins. You will also need a wet suit. If your going to Young Memorial, all you will need is the wet suit because they do no scuba diving, you start right off in a hard-hat. Get a 6mil wet suit for the colder states. You can get by with a 3 mil in CA and TX schools.
The schools will love to sell you everything you need at much inflated prices, so get your diving gear before you leave for dive school. You can go to your local dive shop and probably get a much better price and not be in a rush to make a selection. You don't need a c-card to purchase things like fins and masks. Even better prices can be found in mail order catalogs. They often advertise in a lot of the scuba magazines, and on the internet. Don't spend great gobs of money on this stuff either. You don't need anything fancy to train in. Once your certified and working, you will have a chance to talk with experienced divers, and test other types of gear to make a more informed decision on what you like best.
The same goes for a wet suit. Get a used one, because they are only going to get messed up during training.
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Lots of shops sell off their rentals after a while, and you can get some good deals. If your an experienced scuba diver and have lots of gadgets and gizmos, leave 'em at home. You won't need them unless you plan on diving during your time off. But that will be limited and you have to fit in studies and sleeping and probably working.