When to make the jump to divemaster?

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I'd like to start looking for a preceptor for DM soon, but would like to know if people with experience think its worth waiting.
No reason to wait. The Divemaster course in itself is the test. If you prepare yourself physically and mentally the course will be a breeze. You cannot compare diving with professional athletes, anyone who thinks otherwise will be deleted.
DM used to be my favourite and most satisfying course to teach. I'll add to what two others have said

You should have good buoyancy and trim already. As an example you should be able to carry out a mask remove and replace at a safety stop with no large vertical movement. Also make sure your swimming and stamina skills are upto standard. It's frustrating having to spend a lot of course time bringing a student up to what should be the entry standard rather than teaching then new stuff

Secondly interview prospective shops. Do they insist on the demo skills being neutral or on knees (the latter is a red flag)

How long is their course - if they give you very short course durations move on. I used to like my DM's to spend 3 months (even if part time) with us to perfect their skills and spend time with different instructors

DM is less a training course, more of a mentorship, it's not cheap so it's up to you to get best value for your money
Update: I've started the course with an instructor friend of mine who has certified me in several specialties. It'll take just under a year, and the requirements are fairly stringent/in line with the PADI standards. It'll be a thorough mix of secondary assistantship with OW classes, classroom/skills time, self-guided learning, and salty practice in the brisk New England seas. Thanks to everyone for their feedback and encouragement.
Good luck and enjoy the program! It is challenging and rewarding all at once! Just finished mine and got my DM Number! (And the gear exchange isn't nearly as bad as everyone says...)
OP, when I was doing my divemaster training, I offered to help with classes wherever I was diving, with whomever. Most places/instructors took me up on it, and I got valuable experience and feedback from it.
I signed up in 2009 and had 158 dives. This seemed right for me, but who knows. I found the PADI course very challenging and had to really work on perfecting my skills to demonstration quality. This was the "old" course with all the theory, a lot of which was apparently removed in 2010 or so in favour of several more practical things-- probably a good move.
There is a difference between being certified and being qualified. You sound like you’re much more interested in being qualified as a DM 👍🏻.

My advice, take it slow. There’s no time target to complete the course, subject to the logistics of your chosen instructor or DC.

I wasn’t working in the industry when I did my DM so did a hybrid paid/internship over around seven or eight months… paid so I could dictate the pace (to a degree) and internship so I ‘learned’ the trade.

I probably spent a total of seven weeks ‘working’ with the rest of the time a mix of theory, skills, etc. was working full time in the U.K. but had a good deal of flexibility.

So I guess what I’m saying is don’t worry about certifying as a DM, focus on becoming more like the DM you want to be. You can start that journey immediately!

As an aside I think I had around 150 dives?
Figured I'd post an update on my progress, and see if I can get more free advice in the meantime.
I started the program last August (living in NE, things can take a while). I've done Dive Theory online, been working monthly with my preceptor helping with OW pool sessions, checkout dives, and acting as an assistant DM on local dives with the same preceptor.
I've done just about everything in the packet. I believe the big remaining things are to turn in my mapping project, and take Part 1 of the final exam.

There are some question marks I'm still working on if anyone has any recent experience:
-If I answer "no" to everything on the medical questionnaire, presumably I still need a physical and to have a provider sign off?
-Where I live, things like Skin Diver, DSD, etc. classes don't come up too often. Is it a requirement to assist with/instruct every one of these offerings?

Any input people have would be awesome.

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