Currently there are three Rolex Scholarships: North America, Europe, and Australasia. Each Rolex Scholarship provides a hands-on introduction to underwater and other aquatic-related endeavors for a young person considering a career in an underwater-related discipline. One scholar is selected from each of the three regions and each scholar spends approximately one year working side by side with current leaders in underwater fields. Each scholar travels primarily within his or her region, but may have opportunities throughout the underwater world. The range of experiences may include active participation in field studies, underwater research, scientific expeditions, laboratory assignments, equipment testing and design, photographic instruction, and other specialized assignments.
Scholars pursue activities in their chosen disciplines during the one-year period between Our World Underwater Scholarship Society® annual spring meetings. Experiences may last from a few days to over a month. At the conclusion of each experience, the scholar moves on to another, so the scholarship year involves extensive travel.
The scholar is literally on the road from spring-to-spring with very little time at a home base. Scholars spend most of the year with the society's friends, hosts, and coordinators around the world. The experiences vary from year to year depending upon the scholar's interests and the availability of expeditions and hosts' opportunities. These experiences make up the real heart of the scholarship. The opportunity to join a host's daily activities exposes the scholar to the realities of the host's special pursuits.
Each of the three Rolex Scholarships has a coordinator who works with the scholar to organize their itinerary - emphasizing breadth of experience, but tailoring the itinerary to the individual scholar’s background and interests. These itineraries include time with specialists in such areas as biology, hyperbarics, anthropology, and archaeology. Scholar hosts include scientists, engineers, filmmakers, and marine mammal researchers. Visits to dive store operations, classes in underwater photography, and working with conservation organizations are also typical experiences.
These experiences provide the scholars with a broad overview of careers in the underwater world. Scholars may spend varying lengths of time investigating:
- Commercial and Research Diving
- Ecological Activism
The global underwater community sees the selected North American, European, and Australasian scholars as individuals with the potential to make significant contributions to the underwater world even though they may not have yet chosen a specific career path. During the course of the year, exposure to a wide array of types of work and the chance to actually jump in and experience specific jobs provides scholars with invaluable career-deciding opportunities.
The scholarship emphasizes hands-on experience in activities that will contribute to a well-rounded education and a broad network of contacts.
The Our World-Underwater convention established the first scholarship in 1974 and until its sale in 2000 was the primary funding source to the Society. Today, the Society offers three Rolex Scholarships as well as a variety of internships and other educational opportunities.
The Rolex Scholarships are primarily funded by donations from Rolex Watch USA and Rolex-Geneva. The Society and its other educational programs are additionally funded by generous corporate and hosting, organizational partners, as well as individuals.
The original amount of the scholarship was $5,000, and it has been raised in increments over the years. This amount is reviewed at the Board of Directors's annual meeting. The maximum cash amount for the North American Rolex Scholarship is $25,000, for the European Rolex Scholarship the amount is £20,000 and for the Australasian Scholarship Aus $30,000
Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society® funds are used for transportation and living expenses. The North American and European Rolex Scholars must submit a complete accounting for all expenditures. Logs, journals, financial reports, and other communications are mandatory and must be submitted monthly to the Scholarship Society for review by the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.