So you want to become a dive instructor. Been there, done that. And I haven’t regretted it one single moment! If you’re still figuring out how and where to start to make this life changing career move, you may find my article how to become a dive instructor helpful. Or if you’re not really sure if this is the right path for you, check out what it’s really like to work as a dive instructor. But if you’ve already made up your mind and want to know how much it costs to become a dive instructor, you’ve come to the right place. Yes, your instructor course is a huge part of your budget, but unfortunately your expenses don’t stop there.

This article is written for those who consider traveling abroad to become a scuba instructor. Your total budget depends on many different factors and your personal preferences, so I will not attempt to put an exact number on it. Instead I will talk about all the things you need to consider when determining your budget, and I give you a cost indication as a reference whenever possible. Spoiler alert: becoming a dive instructor doesn’t come cheap!

Instructor Development Course

Pretty obvious, but prices can vary significantly per country and even per training facility. Most dive centers offer packages, but it’s not always clear what’s included and what isn’t, making it complicated to compare prices. When asking your Course Director for a price indication, make sure to ask for a complete overview including course materials, application and examination fees and sanctuary fees. A professional training facility will be transparent about the total cost of their program, but just to be sure you should ask them if there are any hidden costs. There are so many training facilities out there, and comparing them can be overwhelming. Read more about how to choose your IDC.

Tip: If you’re taking more than one course with the same dive center, many places give you a discount – but you sometimes have to ask for this yourself.

Instructor Development Course costs

You probably already know that scuba diving courses aren’t cheap, and the instructor course is no exception. I did my PADI Instructor Development Course in the Philippines and that program currently costs Php 102,500 or $2,117. 

On top of the price for the IDC, there are also fees that need to be paid directly to your training agency (PADI, SSI, RAID, etc.). These are the fees for PADI in 2021 in Australian Dollar (for the Asia Pacific region) and in Euro (for Europe, Middle East and Africa):

  • IDC application fee: $280 AUD / €185
  • Instructor Exam fee: $975 AUD / €640
  • EFR Instructor Application fee: $193 AUD / €115

The fees for other training agencies may be different.

If you want to become a PADI instructor and immediately go for your MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) rating, you should take these fees into consideration as well:

  • MSDT application fee: $151 AUD / €81
  • Specialty instructor application fee: $111 / €43 (per specialty)

You pay these application fees only once, but your agency membership needs to be renewed every year. For 2021 the renewal fee for PADI was $507 AUD (not taking the Covid discount into consideration). Typically the renewal fee increases slightly every year.

Dive equipment

Before you can become a dive instructor, you have to be a divemaster first, so chances are you already have your own full set of dive equipment. But because many people combine their Divemaster Training and Instructor Development Course I’ve included dive equipment here anyway.

As a divemaster or dive instructor you’re required to have your own full set of dive equipment. There are a lot of options out there, but now is not the time to be cheap. Your gear is what keeps you alive underwater, and as you’ll be spending a lot of time there you better make sure it fits and works well. Besides that, salt water has the tendency to wear materials down easily, so if you go for the cheapest options you’ll just end up replacing it all the time.

For a full set of dive equipment, I recommend to reserve at least $1,500. You could spend less, but you could definitely spend much (much!) more.

Accommodation

Unless you do your instructor course in your hometown, you need to include accommodation in your total budget to become a dive instructor. Most training facilities offer some kind of in-house accommodation, but you may prefer to find your own. You will definitely need your rest so I don’t recommend a dorm or other places where you’ll be easily disturbed. This is of course a very personal choice! In case you prefer to find your own accommodation, your Course Director can usually recommend something close to the training facility, depending on your preferences.

Cost of living

The cost of living obviously varies per country. Here are some things to consider:

  • Food: some IDC programs include a daily lunch and snacks, so that’s definitely something worth asking about. For dinner you will most likely eat out or order something. Even if you have the facilities to cook, it’s very optimistic to think that you’ll have time (and energy) to do so every day.
  • Going out: for me personally this was the last thing on my mind during my IDC, but that may be different for you! But even if you don’t plan on partying, I recommend reserving some money for it anyway. You’re going to meet a lot of new people, so chances are you’ll want to socialize a bit at some point.
  • Transportation: How are you going to get around? Is everything within walking distance or do you need to take public transportation? Maybe you want to rent a scooter?
  • Visa
  • Cell phone data/wifi
  • Shopping and souvenirs

Travel and dive insurance

I see so many people travel and dive without insurance and let me tell you: many of them end up regretting it. I have my dive insurance with Divers Alert Network and would recommend them 100%. Their dive insurance packages start at $40 per year in the US and around €60 in Europe, depending on your country of residence. Once you become an instructor, DAN also has a very nice option that automatically covers your students for the duration of their course! 

You could choose to add general travel insurance on top of your dive insurance, or you can get travel insurance separately. How much this will cost you depends on many factors such as your country of residence, age and claims you may have made in the past. To get an accurate estimate it’s best to contact your local insurance provider.

Life after the IDC

If you’ve passed the IDC and Instructor Examination, you’re now an Open Water Scuba Instructor. Congratulations! I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but don’t assume you’ll find a job right away. Make sure you have enough money to get by for at least six months without finding a job as a dive instructor. It probably won’t take that long, but it takes the pressure off so you don’t have to accept every shitty job you’re offered 🙂 

Do you want to know what’s waiting for you at the other end of the IDC? Find out what it’s really like to work as a dive instructor.

Flying back home

Many dive instructors work abroad, so if for whatever reason you need to fly back home unexpectedly, you want to be able to arrange that without having to worry about money. How much that will cost you of course depends on how far you are from home. Generally speaking I’d reserve around $1,000 for this.

Safety buffer

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t end up spending more than planned, so make sure to have a safety buffer! Your dive equipment could break. You may get into an accident (I hope not though). Or maybe you just partied a bit more than you expected (told ya). The amount you want to set aside as a safety buffer is entirely up to you, but personally I’d go for at least $2,000.

You probably see now why you should start planning and saving way ahead of time. This can be frustrating, but on the plus side it gives you time to really think things through – instead of making an impulsive decision. Let’s summarize and look at all the different things you need to include in your budget:

Summary: how much does it cost to become a dive instructor?

Let’s take a look at all the different things we’ve discussed:

Instructor Development Course$2,000
agency fees$1,100
dive equipment$1,500
accommodationvariable
cost of livingvariable
dive insurance$40 p/y
travel insurancevariable
life after the trainingenough to survive for 6 months
emergency plane ticket$1,000
safety buffer$2,000
TOTAL?

How much you’re looking at in total will be different for everyone. In my case my total budget was around $12,000. I’m sure there are people who get by with much less, and I didn’t actually spend all of it (thank god). But having that extra money in my bank account gave me a lot of peace of mind. And it was the main reason I was able to sustain myself during the first months of the pandemic, when most other dive instructors had to return home because they were out of work.

I hope this gives you an idea of all the things you need to consider when deciding how much it costs to become a dive instructor. But it’s just as important to look at your return on investment. Click here if you’re curious about the salary of a dive instructor!

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