Do you ever dream about quitting your 9-5 job and turn your passion for scuba diving into a career? Deciding to become a dive instructor is a BIG step. It’s the type of career that will change your life completely. Getting a clear overview of everything you need to know to make a well-informed decision can be overwhelming. To make your life a bit easier, I put together everything you need to know to become a dive instructor.
Click to jump to the following topics:
Why you should become a dive instructor
Why you should not become a dive instructor
Requirements for becoming a dive instructor
What to expect during the Instructor Development Course
How long does it take to become a dive instructor?
What materials and equipment do you need to become a dive instructor?
How much does it cost to become a dive instructor?
How much does a dive instructor make?
How to choose your Instructor Development Course
A little disclaimer
Before we kick off, it’s important to stress that jobs in the dive industry are extremely scarce at the moment. In most countries the tourism industry (and therefore dive industry) is non-existent as a result of the pandemic. Many people will discourage you to pursue a career in diving, and although their skepticism may be justified, if this is your dream you should follow it. Yes, you need to be realistic about the job prospects, but things will get better eventually. In any case, deciding to become a dive instructor is not something you do overnight, so it’s never too early to start gathering information and prepare for the big step.
WHY YOU SHOULD BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR
Just in case you need a little reminder why you should consider becoming a dive instructor in the first place, here are some of the most common reasons:
- Get paid to do what you love
- Work in some of the most beautiful places around the globe
- The ocean is your office
- Meet people from all over the world
- Opportunity to contribute to ocean conversation
- Share your passion with others
WHY YOU SHOULD NOT BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR
Amazing as that all sounds, the life of a dive instructor is far from perfect. If any of the following applies to you, you may want to reconsider:
- You don’t like to work hard
- You want to get rich
- You just want to dive as much as possible
- You’re not a people’s person
- You’re impatient
- You have no sense of responsibility
If you want to get a better image, read my article about what it’s really like to work as a dive instructor.
REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A DIVE INSTRUCTOR
As you may see, the life of a dive instructor isn’t for everyone. But with the right personality and mindset, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have. Let’s take a look at the minimum requirements you should meet to become a dive instructor. For PADI they are:
- Certified as a PADI Divemaster or the equivalent by another training agency
- 18 years old
- Completed EFR Primary and Secondary Care training within 24 months
- Medically evaluated and cleared for diving by a physician within 12 months
- Minimum of 60 logged dives to start the training (that should include experience in night, deep and navigation diving)
- Minimum of 100 logged dives to do the exam
- Certified as a diver for at least 6 months
For other training agencies the requirements may vary.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT COURSE
If you meet all the aforementioned criteria, you may enroll in a scuba diving instructor course. In PADI’s case it’s called the Instructor Development Course (IDC). The IDC consists of two parts: the Assistant Instructor (AI) course and the Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) course. However, most IDC’s will kick off with the Emergency First Responder Instructor (EFRI) course because this rating is mandatory to become a dive instructor. After the IDC follows the Instructor Examination (IE).
Instructor Development Course
The IDC is a very intensive program that teaches you how to conduct all PADI core courses independently. The focus lies very much on learning how to teach. Because people who qualify for the IDC already have the Divemaster rating, dive skills and skill demonstration are not practiced during the IDC anymore. If it’s been a while since you’ve completed your Divemaster training, it may be worth it to refresh these things before starting the IDC – because you do get scored on it.
What you will learn
The IDC consists of dive theory, classroom -, confined water- and open water presentations and workshops. In the ‘new’ IDC (since 2019) the theoretic part of the course is done by e-learning, so you spend less time in the classroom and more time practicing your presentation skills.
What that means is that you get assigned a certain part of a certain course, for example the mask removal skill of the Open Water Course. You have to teach (or ‘present’) this part to your fellow instructor candidates. They play the role of your students and will give you predetermined problems (of course these are unknown to you). It is your role to catch these problems, and handle them accordingly. Making mistakes is very much a part of the learning process.
Other thing you will learn during the IDC:
- PADI Standards and Procedures for courses you can teach with in water workshops
- Learning, Instruction and the PADI System
- Risk Management and Diver Safety
- The Business of Diving and your role as an instructor
- Marketing Diving and Sales Counseling
Throughout the whole IDC your performance will be graded, and your overall score needs to be high enough to be admitted to the IE. The IE is not conducted by the dive center where you take the IDC, but by PADI examiners, and is usually attended by instructor candidates from various dive centers. During the IE you will be graded on your classroom-, confined water- and open water presentation skills, and there is also a theory exam.
Most people take the IE immediately after the IDC because everything is still fresh in their minds, but this is not mandatory. Your IDC score remains valid for 12 months, and within that timeframe you may take the IE anywhere in the world.
Many training facilities offer some kind of MSDT program after the IDC. MSDT stands for Master Scuba Diver Trainer and is a higher instructor rating than OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor), which is your rating after completing the IDC. To qualify for the MSDT rating, you need to have a minimum of 5 specialty instructor ratings, and certification of 25 students. Those certifications you can only obtain by teaching, but you can get a head start by taking a number of specialty instructor courses, which is what the MSDT program is for.
A good training facility also offers the possibility to team teach after completing the IDC, also called co-teaching or ‘learn to teach’. It means that you team up with a more experienced instructor to teach your first few courses together. Although you are officially an instructor after completing the IE, and you are allowed to do so independently, going out there by yourself is scary in the beginning. So it’s extremely valuable to have an experienced instructor to help you out while you build up your confidence.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR?
As you already read in the requirements for becoming a dive instructor, you need to be a certified diver for at least 6 months before starting the IDC. Many training facilities offer a ‘zero to hero’ program that takes you from the Open Water Course all the way to instructor, but because of this requirement it will always take you at least 6 to 7 months to complete.
The length of the IDC itself varies per training facility, but here are some general guidelines that apply to most programs:
- EFRI course: 2 days
- IDC: 10 days
- IE: 2 days
So in general, you should expect around 14 days to complete the whole thing. After successfully completing the IE, it usually takes a few days for PADI to activate your teaching status. During this time you are not allowed to teach yet! But after such intensive weeks, most people are very grateful to have a few days of mandatory rest 🙂
WHAT MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR?
Most IDC’s require instructor candidates to have their own set of dive equipment, including a dive knife, compass, surface signalling devices and a dive computer.
Besides your own dive equipment, you also need the Digital Instructor Candidate Crewpack and the Slate Pack for the IDC. The crewpack consists of the IDC e-learning, Diving Knowledge Workbook, PADI’s Guide To Teaching, exam booklets and instructor manuals. These materials are mandatory, and you can either buy them yourself or at the dive center where you take your IDC.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR?
The total cost of becoming a dive instructor depends on many things. For this article I will only focus on the costs of the IDC, but even this varies per country and even per dive center. On top of that, dive centers often offer packages, and they are not all the same! Some may include the EFRI course or the Crewpack, and others don’t. It’s therefore very important to get a clear picture of what’s included when you compare prices.
To give you an idea, here’s a cost overview of the IDC at Instructor Development Philippines, where I did my training.
IDC & EFRI program: Php102,500 or $2,117 that includes:
- IDC: 11 days
- EFRI: 2 day
- IDC & EFRI Crewpacks
Besides the costs for the IDC, there are application fees that need to be paid directly to PADI. Please note that these fees change slightly every year. Below are the fees for 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
Your total budget for to becoming a dive instructor should include much more than only the IDC. Read more about how much it costs to become a dive instructor.
HOW MUCH DOES A DIVE INSTRUCTOR MAKE?
As you can see, it’s not exactly cheap to become a dive instructor. That automatically leads us to our next question; how much does a dive instructor make? Again, this varies widely between countries and dive centers, but in general you need to accept that you will not make a lot of money. Being a dive instructor is something you do out of passion.
In general dive instructors get paid on a commission basis. So the more you teach, the more money you make. Some dive shops give a (small) base salary, others don’t. At some dive shops you get paid per student, at others per course. Some dive shops provide room and board, others don’t.
As you can see it’s hard to put an exact amount on it. Generally speaking, when working fulltime in a tourist destination, you can make enough money for a simple living. As an example, here in Dauin (Philippines) an instructor may make anything from Php20,000 ($410) in a quiet month, to Php60,000 ($1,280) in a busy month. Instructors in very busy holiday destinations or high-end resorts may make more than that during high season.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT COURSE
Choosing your instructor development course is no easy task. The amount of options can be overwhelming! To start with, I suggest you decide where you want to work after the IDC. It’s much easier to find a job as a dive instructor if you’re already in the area and have your own network there.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a country, it’s time to start comparing prices. As you’ve seen before, the packages dive centers offer vary a lot, so make sure that you get a clear picture of what’s (not) included in the course price. Ask specifically if there are any hidden costs. The place where I did my IDC certainly isn’t the cheapest option out there, but they throw in lots of freebies such as:
- 3-day IDC prep course
- Emergency Oxygen Provider Instructor specialty course
- 10 fun dives
- Adaptive techniques workshop
- Equipment maintenance workshop
- 2 weeks Learn To Teach program
Questions to ask
After you have an idea of the costs, it comes down to gut feeling. Some things to consider:
- Are they eager and timely to reply to (all) your questions?
- Are they willing to set up a video call with you?
- Do they make a professional impression?
- Will they help you find a job after the IDC? This is never a guarantee of course, and it doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and wait for the job offers to come in. But a good Course Director will use his/her own network to help you as much as possible.
- What happens if you fail the IE? Will they allow you to retake the IDC for free, or will you be charged again?
Of course you should also ask for recommendations. A great place to do this is in Facebook scuba diving groups. Another good resource is rateyourdive.com, a rating website for dive professionals and dive centers.
I hope this article has helped you to form a clearer picture about becoming a dive instructor. If you’re still not really sure if this is the right career for you, you may want to check out my other article about what it’s really like to work as a dive instructor.
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