Alright. You’ve read my article on how to become a dive instructor. You know how much it will cost you. You know what it’s really like to work as a dive instructor. And YES – you still want this! Congrats my friend, you have an exciting journey ahead of you! But there’s one question that remains: how to find a job as a dive instructor?
When you start your IDC you’ll soon find that you’re not the only one looking for the perfect scuba instructor job. The competition is generally very high, even more so because of the pandemic. Landing a job in the dive industry is hard, even under normal circumstances, but it’s certainly not impossible. Besides, I strongly believe that there will always be work if you’re good at what you do. Nevertheless, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances, and I’m going to share them with you here!
These tips are merely examples of things you can do to improve your chances of finding work as a dive instructor. Not following one (or a few) of them definitely doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. They are simply methods to distinguish yourself from the competition and taking away obstacles. Some things may work for you, and others may not – and that’s ok! You can’t be good at everything, so focus on your strengths instead.
The first question you need to ask yourself is where you want to work as a dive instructor. You’re going to make your life a whole lot easier if you do your IDC (Instructor Development Course) in the same area. Dive center owners are much more likely to hire someone they can meet in person over a candidate they can only interview in a video call. So just being in a specific area and having a network there, gives you an advantage over the rest of the world.
Another reason why you want to decide on a location first, is because that will largely determine your budget!
Not exactly the most exciting part of becoming a dive instructor, but nevertheless one of the most important ones. I’ve seen lots of people who had to return home early or accept a job under terrible conditions because they ran out of money. If you don’t want to be that person, make sure to read my article on how much it costs to become a dive instructor.
Although someone’s total number of dives doesn’t always say everything, employers (understandably) do look at it. An instructor with a thousand dives looks better on paper than an instructor who has the bare minimum of 100 dives. The person with less dives may be a far better instructor in reality. But this is about an employer considering you for a job! So while you’re waiting for your scuba career to kick off, get in the water and dive as much as possible.
What’s arguably even more important than your number of dives, is having experience in different dive environments. Although experience in ice diving probably won’t be directly useful if you want to work in Indonesia, it does say something about your overall dive skills. Not to mention the cool stories you can tell your students! So try out different things: wreck diving, dry suit diving, technical diving, you name it. There are so many options, and it’s probably the most fun way to distinguish yourself from the competition.
Ask the average dive center owner about the best way for a dive instructor to differentiate himself, and he will probably tell you: languages. The more, the better. And make sure one of them is Chinese. Honestly, I always roll my eyes a little bit at this advice. As if learning an entirely new language is no big deal. But the truth is that if you work with tourists, speaking multiple languages gives you a serious advantage over others. So if you already have some basic knowledge of another language, it’s definitely time for a refresher and to add a bit of scuba vocabulary. If you really have zero talent for languages, don’t despair. It’s not important in all areas of the world, and there are other ways to set yourself apart.
Another way to increase your chances of finding work as a dive instructor is with specialties. As a PADI instructor you may teach the PADI core course after completing the IDC: Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Divemaster. But there are many other courses out there, called specialty courses. These are all upselling opportunities, so the more you can teach, the more valuable you are to an employer. Pick your specialties wisely: Enriched Air Nitrox, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Deep Diver are generally the most popular ones. But if you want to work in an area with a lot of shipwrecks, then Wreck Diver should be on your list too!
When you can teach at least 5 specialties and have certified 25 students, you may also apply for your MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) rating. Most training facilities offer a special MSDT package. This lets you can take a number of instructor specialty courses for a discounted rate. The PADI application fee is $111 AUD or €43 per specialty which you pay only once.
This is one of those things that may work very well for some people, but not for everyone. If you have no affinity with social media at all, by all means don’t force it. But if you’re already active on social, don’t miss out on the chance to let it work for you!
We all know that employers Google job applicants, and you decide what they get to see. You can use your social media accounts to your advantage by positioning yourself as a passionate instructor and an expert on scuba diving. The goal is not to become an influencer (unless that’s something you want – then go for it). The goal is to show your future employer – and potential customers – what you’re all about, in a way that no resume can. And if you enjoy doing this and you’re good at it, you can even offer to use your social media skills for the dive center you’re applying to.
Many people don’t consider social media to be a skill, and that’s all good. But in almost every diving job I’ve had, both fulltime and freelance, my social media accounts played some role in getting hired.
Your online presence is important, but don’t underestimate your real-life network either! As mentioned before, many employers prefer to hire someone who’s already in the area over an instructor they have to fly in. As with everything in life, it often comes down to who you know and if they like you. So spread those wings, you social butterfly!
Here are some tips to build your local network specific for the dive industry:
Go out for drinks
This might just be my favorite method to find work! Luckily for you, most dive professionals like to have a beer or two at the end of the day. Some people may not like this drinking culture, but you can certainly make it work to your advantage. Go out and mingle, have fun but don’t get too drunk! Remember that the goal is to find work and not make a fool out of yourself.
Use your Course Director
Many Course Directors help their students find jobs, and their network is often huge! Think about all those former instructor candidates who are now living their best life as a dive instructor or dive center manager. Some day you may be one of them, but for now you can use that network for your own good. Assuming your predecessors were happy about their own training, they’ll prefer to hire a candidate who has received training from a Course Director they know and trust.
Visit dive centers
And not just to hand over your resume. One of the nice things about the dive industry is that you can force potential employers (or at least their staff) to hang out with you – by going diving with them! This is the perfect opportunity to show your expertise and who you are as a person. Be proactive in helping other guests, but know your place. Nobody likes a know-it-all who’s constantly giving out unsolicited advice. Going out for a day of diving also gives you the opportunity to experience the business from a customer perspective. Are things running smoothly? What could be improved? Talk to the staff, are they happy? Ask yourself at the end of the day: do you still want to work there?
Participate in clean up activities
Many dive centers organize beach clean ups and clean up dives. It’s a great way to meet people and to show them you care about the environment. And even if they don’t want to hire you, at least you did a good deed 🙂
Visit dive shows
If you’re not really sure where you want to work yet, going to a dive show is a great way to meet a bunch of potential employers at the same time. Unfortunately, most dive shows have been canceled because of the pandemic this year. But when things go back to normal this is a great and fun way to explore your options.
It goes without saying that you need to study for the IDC. Although you will learn a lot, there’s so much more to learn about scuba diving! It’s safe to say that you will never be done studying, before, during and after your training. To some people that may not sound appealing, but if you want to be good at anything, you should never stop learning. Especially when your job involves the safety of others! Besides, if you’re really passionate about scuba diving, it should be fascinating to learn new things about it. There are a lot of good books about scuba diving out there, but this should be a good place to start:
- Let’s start with what you have: the course materials of your previous training. If you haven’t started doing your divemaster training or IDC yet, rereading your old course materials is the perfect way to prepare. I’m sure you don’t remember everything!
- The encyclopedia of recreational diving: you get this book in your PADI Divemaster crew pack, but you can also buy it separately. The title doesn’t sound very exciting, but there’s a wealth of information in it, including about the history of scuba diving. You’ll find lots of fun facts you can use to impress your future students (or potential employer).
- Deco for divers: aka the bible of decompression theory. This is a must-read for everyone who’s interested in decompression diving, or for instructors who want to explain the concept of decompression more clearly to their students.
- Diver down: learn from the mistakes of others! This book tells you the stories of diver errors, often resulting in serious injury or death. This is a must-read for all dive instructors, if only so you can use these stories to scare your students.
How to find work as a dive instructor: conclusion
If you’re going to take away anything from this article, it should be that differentiating yourself is extremely important in the dive industry. However you choose to do that is completely up to you, and this list is by no means complete. There are countless ways to set yourself apart, like being a mechanic, underwater photographer or marine biologist. As mentioned in the beginning of the article, whatever works for you depends on your personal situation and talents. But I hope that this list gives you some inspiration for where to start.
Do you wonder what’s waiting for you after you finally find a job as a dive instructor? Check out my article on what it’s really like to become a dive instructor.
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