People ask me all the time how I became a dive instructor! I can say that it is not an easy (or cheap) process, but if you have a passion for diving and have the right personality to teach, it's an amazing way to do what you love - and if you want, live in some pretty interesting and exotic places.
Since I can only speak for my own experience, this post is focused on how to become a PADI dive instructor. There are many training agencies around the world for basic certification all the way up to instructor - some of the more common ones are SSI, NAUI, BSAC, SDI/TDI, CMAS - but they are all different and I really don't know what the other ones are like.
|the day i passed my instructor course!|
(Prices are from Roatan in 2012 and have probably gone up a bit - and keep in mind Roatan is one of the cheapest places in the world to do diving courses.)
- Open Water Diver - the basic diving certification course. 3-5 full days plus homework at night. $300-450
- Advanced Open Water - a step up from the Open Water course. 2-3 days. $275-400
- Emergency First Responder - before starting the Rescue course, you have to have a current First Aid certificate. If you don't have one from somewhere else, you'll need to take this. 1 day. $100-$150
- Rescue Diver - a seriously physically and mentally challenging course where you learn how to react to emergency situations above and below the water. 3-4 days. $300-400
- Divemaster - the first professional step. Usually an internship where you work in a dive shop while studying dive theory, practice skills and dive leadership. Must have 40 logged dives to begin. 6-8 weeks. About $2000 including PADI fees. Once you are a 'PADI Pro' you will have to pay yearly professional fees to keep your standing. If you don't pay, your certification level reverts to Rescue Diver. I think it's around $90/year to maintain a Divemaster rating.
- Open Water Scuba Instructor - this is a 'dive instructor'. Usually a 8-12 day Instructor Development Course (IDC) with a 2-day Instructor Exam (IE) at the end. About $2000-3000 including PADI fees. It's about $250/year to maintain an instructor rating, plus some shops require you to maintain professional liability insurance. You must have 100 logged dives by the end of the IDC to participate, and have been a certified diver for at least six months.
- Master Scuba Diver Trainer - this is a small step up from a regular OWSI. All it means is that you have certified at least 25 students, and that you are licensed to teach 5+ specialties. There are a few ways to be certified to teach specialties, but I took the route of doing an MSDT prep week with my course director after the IE which takes 5-7 days and costs $600 and up depending on how many specialties you want. PADI fees depend on how many specialties you choose, they are around $70 per specialty. This is the instructor level I'm currently at.
- There are a few higher instructor-level ratings but they're kind of irrelevant for this post and since I haven't achieved them yet I can't tell you much about it. Check the PADI website if you need info on that.
|doing a refresher with one of the first open water courses i ever taught. this lady was nearly 70 and it took me almost three weeks to get her certified, but she did it!|
Certifications don't always mean everything... there are some local dive guides on Roatan who never went past the Rescue level, and they have 35,000+ dives on this reef. When I was a brand-new OWSI, I had 119. Who would you rather go out with for a fun dive? As a certified diver, I'd rather go with someone who has more experience on the reef. Who would I rather have teach me how to dive? An instructor. Just something to keep in mind (looking at you, newly certified OWSIs on Roatan who like to tell the boat captains who used to be divemasters here for 15-20 years how a site is supposed to be done).
Now, having your piece of paper that says you can teach people to dive isn't everything. Most shops expect instructors to have their own set of full gear. Full gear means: BCD, regulators/console, dive computer, fins, mask, snorkel, wetsuit/drysuit, knife, torch, etc. I bought all mid-range stuff and spent close to $6,000 for everything new 2.5 years ago. I have already replaced a BCD (thank god my dive shop was a ScubaPro dealer and let me order one at the dealer price of $250, otherwise it would have been around $600-800 retail), had one mask stolen (a $75 mask) and replaced with a $25 (dealer price) one, had a torch die (a $90 light that ScubaPro wouldn't replace because I lost the receipt), and had to get increasingly larger wetsuits as I gained weight here (thankfully free from dive shop lost & found). I am going to need a new dive computer soon which will probably run me around $600. I also pay $165/year for the highest level of DAN dive accident insurance - as a dive professional, because of how much time I spend diving I have a higher risk of having an accident, and with a ride in the hyperbaric chamber costing $8000-10,000 per treatment, I don't want to pay for that. Every diver (even recreational) should have dive insurance. Most travel policies don't cover scuba diving, so be sure to look into it.
|get ready for killer triceps from hauling tanks all day|
Oh, and once you become a dive instructor? Unless you work in one of the very few places in the world where you make decent money (but still not great), be prepared to get paid shit for how much work you're expected to do. Also, there is no guarantee that you will get work! You'll be competing for jobs with instructors who have way more dives and experience than you, and since you get paid the same no matter what your experience level is, dive shops will almost always choose the more experienced candidate. Instructing is not all rainbows and butterflies all the time either.
I have spoke at length on this blog about how little we get paid (and how often people don't realize they are supposed to tip). Most people are shocked when they find out my salary. From talking to friends who are instructors all over the world. you seem to be able to make enough money and save a bit in places like Grand Cayman and Australia. Anywhere else (the rest of the Caribbean, SE Asia, Indonesia) you usually make enough to live and have some beers with your friends a couple nights a week and that's it. I don't recommend this career path full-time for anyone who has student debt, loans, or credit card bills. It's highly unlikely you'll make enough money to make monthly payments consistently, especially if you want to go home to visit once a year or do any traveling. This is not a career you get into for the money. It's a career to get into to share your passion and knowledge of the underwater world with others. Sometimes I get frustrated and stressed about finances when my other non-instructor friends here are taking holidays from Roatan (yes, we still need holidays when we live in paradise...we're still working, we're not retired!) and I have to cut back on my groceries for the week because I don't even have enough money for everything I want to eat for the week.... but then I take someone for their first open water dive and see the amazed look on their face. There is nothing in the world that beats that feeling.
|happy instructors on a staff dive!|
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