By Angelina Cecchetto on 26th February 2013
Many of my friends have asked me how to become a scuba dive Instructor and although I am by no means the ultimate specialist I can share some tips on how to become a scuba dive Instructor, keeping in mind that things can change very quickly in the diving industry.
First of all I would say that there are several schools, companies or organizations to go with for those interested in becoming dive instructors. The two main organizations are PADI or Professional Association of Dive Instructors founded in the late 1960’s and SSI or Scuba School International founded in 1970. Both are international companies and are therefore found and recognized worldwide.
To reach instructor level you have to do a certain amount of certifications. With PADI this is more or less the fastest path to become an instructor:
- Open Water Diver Certification: 4 logged dives
- Advanced Open Water (AOW) Certification. Before doing the AOW you normally have to have 20 logged dives recorded in your log book
- Rescue Diver Certification
- EFR Certification
- Dive Master (DM) Certification (1st PADI Professional certification). Before doing the DM you normally have to have 40 logged dives recorded in your log book and at the end 60
- IDC (Instructor Development) Course. Before enrolling onto the IE (Instructor Examination) you normally have to have a minimum of 100 logged dives.
With SSI this is more or less the fastest way to become an instructor:
- Open Water Diver, Level 1: 5 logged dives
- Level 2: 12 logged dives
- Level 3: 24 logged dives
- Level 4: 50 logged dives
- Level 5: Dive Guide Certification (1st SSI Professional certification): 50 logged dives
- Level 6: Dive Master: 50 logged dives
- Dive Control Specialist
- Open Water Instructor. You need a minimum of 75 logged dives before and 100 logged dives at the end of the course.
If you are starting from scratch you can in theory become an Instructor in more or less 6/7 months, at least with PADI. I personally recommend gaining some experience as a Dive Guide or Dive Master before enrolling into the Instructor course for 2 main reasons. First to get some experience and knowledge of the dive industry and its people, in particular with the people managing or owning dive shops or dive centers. The second big reason is money. Get some experience first to see if you really want to invest another 2500/3000$ average in course cost and fees. If money is not an issue then go for it!
Many IDC centers offer package prices that cater for all the different entry levels from non-divers to all the certified levels. You can check them online by looking for “IDC centers”. I would say that if you start from scratch it will cost you roughly 5000 to 6000$ in courses and fees. Then you have to take into account the fact that during the few months that you are doing the courses and dives you have to feed and lodge yourself very often at your own cost. So be generous when you prepare your budget! You can actually choose the countries where you decide to do your course accordingly to the languages and/or resources you have to invest. The 2 cheapest countries in the world for courses costs are Honduras (Utila) and Thailand.
Before enrolling onto an IDC course, not only you will need a certain amount of dives but also your complete set of diving equipment and this amounts to an average of about 2000$ depending on the brands and conditions of the gear you go for.
As far as salary is concerned once you are a DM or an OSWI, it depends hugely on the country in which you work and even the dive center you work for. There are no strict regulations worldwide as to how much a dive pro should earn so it is down to each individual to negotiate their contract and salary when they can. What I can say is that you don’t become a dive instructor to make big money!
Now there are ways to cut down the costs of the courses. There are many dive shops who will train you as a DM for free in counterpart of you working for them for a pre-arranged period of time. If you think of this option beware as some employer will try to squeeze you like a lemon and treat you like a “glorified slave”. Once again there are no regulations there so it’s up to each individual to negotiate terms. One thing that I have noticed is that it can be a bit more challenging to find jobs as a DM in some tropical countries as generally they tend to employ locals as DM.
To summarize I would say that there are as many positive sides as there are negatives to become a dive instructor. It’s a great job but it can be quite a precarious one, very often you don’t get a written contract of employment; you get paid in US dollars, when you are sick or when the port is closed due to bad weather for instance, you don’t get paid either. This being said you can get written contracts and a base salary but this is mainly in more structured or bigger dive shop chains.
I hope this answers a few questions and helps some of you to make the right decisions for yourselves. If you have other questions, please feel free to post them!