How to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor (Simple Guide!)

How to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor

Do you know the best spot for a weekend getaway? Are you getting excited about the thought of being able to escape from this pandemic stricken world? Consider going underwater. It’s a place that traffic, social media and coronavirus hasn’t invaded. Deep down in the aquatic world, the only thing you will hear is your own breathing.

How do you travel underwater? First, you must have your passport – learn to scuba dive. And, if you love diving and truly want a complete escapade from this chaotic world, might as well think about a career as a scuba diving instructor. How about that as a means for you to earn while you share incredible underwater adventures?

The History of Scuba Diving

Scuba diving has its roots in the 1930s when divers explored the underwater using snorkels designed from garden hoses coupled with handcrafted spears. The earliest divers did it in the Mediterranean coast and in Southern parts of California, USA. Back then, the only gear sold commercially were fins and goggles. 

Today, the scuba diving industry is estimated to be worth $20-30 billion dollars. Moreover, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) alone reports to have certified about 900,000 divers each year. It is also worth noting that this aquatic sport or hobby has evolved from a pastime activity to one that serves as a means for a living. Yes, scuba diving instructors do make real money out of this exciting hobby. 

Preparing Yourself to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor

Preparing Yourself to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor

What equipment should you prepare as a scuba diving instructor? Those who dream of a successful career as a dive instructor must have their own set of equipment such as fins, mask, snorkel, diver’s tool, slate and dive table. 

To become a PADI dive instructor you will also need to have your own buoyancy control device, equipped with low pressure inflator, depth gauge, compass and timing device. Other equipment that you must invest in if you’re serious about taking the instructor development course include a regulator, one that is designed with an alternate air source. 

Most dive professionals should also have the submersible pressure gauge, signaling devices, air horn, bangler or whistle, flare, signal mirror and pocket mask. Dive instructors should also have a DSMB with reel or spool, pocket mask and weight belts. 

Although these equipment can be rented in a dive shop, you need to invest in your own if you are to secure a job someday as an instructor for people who want to learn how to dive into the depths of the ocean. How about the other requirements? Well, the truth is being a scuba diving instructor has a great deal of requirements.

The Scuba Diving Instructor Requirements

The Scuba Diving Instructor Requirements

Scuba diving instructor requirements will mostly include the following: 

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Certification as a divemaster
  • Has at least 100 logged dives, which includes experience diving at night. Diving experience must also include deep and navigation diving. 
  • Must prepare at least $3000 to pay for the instructor development course
  • Must have completed CPR and first aid training within the last two years. 
  • Must pass the IE or Instructor Examination

A Quick Overview of the IDC

A Quick Overview of the IDC

What is an IDC? The IDC or Instructor Development Course is divided into two parts. These are the following:

1.  The Assistant Instructor course. 

This is a partial certification course which enables one to co-teach with a certified dive instructor. Candidates who passed the Assistant Instructor course will have the opportunity to proceed to OWSI certification training. Passing this training will allow one to teach PADI core courses autonomously . 

2. Open Water Scuba Instructor Course

Those who want to become a professional diving instructor must complete the entire IDC program and then take the IE or Instructor Examination. Passing this exam qualifies them to become certified PADI open water scuba instructor.

3. The Instructor Examination

Once you have completed your Instructor Diving Course, done practicing your instructor skills and have spent enough time underwater, it is time to take the instructor examination. This test usually takes two days to complete. Passing this test would mean you are now a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified diving instructor. 

This instructor evaluation consists of four-standalone sections. You have to gain a passing score on each of these sections to be able to qualify as an instructor. But you can possibly retry some parts of the exam at a later date if you did not pass it the first time. 

These four sections of the PADI instructor development course are all written exams which test your personal knowledge. It will also require you to demonstrate what you have learned in a classroom setting. You will also be demonstrating your skills learned in a pool setting and in an open-water setting. 

Although most parts of the scuba diving training can be considered easy, there will also be some parts of it that are truly challenging. For example, you will be asked to demonstrate your skills by walking a faux student in a CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent) situation.

Mastering CESA is Crucial

Mastering CESA is Crucial

CESA or Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent  is a form of emergency swimming ascent that should be done with much control and should be performed at the safest ascent rate, along with continuous exhalation at a rate that is less likely to cause overexpansion of the lungs. Violating the rules of CESA leads scuba divers to suffer from decompression sickness. 

Decompression sickness occurs when divers ascend too quickly thereby causing the nitrogen content of decompressed air to form bubbles in the body. This leads to nerve and tissue damage. When these nitrogen bubbles enter the nerves and block the blood flow to the spinal column, brain damage could occur. 

This is why open water scuba instructor training recommends doing a safety stop at about 5 meters for 5 minutes. This length of time enables the diver to get rid of nitrogen from the body before finally making his final ascent. Therefore, every scuba diver has to learn how to respond to a CESA emergency. 

The Different Types of Dive Instructor Programs

The Different Types of Dive Instructor Programs

There are several educational programs that a budding dive teacher may choose from. These programs offer different specializations. Most scuba diving classes focus on teaching recreational scuba diving. Other instructor development course classes also teach diving to novice divers. 

Other programs for  scuba diving instructors include technical diving and diving specialties such as cave diving and night diving. Technical diving involves a lot of risk as it allows one to explore the underwater world to greater depths. These diving instructors see things underwater that very few people in the world were able to do so first-hand. 

The Three Phases of Scuba Dive Instructor Training

The Three Phases of Scuba Dive Instructor Training

What does the training include? Becoming a certified dive instructor would require one to go through three phases. These include the following:

1. Learning Fundamental Skills

During this phase of the instructor development course, some of the things that you will learn would include what to consider when planning your dives. You will also be taught on how to choose the most suitable scuba gear. It is also during this phase that you will learn underwater signals and other basic diving procedures. 

2. Practicing Confined Water Diving Skills

In this phase, you will be practicing your diving skills in a confined water setting such as a swimming pool or in a very calm beach. It is in this training that you will start getting more familiar with the use of your scuba gear and your skills in underwater exploration. 

Some of the knowledge you will gain during the second phase of the instructor development course are setting up your scuba gear and learning how to get rid of water that enters your mask. You will also be learning about the proper way to get into the water and get out of it. Other things that will be taught in this chapter also include buoyancy control, safety procedures and the basics of underwater navigation. 

You will be practicing all these skills with a certified instructor until you are more comfortable doing it on your own. Once you have gained much familiarity about these fundamental skills, it is time to move on to the third phase of your scuba diving instructor training. 

3. Practicing Open Water Diving Skills

This is when you and your instructor will conduct open water dives, meaning you will be out in the sea wherein the diving conditions will no longer be as controlled as when you were diving in confined waters. In this stage, you will have the chance to deeply explore the underwater world using the skills you learned in phase two. 

In this phase, you may also have the chance to explore your local environment but still have the option to explore other locations. This option may also depend on your chosen IDC. Just make sure to talk with your instructor to know how you can make arrangements with other PADI instructors in another location for your open water dive training. 

Where to Take Your Scuba Dive Instructor Course

Where to Take Your Scuba Dive Instructor Course

One instructor development course may be different from another. Every dive center has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, you have to carefully choose which center you think will work best. 

There are many IDC courses offered anywhere in the world. Wherever you want to take the course, see to it that you have enough time to devote to the course, as well as the budget. Although taking up your diving course somewhere else is much more interesting than in your own local dive center, you will be learning basically the same set of skills. 

Is it better to take the course locally or in another destination? The advantage of taking up a course in instructor development locally is the fact that you do to have to spend much money on travel expenses. You also need to consider the type of environment where you prefer to be teaching.

Although you will need to learn the same skills as a dive instructor no matter what country you choose to take it, there are some things that may differ once you start teaching. For example, the diving conditions, water visibility and temperature are few of the things that may vary from one diving destination to another. 

 Language is also another important thing to keep in mind. The last you want to happen is learning your diving skills from an instructor who barely speaks your own language. It is best to earn the course in a setting where language barriers do not exist. It is crucial for you to be able to communicate well not just with your peers but most importantly, with your instructor. 

What is PADI? PADI or Professional Association of Dive Instructors is the most highly recognized educational center for scuba diver training. Many divers prefer to undergo PADI instructor development course since they are known to provide high quality training, done by the best and most qualified teachers. 

Other organizations that also offer courses similar to PADI include Scuba Schools International, the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) and Scuba Diving International (SDI)

Internships for Scuba Diving Teachers

Internships for Scuba Diving Teachers

Learning how to become a scuba diving instructor also requires one to undergo internships. Depending only on our chosen IDC, you will be asked to undergo internship programs which can also help you lower your cost for IDC.  This is something that can only be offered by accredited IDC.

How does an internship take place? This is where you will be assisting the dive master in teaching others, You will also assist him in all other tasks round the dive shop. The internship program will give you an opportunity to be able to teach students and learn what it’s like to be working in a dive shop. 

Joining an internship program can cover almost half of the total cost of IDC certification. The best thing about it is  that you will immediately have an actual guide experience as an instructor even before you have earned your certificate. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to become a scuba diving instructor?

The entire dive instructor certification course may range from several weeks to years. It all depends on your time, budget, capability and access to these courses. The IDC alone will take at least 5 days to one week to complete. The Instructor Examination will run for two days. Learning how to become a scuba diving instructor takes much time and the duration will mostly depend on your learning curve.

2. How much do scuba instructors make?

How much money a scuba diving instructor makes will depend on a lot of factors. Obviously, rates do change from one location to another. But, how much really? A scuba diving teacher who works in Santorini, Greece reports to be receiving a fixed monthly salary of 1100 EUR. 

In Mallorca, Spain, a scuba instructor claims to be receiving 1300 EUR per month. While an instructor in Malta receives a monthly salary of 1200 EUR per month. In the United States, most instructors claim to earn between $18,000 to more than $35,000.

Some Dive Instructors make as low as US$500/month while others can make US$4000-US$6000/month and others will make anything in between. A dive instructor salary and how much a diving instructor can make, depends on a few important factors.

How much a dive instructor makes will depend on a lot of factors such as whether it is a fixed salary, commission based or an “earn-as-you-work” rate. Some instructors in the United Sates claim to have been receiving as low as $500 per month. A PADI diving instructor may also receive as much as $4,000-$6,000 a month. 

There are also different ways to earn as a scuba diving instructor. Many instructors receive commissions and tips on top of their salaries. Fixed salaries are mostly offered in Cruise Ships and Liveaboards. Being employed in these companies allows one to make as much as $1,000 to $1,500 a month. 

A PADI diving instructor working in Santorini, Greece makes as much as $1,230 a month. In Mallorca, Spain, an average instructor receives $1, 460 a month. While an instructor in Malta, Mediterranean reports to have been receiving a monthly salary of $1,340. 

3. How much do divemasters make a year?

In the U.S. dive masters can make between $19,500 to more than $140,000 a year.  The average annual earning of a certified diver is $60,000 or more. 

4. How much does PADI IDC cost?

If you are planning to learn how to become a scuba diving instructor, be prepared to spend at least $2000 -$3000. This cost will cover the $1,200 for IDC course, $350 to pay for Emergency First Responder Instructor certification, $550 for the cost of online learning via PADI and $900 for the Instructor Examination. 

5. What can you teach as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI)?

Becoming an OWSI certified will make one fully authorized to teach several courses such as Adventure Diver/Advanced Open Water Diver, Dive master, Discover snorkeling, Adventure Diver, Rescue Diver, Seal Team and Discover Scuba Diving

6. What is the difference between a dive master and a scuba diving instructor?

A dive master is considered as a dive leader where you will be assisting a certified instructor on scuba courses. On the other hand, a certified instructor has the authority to teach alone and without the help of a dive master. 

A dive master will be the one to lead and takes responsibility for the other certified divers when they’re out for diving sessions. Dive masters should be at least 18 years old and must be fit enough to dive. 

Dive masters should have passed certifications in EFR Primary and Secondary Care, Rescue Diver and Open Water Diver. They also need to have logged at least 40 dives before they can sign up for the program. Then, they should engage in 60 dives before finishing the dive masters course. 

You can never be an instructor if you are not a certified PADI divemaster. This goes to say that instructors function both as a PADI divemaster and as a scuba diving instructor.

Other Skills You Need as an Instructor

Other Skills You Need as an Instructor

Keep in mind that having the in depth knowledge of the padi system are not enough for you to become successful in this field. Signing up for training on how to become a scuba diving instructor does not mean you only need to master what’s in the handouts, booklets, course modules or dive theory. Other skills you need to excel in the dive industry include:

Customer Service

A PADI instructor also needs to possess a great deal of customer service skills that will make you more than qualified to lead students. Customer service skills can make you among the most in demand instructors.


Your confidence as a scuba instructor will make you more capable of handling variable conditions when out there in the vast ocean. Note that confidence is obvious. Students can easily sense whether the PADI instructor is confident about your own skills. The more confident you become, the more credible you are in the eyes of your students.

Sense of Humor

Furthermore, do not forget the importance of humor. It will definitely make your classes less boring and more fun. Besides, diving under water is such a fun activity to indulge in and people who signed up for the course will also be expecting the same. So, the PADI instructor should try to add fun into it by mustering your sense of humor.


A scuba instructor needs to possess patience. This is important given the fact that not all student divers possess the same level of learning curve. When one student finds it hard to master a specific skill, be prepared to extend your patience. This way, the PADI dive instructor can still continue to teach the student without the need to do it in an intimidating atmosphere.

Getting Insured as a Scuba Dive Teacher

Getting Insured as a Scuba Dive Teacher

Becoming a teacher in the dive industry who trains underwater skills is a matter of life and death. The job entails a lot of risks. Therefore, you have to make sure that you are insured. But how do you choose an insurance provider? Choose an insurance company that offers policy which covers criminal defense costs and any other legal liability in the event that you will be sued for physical injuries that occurred while teaching a student. 

It must also cover any civil liability in the event that you will be sued by your dive buddy. The insurance policy you choose must also be able to extend coverage to your principals. Your principals may include tour operators, hotel owners, local authorities or schools and anyone who provides you with students or clients. 

So, who’s the best scuba dive teacher? From the point of view of many students, the best instructor is not just the one who possesses all the technical skills but teaching skills as well. Consider privately teaching your student who is having difficulty removing water from the mask just to be able to keep him in the group. This may seem a trivial thing to do. But it says a lot about your desire to help people learn.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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