How to Become a Certified Scuba Instructor

Last Updated: February 8, 2023

There are two kinds of people – those who love to go scuba diving and those who wouldn’t try it for a million dollars. If you fall into the first category, then there’s a good chance you’ve thought about becoming a professional scuba diving instructor.

Dive instructors get to work outside in the water and sunshine every day. Each day promises a new adventure and you get to work in amazing locations. You can’t expect to be a full-time scuba diver if you live in a cold, land-locked environment.

For example, if you live in Detroit or Minneapolis, you aren’t going to find any work as a scuba dive instructor. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to travel for work. Imagine spending two weeks per month in a resort town somewhere in the Caribbean. Very few people can say the same about their job.

As wonderful as this all sounds, it is only possible for people who are certified scuba instructors, or divemasters as they’re often called. Unless you’ve gone through the certification process, it can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re a novice diver.

scuba diving class

Here, I’ll be discussing the requirements to become a diving instructor. The costs involved, what kind of jobs you can get with the certification and what to expect to earn as a divemaster. So read on and ask yourself if this is something you want to pursue.

How to Become a Dive Instructor – Step by Step

Becoming a scuba diving instructor is no easy feat. The process can seem arduous and intense. It’s not simply a matter of passing a test.

You have to take a series of courses, log at least a hundred dives, and complete the IDC (Instructor Development Course). Once all these steps are completed, you can apply for the OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor) examination.

If you’re considering becoming a certified scuba instructor, you must complete the following:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must log at least 60 dives before you can even apply to be an instructor
  • You must complete a series of courses, including but not limited to:
  • Open Water
  • Advanced Open Water
  • Rescue Diver
  • Emergency 1st Responder
  • Dive-master
  • You will also be required to go through several certification levels and take some specialty courses. The more certificates you hold, the greater your experience level for examination purposes.
  • Apply for the IDC and pay the requisite fees
  • Log an additional 40 dives (for a total of 100)
  • Complete the IDC program and pass the examination
  • Request and pay for your scuba diver instructor certification (OWSI)

Once you have completed these steps (in this order) you will be the proud holder of an Open Water Scuba Instructor’s certification.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor?

When it comes to the cost of a dive instructor certification, there is no flat fee. There are a series of fees that you must pay along the way. Generally speaking, the fees are as follows:

  • The certifications from divemaster through instructor are anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000.
  • Each course costs approximately $1,200. The Emergency 1st Responder course is an additional $250.
  • The instructor exam and application fee is $900.
  • It will cost you an additional $550 for the PADI online exam.
  • You may spend additional funds on any prep materials you choose to buy.
  • Don’t forget to consider the costs of the 100 dives you need to take the final exam.

All in, as you can see, it will cost close to $10,500 to go from diver to instructor. This does not include the cost of the dives, the prep materials and the equipment you need to buy along the way.

cost to be a scuba instructor

What Qualifications Do You Need?

I already outlined the requirement you must meet in order to apply for the instructor’s course. However, there are other basic qualifications a candidate should have if they want to be accepted to the program. These same qualifications will apply to instructors when they’re looking for a job.

The qualifications for becoming a dive instructor include the following:

  • You must have your Advanced Open Water certificate
  • Completion of the Rescue Diver course
  • Certificate from the Emergency 1st Responder course
  • Divemaster course
  • 100 logged dives (60 logged dives to apply for divemaster course)
  • Good physical shape
  • Outgoing personality
  • Ability to tolerate all waters, regardless of temperature or type.

If you meet all of these requirements, there’s a good chance you qualify to sit for the divemaster’s IDC course. These qualifications also demonstrate that you have the necessary experience to become a divemaster.

How Long Does it Take?

Although it doesn’t take long to become a certified diver, but it’s hard to say just how long it takes to become a scuba dive instructor. Theoretically, a person can go from first-time diver to divemaster in about 6 months. However, it rarely happens this way. Each course can be taxing, and most people like to take their time moving from one course to another. The same is true for the IDC itself.

Most people need a year or more to log the first 6 dives. It can take another 6-8 months to complete the last 40 dives. Unless a person was independently wealthy, it would be difficult to complete the entire program in 6 months. Most people have to work while they’re working toward their certification.

It may be better to think about the timeframe to complete the IDC. The IDC can take anywhere from 5 days to a week and a half. It all depends on how many hours per day a person can commit to the classes and practicum. It takes another 2 days to sit for the actual examination. All told, the IDC process is a minimum of a week and half. Most people take closer to 2 weeks to finish the IDC and sit for the test.

How Much Do Divemasters Get Paid?

become a divemaster

A lot of people who think they’re interested in becoming a dive instructor change their mind when they hear what the base scuba diving instructor salary is. For most, the average annual salary is about $20,000. That amount is much more than what most people need to survive the year.

It’s important to point out, therefore, that there are several ways you can make extra money. If you have your divemaster’s certificate, you can take short-term jobs in beautiful destinations. For example, in the off-season, you can travel to tropical destinations and work for resorts in need of instructors. You can also run your own small boat tour company. With this certification, you’re qualified to do all sorts of jobs – not just a diving instructor.

You also need to remember that, as a divemaster, you’ll likely have access to discounts on dive equipment and paraphernalia. Imagine you work for a resort that offers scuba diving or outings. While you’re working for them, they’ll offer a 50% discount on any gear or equipment you need.

The other benefit is that almost all resorts and diving centers will cover your liability while you’re working for them. This is a huge benefit. If you have to cover your own insurance costs, it can run you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a season.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Scuba Certification?

Not everybody who gets their divemaster certificate wants to teach people how to dive. Sure, that is the most common job associated with it. However, there are all sorts of jobs you can apply for that have nothing to do with resort dive clubs.

Some of the interesting jobs you may be qualified for include:

  • Marine archeologist
  • Underwater photographer
  • Public safety diver (assist the police in criminal searches)
  • Scientific research diver
  • Dive center/resort manager
  • Underwater stunt person
  • Commercial or saturation diver – exploration, inspection and construction jobs – oil and gas companies, engineering firms, and shipping companies

Now the only question is whether this is the lifestyle for you

Now that you have the information you need to be a scuba diving instructor, the only question left is whether this is the sort of lifestyle you want to live. If you’re tired of your office job or 9-5 position, maybe it’s time to spread your wings and try something different.

Scuba instructors get to spend all of their time outdoors and in the water. They don’t work when it rains so they get to enjoy sunshine, day in and day out. They get to meet new people all the time and other scuba diving workers become a second family.

If this sounds like something you need in your life, it’s time you go online and find local courses near you.

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