Want to know what it’s like to work as a diving instructor? As part of my series with travel jobs, I’ve interviewed some experts who’ve been working as dive instructors around the world to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
Jacob and Frida have been working as dive instructors both in Thailand and New Zealand. This article series is meant to inspire and help you to find a job that allows you to travel the world and make money at the same time.
1. How do you become a diving instructor?
To become a dive instructor, you need to finish a scuba diving course at a dive school. There are several organizations who offer courses, but PADI and SSI are the two biggest branches, but not the only ones. In short, you will learn the hobby levels such as Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and later on more niched courses.
After that, you will reach the Pro-levels which consists of a divemaster, assisting dive instructor and diving instructor. But that’s not the last step for those who wish to work as a dive instructor because there are more levels where you can become more advanced as an instructor.
The price will vary from school to school and different countries have various price levels for the courses. Some offer so-called “Zero-to-Hero” courses that have a length of a few months, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend that because I think it’s better to get your education in various places, to improve your diving skills and learn the job for real.
2. How does a normal working day look like?
At the place where we worked and made the Open Water Course for 3 days, a regular day could be a combination of theory in a classroom and diving, either in a pool or from a boat. For example, the day could start with a theory lesson where you learn more about diving in the morning. After lunch, you will pack the diving gear and go out by boat to dive.
In one day, you might do 2 dives in the afternoon with a small break in between. After that, you go back to the dive center to clean the gear and after that, you’re finished for the day.
3. What’s the best part about working as a dive instructor?
The best part about working as a dive instructor is the fact that you get paid to go diving, which is quite insane! Every dive is special, and even if you go diving at the same spot, you’ll get a different experience every time and find new things.
We also think it’s fun to educate others and help them evolve their diving skills. And of course, meeting all kinds of interesting people from around the world. It’s especially rewarding if a person is very nervous at the beginning, and later on conquer their fear and become confident in the water by the end of the course.
Then, there is also the bonus of getting to live in places where people spend lots of money to come for vacation, such as a tropical island with palm trees, turquoise water, and white sandy beaches.
4. Are there any cons about the job?
If there is any con about working as a driving instructor, that would definitely be the salary. You won’t get rich by working as a dive instructor abroad, but we still love the job, and it’s a lifestyle that’s nicer than many other lifestyles.
Just imagine getting paid for doing something that you love and an activity that people save for all year to enjoy.
5. How much do you earn as a diving instructor?
We’ve been working at two different dive schools, a regular diving school in Thailand and another one in New Zealand, which wasn’t aimed for tourists. In Thailand, you received salary per student, so if you just had 1 student, you would be paid for 1 person, but if the same course had 4 students, you would receive a higher salary.
Then you also have commission when you sell more advanced courses as well as gears such as dive mask, snorkel, etc. The salary varies from place to place, but in short, you will earn enough money to live a comfortable life as a diving instructor.
6. What are some of the most common mistakes that students make?
Many students are nervous before they go diving, which is fully understandable. It usually disappears after they have put on their diving suit and go into the water, especially when they realize it’s not that difficult to breathe underwater when you have the tubes.
Many are also scared of diving into the open ocean because of waves, currents, and sharks (which has an unfairly bad reputation). But then they go into the water and see the first fish swim by, and the stress is gone from nowhere and they forgot that they were scared in the first place.
7. What hours do you work as a diving instructor?
In short, you will work when you have customers, especially during high-season, and when you don’t have any students, you can get a day off. A common day starts with some theory around 9 o clock in the morning and ends around 5 pm.
If you have a morning dive, you might start your working day as early as 5 am to get ready packing and prepare. If you have a night dive, you’ll likely start around 6 pm and won’t be home until 11 pm. Some places also have sales shifts where the instructors will stay after the dives to get more customers.
Most dive instructors work seasonally, so it’s quite intense during high-season, but relaxed during low-season.
8. Are there different diving certificates?
There are various levels of diving certificates, such as Open Water instructor, Advanced Open water instructor, Dive Master instructor, Instructor coach, etc. And as mentioned earlier there are different organizations which set their own standards to become a certified diving instructor.
PADI and SSI are the two most common standards.
9. What’s the worst thing that has happened to you as a diving instructor?
To be honest, there hasn’t been anything alarming. Of course, there have been lots of students who were stressed and nervous about their first dive, but only one who got a real panic attack in the water. It’s quite uncommon for students to panic because the course is built up in small steps, so most people feel that they’re in control the whole time.
However, there was one time when I was diving in the Philippines, and we were diving around a shipwreck. At the end of the dive, I heard a loud bang, and first thought that I had touched the shipwreck, but I was already 2 meters away. Then I started to feel bubbles in my neck and realized that something had broken so the air escaped from the tubes.
One of my diving buddies heard the bang and saw the bubbles, so when I realized what had happened, my dive buddy was already there and shared his air with me before we went up together. This could’ve potentially become a dangerous situation if I had panicked or if my dive buddy would’ve been too far away from me.
10. Do you have any favorite destinations for diving?
We’ve been diving a lot in the Philippines, especially around the islands of Cebu and Bohol where there are some incredible dives. There are lots of diving sites there with variation so you can choose after your own interests, for example, drift diving, macro diving, or if you want to deep dive or see sharks.
If you want to dive around shipwrecks, we suggest visiting Coron!
More about Jacob and Frida
Jacob and Frida is an adventurous couple from Sweden who have lived in many different countries in the last couple of years. They run the travel blog Everyday Explorers where you get to read about their life and follow their travels. Jacob and Frida have also been working as ski instructors and at a summer camp in China.
They also have a great passion for diving and have made various cool dives around the world. At the moment, they live in China and you can follow them on Instagram @Everyday.explorers
Jacob and Frida were also ambassadors for Momondo at the same time I was, and we’ve had a contact for years and follow each other on Instagram. I also met up with Frida in Stockholm, and if you don’t already follow them, I can recommend it because the two of them are amazing and the kind of people that follow their dreams and passion!
More tips for you who want to work as a dive instructor abroad
- Start with an Open Water course and Advanced Open Water course
- Choose between PADI and SSI
- Weigh the pros and cons of the two
- Ask other diving instructors for advice, such as Jacob and Frida
- Save a buffer for unexpected expenses while you’re away
- Join diving groups on Facebook
Do you have more questions about working as a diving instructor? Leave a comment below!