Work in Diving

PADI Instructor Course: What to Expect and How to Prepare for your IDC

PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course) is the second level of PADI’s professional training.  One of the PADI instructor requirements for enrolling in IDC is to be a PADI Divemaster first.  If you have not yet completed the first professional rating and want to learn about that first, check out the post on becoming a Divemaster here 😉

Years ago when I used to work in a cubicle, my desktop background used to be a photo of palm trees, endless turquoise ocean, and a white sand beach. 

I would stare at this tropical paradise on my desktop and think to myself, “I wish I could have this as my office view!”

And a few years later, paradise was indeed, my office view!   I could have never imagined the kind of life that would become possible by becoming a scuba dive instructor. 

become a scuba instructor in paradise
one of my former office views

What I love about being a Scuba Instructor

Aside from having a breathtaking office view every day, I also loved the simple lifestyle.  It was SO refreshing to roll out of bed, put my hair in a bun, put on my bikini, and walk out the door.  No more styling my hair, fixing my makeup, ironing my blouse, or color coordinating my office attire!  

And even though I wasn’t sure what kind of a teacher I would make at first, I really enjoyed teaching.

I think what makes scuba diving programs unique is that students who sign up for a lesson want to learn how to dive.  They made an effort to get to a tropical destination, spend their hard-earned money on this venture, and commit 3-4 days of their vacation time to complete the course.  So most of the students I had were excited, determined, and willing to do what it takes.  And their drive made me want to teach them everything I knew, and show them a great time.  And a great time, we had! 

PADI IDC: Mo teaching Advanced Open Water course in Malapascua
Teaching an Advanced Open Water Course

Are you a good fit for a life of a diving instructor?

Let’s quickly assess if you are a good fit for a life of a scuba diving instructor.  How much do you agree with the statements below?

  • I am a lover of the ocean.  I’d be a mermaid if I could.
  • Strangers?   Send ’em my way!  I love meeting and socializing with new people 🙂
  • Who needs shoes?  Walking barefoot and connecting with nature is awesome.
  • I’d been looking for a good reason to get rid of make-up!  Yes, finally!
  • Naturally bleached hair?  Super – why did I ever spend a fortune on highlights!?
  • Ashy skin?  Isn’t that why they invented moisturizers?  Better yet, give me some coconut oil!
  • Peeing in the ocean?  Not a problem for me – just show me where I jump in.
  • It breaks my heart to see any piece of plastic or trash in the ocean!   Humans need to do better to help preserve our mother nature, and it starts with me!

Did the statements resonate with you?  That would be a fantastic start.

Next, ask yourself WHY you want to become a scuba diver instructor.   If working as a dive professional is your idea of building wealth you might as well move on to plan B.

The only way you will ever enjoy being a scuba instructor is if you love diving and sharing the magnificent underwater world with others by teaching them how to dive.  As fabulous as being a dive professional is, it is not always rainbows and unicorns.

While you may imagine that our lifestyle consists of sipping on cocktails at sunset and swimming with pretty fishes for a living, the reality of a dive professional is actually far from how it looks.

But if you are determined to pursue this career path, the following sections will review key factors you would need to consider when deciding on your next step, which is your PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course)

becoming a scuba instructor: practicing bandaging in EFR
Teaching how to bandage an ankle in EFR Instructor Course

 PADI IDC Frequently Asked Questions

#1  What are the Prerequisites to become a PADI Dive Instructor?

To become a scuba instructor, you must participate in PADI IDC and pass the PADI IE (Instructor Examination).

Before enrolling in the IDC you must first meet some minimum requirements:

  1. Be a certified diver for at least 6 months
  2. Have at least 60 logged dives and 100 dives to attend an IE (Instructor Examination)
  3. Emergency First Response Primary and Secondary Care (CPR and First Aid) training within the past 24 months.
  4. A medical statement signed by a physician within the last 12 months
  5. Be a PADI Divemaster

The IDC program will include PADI Assistant Instructor component and your Emergency First Response Instructor training (which are required for your instructor certification)

#2  How long do PADI instructor courses take?

Most PADI IDC’s are generally 2 weeks long.   You have an option to complete your dive theory online, which means that you will have more time during your IDC to practice skills, rather than sit inside the classroom (I recommend it!)

Depending on the package you sign up for (additional instructor ratings, for example) the program may last longer (and cost more).

Some IDCs offer a program that will lead you to a Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) status.  An MSDT is a rank that shows the instructor has obtained a minimum of 5 specialty ratings and 25 teaching certifications.  Having a Specialty Rating allows an instructor to teach a specialized topic within diving such as diving deep (to 40m), diving with Nitrox, diving a shipwreck, etc.

When I signed up for my IDC, I also signed up for an additional MSDT program.  It was a personal choice, as I believed that having an MSDT rating would be an added value to my resume and help with a job search upon completion of the program.

Frankly, I did not feel quite confident or ready to start teaching an entire PADI program to newbies only after 2 weeks of IDC!   So I wanted to spend a bit more time observing other instructors teach PADI courses and being mentored on delivering PADI instruction.

After completing my 2-week IDC and passing the IE, I spent almost 2 additional months shadowing other instructors, learning the PADI standards, and practicing teaching PADI programs (and yes, this was an added cost to the IDC).

#3  How much does PADI IDC cost?

Similar to the dive master program, different dive centers will offer various IDC packages.  

When you compare prices, make sure you are comparing apples to apples – not apples to oranges.

For example, some packages may include PADI IDC crew pack (materials you will need for the course), others may not. 

Here is a list of fees associated with a basic IDC program, materials and application (in USD at the time of writing in 2017):

  1. IDC cost (this can vary, but generally around $1500 for a 2-week program)
  2. Emergency First Response Instructor Course $200
  3. Instructor material $500
  4. PADI application for IDC & EFR $310
  5. Instructor Exam fee $635
  6. PADI Active Teaching Status fee ~$300
    Total = $3,445

Of course, if you decide to add additional Specialty ratings or participate in an MSDT internship, you will incur additional costs (varied by dive shops).

#4  Where is a good location to do my PADI IDC?

If you are already a PADI Divemaster and contemplating where to do your IDC, the best way to choose a location is to solicit recommendations from other instructors.   It probably helps to narrow down to a geographic area such as Asia or Central America – then start asking around.

While these are not necessary criteria, some factors you may consider for choosing your IDC location are PADI Career Development Center status and the Course Director

A dive center that is classified as a 5-star Career Development Center is recognized by PADI as providing high quality professional training and demonstrating commitment to enhance career opportunities for dive instructors.   Usually, a PADI career development center offers continuation programs such as MSDT internships and PADI speciality courses.

A PADI Course Director (CD) is the instructor of future instructors, who is ultimately responsible for equipping YOU to become a scuba instructor.  You want to make sure that your CD is reputable, experienced, and fun too!

You may notice that some CD’s have a Platinum Course Directors status – this means that they have been awarded the highest ranking by PADI for training and certifying the most number of instructors.  If you choose a Platinum Course Director, it means that you will be trained by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable instructor trainers in the world.

You should also inquire about the PADI Staff Instructor team that will assist on your IDC.  Depending on your program, an IDC Staff Instructor can play a significant role in your training as well. 

⇒  Helpful Tip:  Unlike your DM program, the IDC does not give you much time to dive for fun.   So when selecting your IDC location, do not prioritize the quality of diving.   Instead, look for a quality PADI Career Development Center and Course Directors.

PADI IDC: Being a scuba instructor and teaching hand signal in the pool
Teaching hand signals during PADI Open Water Course

What can you expect from your PADI IDC?

When you become a scuba instructor, your primary job will be to teach PADI programs.  So naturally, your PADI Instructor Development Course is structured to prepare you to teach – most of your training will focus on teaching an open water diver. 

You will learn how to make presentations to an audience, demonstrate skills underwater, and ensure the safety of new divers (aka students).

The majority of your time will be spent in one of three places: 1) classroom 2) pool 3) ocean.

Unlike the PADI Divemaster program, you will not have any interaction with real guests or students during the IDC.  You will be practicing in a “pretend” PADI program where you will develop your teaching and presentation skills with other IDC participants and instructors.

What is the Instructor Examination (IE)?

The Instructor Examination (IE) generally takes 2 days.  An assigned examiner will evaluate your comprehension of the dive theories and PADI standards, ability to present course materials, and demonstrate water skills.

You will be tested and scored on the following five sections, all of which you must pass to become a scuba instructor:

1.  Dive theory Classroom Exams

2.  PADI Classroom Exams

  • PADI Standards & Procedures

3.  Classroom Presentations

4.  Pool / Confined Water Teaching Presentations

5.  Open Water Presentations

become a scuba instructor: we passed the IE
We all passed the IE! YAY!

What Next?

Once you successfully pass the IE, submit the required paperwork and establish an active teaching status with PADI, you are officially a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI).  The main distinction of being an instructor as opposed to a divemaster is that you can teach PADI programs.   So expect that most dive centers will hire you for that exact purpose: teach.

Once you become a scuba instructor, you will rarely guide certified divers – frankly because the dive shops can pay less money for a local divemaster to do that.  Instructors are usually asked to guide as a last resort.

If you are thinking or planning to pursue a long-term career in the diving industry, being an OWSI will also allow you to continue onto higher instructor ranks such as a Staff Instructor, Master Instructor, Course Director, etc.  After your Instructor rating, you would need to pursue the next step, which is the PADI Staff Instructor course.

Depending on your background and your personal interest, you can also pursue other paths such as becoming an underwater photographer, videographer, operation manager, marketing/sales manager, etc.

My previous managerial experience working in NYC allowed me to get my foot in the door as a Dive Center Manager in the Philippines, just after 1.5 years of working as an OWSI in Bali.

How much does a PADI Instructor make?

This is a common question, but a difficult one to answer.

Every dive center or dive resort has a different PADI instructor salary structure.

  • Some will pay you a flat monthly salary and you are responsible for all your living expenses.
  • Some will pay you a monthly “base” salary, and add commissions depending on what you are able to sell or upsell to your guests.
  • Some will offer you an annual contract including airfare, full room & board, paid vacations, and any costs required for working visa.
  • Some are open seasonally, meaning you do not have a job year-round and will have to relocate during off-season

With these variables, it’s difficult to generalize an average wage for scuba instructors.

However, the following expenses are generally required but not covered by an employer.  As an instructor, you can  expect to incur these expenses on your own:

  1. health insurance
  2. diving insurance (such as DAN)
  3. PADI active teaching status
  4. full dive equipment and periodic repairs

I have known a few dive professionals who left the industry because they were unable to make ends meet.  I have also known dive instructors who worked for many years in the industry and made enough money to take vacations, start a family and even go home to their respective countries for holidays.

I have personally been on both ends of the spectrum – on one end, there was a time when I made so little that I was barely able to pay rent.  On the other end, I was offered an all-inclusive remuneration package where I had zero living expense for the 18 months I worked on their dive resort.   With this type of contract, even though my total salary was less than what I had made in NYC, I was able to pocket significantly more because I didn’t spend a penny on bills.

With a full remuneration package I was able to save enough money to visit my extended family in Japan, see my mom in California, explore Vietnam for the first time, go on a diving vacation to discover psychedelic frogfish in Ambon, and even swim with humpback whales in Tonga. I would have never been able to accomplish all those things in 18 months with the expenses I had in NYC.

These full remuneration packages are standard on remote locations such as Maldives.

While it is possible to make a decent wage as a scuba instructor, one thing that is certain is that you will never get RICH.   People who become instructors do this for the love of diving and for the lifestyle it offers.

Check out this post for  glimpse into a life of a scuba instructor.

become a scuba instructor: passed the swim test

So are you ready to join the mermaids?

Despite my initial reservations, I am so proud and happy that I became a scuba instructor.   Who knew that I’d actually make a decent “teacher?”  Pushing myself beyond my own limiting belief led me to an incredible life in paradise that most people only dream of.

I think that’s what traveling is all about.  It not only forces you to explore the world but also yourSELF.

If you love and admire the wonders of the ocean and the marine world, join us.  We could use more protectors and ambassadors of this magnificent underwater world.

PADI | PADI Instructor | PADI OWSI | Scuba Diving | Ever wanted to know what it's like to work as a scuba dive instructor? The scuba diving job may not be what you expect - read the full post here to get a glimpse into a life of a dive professional. #scuba # PADI #PADI diving #diving #scubadiving #PADIscuba
PADI | PADI Instructor | PADI OWSI | Scuba Diving | One way you can get paid to travel the world is to work as a diving instructor. Read this post about what it takes to become a scuba instructor, and if this lifestyle is for you! #scuba # PADI #PADIdiving #diving #scubadiving #PADIscuba

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