PADI requires Instructor Candidates to have been certified at least 6 months before becoming an instructor. Does that mean you should or comfortably could go from non-diver to PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor in just six months? Yes, if you’re motivated and committed. Let’s look at the steps along the road and how long it might take.
- PADI Open Water Diver (or equivalent). You can complete this course in as little as four days. With a bit of independent study (PADI eLearning or the traditional book+dvd), you’ll have a bit of preparation before those four days. In those four days, you’ll review what you covered in your independent study and then learn and practice skills in a pool or other confined water site. Then, you make four open water dives over two days to practice the skills you learned. With that said, I highly suggest you don’t rush this if you’re planning on becoming an instructor. After talking to many instructors that have taught the course this fast and have also taught it in a slower manner, they find that a better pace with more pool practice makes for better divers. So, having 4-6 pool sessions spread over a few weeks is better than cramming everything in in a day or two. Pay attention to what your instructor is demonstrating, when you are in the Divemaster course, you’ll be honing those skills to demonstration quality.
- PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (or equivalent). This can be completed in as little as two days. You make five Adventure dives, two of which are Navigation and Deep diving–you need to be able to find your way back to the shore or boat and almost all divers want to see stuff at deeper depths. The other three Adventure dives can range from Boat diving and Altitude Dive to Fish Identification and Peak Performance Buoyancy. This is the sampler course–allowing you to sample what divers do for fun. I suggest taking a bit of time after the Advanced course to participate in more dives. Perhaps take a dive trip with your local dive shop and practice some of the skills you’ve learned. You may want to consider taking some PADI Specialty Courses, since they build on the Adventure dives and develop your skills under experienced instructor supervision.
- PADI Rescue Diver (or equivalent). This is another program that can be completed in a couple of days. You develop a toolbox of skills to help prevent and respond to diving emergencies. I suggest spreading this training out, much like the Open Water Diver course. Several pool sessions to practice your rescue skills will better serve you in Divemaster and Instructor Development.
- PADI Divemaster (or other dive leader program). This course can take some time, but if you drag it out more than a few months, that’s probably too long. You’ll learn how to manage groups of certified divers, assist with divers in training, develop your dive skills to demonstration quality. Remember what you saw in Open Water Diver from your instructor? You’ll also practice your rescue skills. Here is where the extra time in Open Water and Rescue can really pay off. You’ll also learn more about dive theory–equipment, general diving skills & the environment, physics, physiology and the recreational dive planner. You’ll need to develop this knowledge further before the Instructor Development Course, though. PADI’s Dive Theory Online is a great way to develop your knowledge here. You’ll also learn about PADI Standards and how they apply to courses. If you’re crossing over from another agency, you’ll need further orientation to the PADI System. Talk to your PADI Course Director before the Instructor Development Course. Divemaster can be conducted either as a stand-along program with other candidates and/or staff, or it can be conducted in tandem with real courses. I prefer real courses, because you get to see what real students are like (and what you were like). This can stretch the course out if your instructor doesn’t have a lot of courses going on. Plan on a month or so to complete Divemaster.
- PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC). Time to learn how to teach people how to blow bubbles underwater! You’ll learn how to teach in the classroom, in the pool and at open water. You’ll hone your diving skills to top-notch demonstration quality. You’ll practice your rescue skills, with emphasis on not just being effective, but also demonstrating how to perform a rescue. You’ll learn more about the PADI System of Education and how to market diving education. This course is a minimum of five days long. That requires a lot of preparation on your part. I suggest extending it to 7-8 days and also include the EFR Instructor course and a few other programs and workshops. I like to include the PADI Emergency Oxygen Instructor course, a Project AWARE workshop and a PADI Kids Program workshop. You’ll get a bit more teaching experience with these programs and it doesn’t feel as rushed.
- PADI Instructor Examination (IE). This program is conducted by PADI staff over two days. The Examiner evaluates your ability to teach, your knowledge and your skills. You may feel a bit stressed here, but good preparation pays off.
Ok, those were the core courses you need to complete along the way to become a scuba instructor. You need to log at least 100 dives by the time you get to the PADI IE. The courses above don’t amount to that many dives, so you need to go dive and have fun. Get really familiar with your equipment. See several dive sites. Learn techniques from PADI Pros and your fellow divers. Also consider taking some PADI Specialty courses and become a PADI Master Scuba Diver. This will help you in your career as an Instructor, because you’ll have found what you like to do when diving. Those become your passion as an Instructor. For example, dive medicine and dive emergency are my interest. I love to teach the PADI Emergency Oxygen course, Rescue Diver and the DAN diving first aid classes–both at the diver and the professional level.
So, how long does it take to become a scuba instructor? Six months is the minimum, but I suggest you spend a bit more time and get a bit more experience. Enjoy the journey–I still am.