Specialty Instructor Training

PADI Specialty Instructor Training


This month will focus on professional opportunities, careers and training.  Today’s post is about Specialty Instructor Training. It is primarily targeted for new PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors who want to learn more about teaching PADI Specialty Diver courses. For you divers that are either considering going Pro or just taking a Specialty Diver course, you’ll probably also find useful information here, too.

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What are PADI Specialty Diver courses?

Specialty Diver courses are designed to help divers learn about and experience a specialty area of diving. Specialties go into more depth than the associated Adventure Dive in the PADI Adventures in Diving Program (PADI Adventure Diver and PADI Advanced Open Water). Think of them as a way to fast-track learning about a specialty area of diving, minimizing the potential pitfalls and maximizing the fun. After all, most dive shops probably will sell an underwater light to any diver, regardless of experience, but if you make that first night dive without some training and guidance it might be a really bad diving experience. Specialty training as a diver makes your life easier as a diver.


Three ways to become a PADI Specialty Instructor:

Route #1: a PADI Instructor trains with a PADI Course Director in the specialty area. The PADI Course Director needs to be a Specialty Instructor Trainer in that Specialty, denoting they’ve experience in training instructors and are qualified to train instructors in that specialty diving area. Since this is a training program, new instructors don’t need as much teaching experience or diving experience in the specialty area. Typically, a new PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor can take a Specialty Instructor Course and only needs to document ten(10) logged dives in the specialty area.


Route #2: Apply directly to PADI for a Standardized Specialty. This applies to Specialties that PADI has standardized course outlines for, such as AWARE FishID or Emergency Oxygen Provider. For this route, you have to document that you’ve teaching experience (certified 25 divers) and have diving experience in that specialty (typically 20 logged dives). The application fee is a bit higher than option #1, but you don’t have any course tuition or fees for training. There’s one really, really BIG gotcha here: You’re going to learn to teach these specialties by teaching them. You won’t have the benefit of guidance and suggestions received through option #1. As a new instructor, I chose this route for several specialties, and I think my students suffered from it. They were learning the specialty while I was trying to figure out how to teach it. It wasn’t until years later that I took training from a PADI Course Director and Specialty Instructor Trainer that I realized how much better life would have been had I done that when I was a new instructor.


Route #3: Apply directly to PADI and write your own course outline. This is probably the most intense route. You have to write a course outline and have it approved by the Education team at PADI. Not only that, you need to document proof of teaching experience and diving in the specialty area, as well as document any other training or education you have in that area. For new instructors, I’d suggest you think long and hard about this. It’s not a trivial projected to design a Specialty. I suggest this route for experience instructors, particularly after completing the Instructor Development Staff Instructor course, because you’ll have a better grasp of the PADI educational methodology and PADI system of diver education.


What goes into a PADI Specialty Instructor Course?

Here are the topics covered in a Specialty Instructor course:

  • Review the philosophy and purpose of PADI Specialty Diver courses
  • Review & discuss the Instructor Outline for the Specialty Course
  • Review & discuss equipment requirements for the Specialty
  • Review of PADI General Standards and Procedures related to Specialties
  • Review & discuss the relationship of the Specialty to the associated Adventure Dive
  • Review Master Scuba Diver and Master Scuba Diver Trainer requirements
  • Workshop how to price and schedule the Specialty diver course.


Specialty Instructor Candidates must:

  • Demonstrate mastery of the skills in the Specialty Diver program
  • Present a knowledge development presentation out of the Specialty Diver Course for evaluation by the Specialty Instructor Trainer
  • Conduct an open water teaching assignment for one of the skills in the Specialty course for evaluation by the Specialty Instructor Trainer



Since there is potentially overlap if you’re doing many Specialty Instructor Courses, your PADI Course Director may streamline the course layout and not repeat common topics (e.g., review of General Standards). This can be done as part of a Master Scuba Diver Trainer prep course.


From a diver point of view, a Specialty Instructor that has received training in the Specialty is probably the better instructor. Mastery of skills, knowledge and teaching ability had to have been demonstrated to a PADI Course Director. So, ask your instructor how they were trained in that specialty.



After earning some specialty instructor ratings, you might be eligible to be a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT). More about that next week. Stay tuned!