Become a Divemaster or Dive Instructor

by derek on May 16, 2013

Being a Dive Master or Dive Instructor are both great ways to earn a living while traveling. A DM/DI can basically get work in any country they want, provided there are dive sites and tourists.

A Dive Master doesn’t actually earn money, but is usually able to live anywhere they want cost-free while diving for free. A Dive Instructor on the other hand usually makes a small bit of money in addition to living expenses.

Note: These questions and answers were compiled through conversations with various dive masters and dive instructors, primarily from Bali Indonesia and Thailand. Naturally, a dive shop in Europe or Australia

Q: What’s the difference between a dive master and a dive instructor?

A: A dive master is someone who takes certified divers out on dives. It’s their job to know the dive sites and be able to help a diver out of a troubled situation if one should arise.

A dive instructor is someone who actually teaches courses and can certify new divers.

Q: How much can a Dive master or Dive instructor earn?

A: A Dive Master doesn’t earn much money. Here in Gili (an island near Bali), a divemaster earns about $2 per tank. In other words, if they take out 4 people, they’d just earn $8. Sometimes you’ll also get free accomodations. In other words, being a divemaster isn’t really a career where you can earn money, but you can live on an island for basically free and dive for free all day.

A dive instructor on the other hand does make money. Here on Gili, the Open Water PADI course is $350, of which $90 would go to the dive instructor. Normally classes are 3 days long and have between 2 people and 6 people. So a dive instructor would usually earn between $180 to $540 for 3 days of work.

A2: A Dive Master doesn’t get much money from the dive shop, but they can make a decent bit of change by offering underwater photography services. All you need is a decent underwater camera and you can charge anywhere from $5 to $10 per dive. At 4 divers, that’s an extra $20 to $40 per dive, which can quickly add up if you’re doing a few dives a day.

Q: What about on a monthly basis? How much could a Dive Instructor earn?

A: It really depends on your location and the season. In locations like the U.S., Australia and Europe, the pay is naturally much higher. In Thailand, we were earning about $1,500 a month. In Gili, it’s about the same, but living expenses are higher so we save less.

Timing matters as well. In high season, every dive shop in Gili will be booked out and every instructor will have a full batch of students. I earned over $1,000 in one week. In low season, you’ll can sometimes go days or even weeks without teaching a class.

A2: In Egypt, I was earning about $200 per day while teaching full time on a cruise ship. It’s five days a day so I’m really only getting paid $40 per dive, but food and accomodation are included so it’s a great way to save up some money.

A3: If you wanted to be a diver on an oil rig, you can make ridiculous money. Just short of $1,000 per dive. Of course it’s more expensive and you need to sign up for a month at a time, but you could easily make $10,000 to $30,000 a month as an oil rig diver. (Basically, what you do is go under the ship and repair things that mechanical bots can’t repair.)

Q: What’s the process of becoming a Dive Master or Dive Instructor?

To become a divemaster, you first need to get your Open Water certification and your Advanced certification. You need some sort of first aid training, which doesn’t have to be provided by a PADI dive shop. Finally, you need to take the rescue diver course.

Once you have your rescue diver course, you can then start the divemaster course.

Assuming you passed the divemaster course, you then have the option of doing the dive instructor course. The course is about two and a half weeks long and is more about teaching than diving. How to give a presentation, make sure your students are getting the material, etc.

After taking the course, you then need to go to a PADI exam. If you pass the exam, you’ll then be a fully certified dive instructor.

Q: How long does the whole process take and how much does it cost?

A: Becoming a divemaster can take as little as two months. Including your Open Water course, all your dives and all the courses it’ll cost about $2,500.

If you want to become an instructor, the training course and the exam will cost another $2,500.

If you’re really sure you want to be a dive instructor, the whole process can take as little as 3 to 4 months. Expect to spend about $5,000 to $6,000 for everything, as you do have to pay for your plane ticket to the PADI exam (there are a few around the world, but you’ll often have to fly to one near you.)

Q: Is it easy to find work once you’re a certified Dive Master or Dive Instructor?

A: It really depends on your experience, as well as the season. If you just get your certification and don’t actually get any experience, other dive shops will be reluctant to hire you. That’s why it’s important that you stick around where you got certified, get at least a few months of experience under your belt.

It also matters when the last time you taught was. If you got your certification but haven’t taught in years, dive shops will also be reluctant to take you on.

That said, if you’re an active dive instructor with a lot of experience, you should be able to find work just about anywhere in the world. Of course, it’s easier to find work in high season when instructors are in demand rather than low season when dive shops are full of idle instructors.

Summary: While you won’t earn a ton of money being a divemaster or dive instructor, it’s a very flexible career to pay for your travels, especially if you love diving. It costs about $4,500 and 3-4 months to go from beginner to dive instructor. In Southeast Asia, you can expect to earn around $1,500 a month; in other parts of the world you can expect to earn a lot more.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmy August 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm

If you want to become a PADI instructor, you need to have been certified as an open water diver for at least 6 months. Not sure how this works with SSI or other agencies, but you can’t become a PADI instructor in 3-4 months.

Also, you are unlikely to earn $1500 a month in SE Asia. You could earn more than enough to sustain yourself, but as an experienced instructor, speaking 4 languages, working for a busy dive shop on Koh Tao (Dive central) working 12-16 hours per day without a day off some times for more than a month (3 months was the longest I went), I could earn $1600-1800/month. I don’t know how much each course pays in other parts of SEA, but even if you are paid twice as much, you are unlikely to get even half the volume that I was doing to earn $1600/month. And if you are receiving that much work, chances are good you’ve stuck around for a while to move up the hierarchy of the dive shop.

It’s a great lifestyle, and it’s fairly easy to get into, but don’t expect to be able to rock up somewhere, earn $1500/mo for 3-6 months and then go do the same thing somewhere else. Being a diving instructor is about the life, not the money.

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