Scuba Diving Instructor  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotEver wonder what the word "scuba" stands for? It's an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Basically it's the air tanks and breathing apparatus that allow divers to function underwater.

Scuba diving instructors teach others how to use this equipment. They also teach safe diving procedures in the classroom, the pool and the open water.

dotScuba diving instructors teach people at all skill levels, from beginners to assistant instructors. For example, when working with a beginner, an instructor will teach basic underwater breathing techniques. That same instructor may also work with a certified diver who wants to become a rescue diver.

dotMany instructors are also managers. They may manage their own dive shop or a diving program at a resort. In these cases, they take on all types of duties, including everything from booking lessons and taking fees to ordering supplies and dealing with customers.

dotDive instructors work all over the world. Wherever there is water, you'll find instructors. You may even find them inland, miles from the nearest ocean, working in dive shops.

dotResorts often hire qualified divers to teach guests and take them on guided dives. Professional divers in this setting may live full time at the resort or they may live nearby and work off the resort's beach.

Manufacturers also hire qualified divers to sell dive equipment at both the wholesale and retail level.

dotDepending on the level of expertise, divers may also work in specialty roles such as:

  • Altitude diver
  • Boat diver
  • Drift diver
  • Dry-suit diver
  • Equipment specialist
  • Multi-level diver
  • Night diver
  • Research diver
  • Underwater hunter
  • Underwater naturalist
  • Underwater navigator
  • Underwater photographer
  • Underwater videographer
  • Cave diver
  • Deep diver
  • Ice diver
  • Search and recovery diver
  • Wreck diver
  • Underwater welder

dotUtility and power companies often hire divers to lay power lines and pipes underwater. Divers in these positions may be under contract to work for a particular power company, or they may just work on a freelance basis, moving from job to job.

dotAccording to instructors, the diving industry has matured. This is no longer the temporary career choice of "beach bums." These days, the industry is looking for serious individuals with a professional attitude.

dotThe hours a diver works depends on the career path they choose. Those in the retail trade might work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. A dive instructor in a resort, however, tends to work longer hours and more days in much more exotic locales.

"You're working in an exotic place, like the Bahamas, with people who love what they're doing," says professional diver Richard Hartley. "I know people who work 12 hours a day at desk jobs they hate. I don't know too many people who hate this job."

Another instructor, Mary Brill, says the best part of the career is that the workplace is relaxed and fun.

"You're always concentrating on what's going on, but you want the people to relax and enjoy themselves," she says.

dotStrong people skills, work ethic and a commitment to excellence are what it takes to make it in this field, says Hartley.

dotGood physical condition is required to be a scuba instructor. An instructor needs strength to carry the equipment on land; the ability to breathe using the scuba equipment (people with breathing disorders may have trouble here); and the ability to handle the physical pressure of being underwater (people with sinus problems may be impeded).

At a Glance

Swim with the fish and teach others to follow

  • You have to be able to handle the physical pressure of being underwater
  • Many instructors own their own dive shop
  • You'll need lots of specialized training to work up to an instructor level