Agency Comparison for New Instructors

By Daryl Carson

Do you want to teach locally, or move to the islands and become a resort instructor? Do you want to take an instructor training course over three months or cram it into one nine-day marathon?
These are just a couple of the questions prospective dive instructors must ask themselves. The bigger issue is under which agency will you choose to work? To help you sort out the answer, we’ve compiled information on instructor training programs from four of the major agencies. The price of instructor courses can vary and is set by the instructor or facility offering it. Look at overall value, not just monetary cost. You’re shopping for a future employer, a support network and a teaching philosophy you feel comfortable with. Following is a description of categories in the accompanying chart.
Course Prerequisites: The two things agencies look for first when evaluating a prospective student are the total number of dives and certification level. This is typically 100 dives and at least a divemaster or equivalent certification. Some agencies require that you hold their DM certification and some allow you to cross over with minimal effort.
Course Structure: Instructor training courses focus on turning divers into dive educators. The emphasis is on learning the fundamentals of teaching diving, not acquiring knowledge about diving. You will also learn about the business of diving, liability issues and insurance. There are minimum requirements for information covered in classroom, pool and open water environments. Some agencies require students to assist other instructors before teaching a class on their own.
Instructor Discretion: The level of discretion an open water instructor has varies with each agency. In some programs, the curricula may be formalized, with the instructor adding information specific to locale; in others, instructors may have the freedom to structure his/her own course while adhering to a set of minimum standards.
Availability of Training: Agency size is the mitigating factor. Training is offered by “Instructor Trainers” or “Course Directors,” and some agencies require that the training take place at an approved training facility.
First Year Membership Dues: The cost to become an active instructor.
Insurance Cost: There are only a few insurance carriers so rates are similar.
Employment Aides: Services the agency offers instructors looking for full-time employment.
Additional Certifications Available: Certifications available once becoming an instructor.