Becoming a Diving Instructor

with the PADI IDC

There are some very happy, excited and relieved faces on the island this week following Tenerife’s final PADI Instructor Exam (IE) of the decade.

In total 11 candidates attended the two-day exam, which starts immediately upon completion of the Instructor Development Course (IDC); and all 11 passed with flying colours! It is a momentous occasion, and we’re sure you’ll join us in congratulating the new PADI instructors on their terrific achievement!

We’d like to make a special mention of Manuel, Maryia, Dorian, Steven and Jordan – the five candidates who enrolled on our IDC, which was ran in co-operation with our neighbours – Excel divers – and taught by Platinum Course Director Colin Scowcroft.

The PADI Instructor Development Course

In case any of you have ever considered turning your hobby into a career, in this post I’m going to give you a little idea about what is involved in becoming a PADI Instructor.

Pre-requisites to enrol

In order to qualify to enrol in the PADI IDC, potential candidates must meet certain pre-requisites:

– They must have been qualified as a diver for a minimum of 6 months
– They must be a qualified PADI Divemaster, or have an equivalent qualification from another training agency
– They must have received Emergency First Response training within the last 24 months
– They must have a fit-to-dive medical certificate signed by a doctor within the last 12 months
– To enrol in the IE, candidates must also be certified as Emergency First Response Instructors; but this training is a standard part of the IDC itself

What is taught during the PADI Instructor course?

The IDC does not focus on teaching dive theory.

By the time a candidate enrols in the IDC they are already qualified as a dive professional (Divemaster or equivalent). This means that there should already be a very high level of diving skill and knowledge of dive theory. These things are gained gradually throughout a diver’s lifetime, but are honed and fine-tuned during the Divemaster training. IDC candidates are merely tested to ensure that this level of comprehension is present.

During the IDC, the focus is on learning about teaching philosophies and techniques, and understanding the many tools available to PADI Instructors to achieve this aim.

How is this done?

In essence, diver development can be divided into 3 broad categories:

– Knowledge development (dive theory)
– Confined water training (learning new diver skills in a controlled environment); and
– Open water training (the ability to demonstrate mastery of these skills in an open water environment)

Since this is basically the manner in which all divers are trained, this is the way that Instructor candidates are trained and tested as well.

A large portion of the IDC is spent developing the candidates’ ability to present information and procedures to an audience, utilising tried and tested teaching principles.

As well as simply relaying information and teaching new skills, a crucial attribute of an Instructor is to quickly recognise mistakes made by their students. Not only must Instructors respond quickly and appropriately to ensure that any mistakes are corrected, but also ensure that everyone remains completely safe at all times. This may sound simple enough, but when you are in the water with 5 or 6 people it may surprise you how quickly situations can get out of hand if you are not maintaining adequate control.

One fun aspect of the IDC is the in-water mischief! In order to test candidates on their ability to spot and correct mistakes, there must be mistakes to correct!

During the in-water training for the IDC, candidates take turns playing as the Instructor, the Divemaster and the hapless diver students. During these practice sessions, the “Diver students” are instructed on specific mistakes that they must make. Although this may sound mean – like the candidates are being pitted against each other – this is not the reality. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie during an IDC, and all candidates want to work together to ensure they enjoy a shared success.

Is there more?

What is described above makes up the largest portion of the course. Although it can be a bit nerve-racking, especially for those not used to public-speaking; this course is hugely fun. It has to be, that’s the best way to ensure that the candidates learn, develop and gain the confidence necessary to proceed.

There are some other presentations which will be delivered by the Course Director and their staff. Some of these topics include:

– PADI Standards and Procedures for courses which can be taught with in-water workshops
– Learning, Instruction and the PADI System
– Risk Management and Diver Safety
– The Business of Diving and your role as an instructor
– Marketing Diving and Sales Counselling

The PADI Instructor Exam (IE)

The IE is a two day event which tests the candidates in a variety of scenarios. The exams are adjudicated by examiners from PADI who come to Tenerife four times a year. PADI set this schedule themselves, and we schedule the IDC to finish the day before the exam begins.

Although the days change slightly each year, usually there is a course in January, one in May, one in September and the final one in November.

The IE is structured exactly the same way as the training in the IDC – the candidates are tasked with completing exactly the same type of presentations and workshops which they have been practicing throughout the course.

The exam is divided into 4 sections:

1) Written exams

There are 2 multiple choice exams.

One of these is a closed-book exam which covers all aspects of dive theory: equipment, environment, physics, physiology etc.

The second exam is exclusively about PADI standards. PADI training standards are all contained within The Instructor Manual. To complete this exam, participants must therefore use the instructor manual for reference. No Instructor is expected to remember all PADI training standards – this exam is merely ensuring that candidates know how to use the Instructor manual adequately to find answers quickly and efficiently.

2) Classroom presentations

For the classroom presentations, the candidates will each be given a random question from somewhere within the core PADI course curriculum. The scenario is that someone in the class has answered this question incorrectly, and the Instructor must ensure that the correct answer is understood. The examiners are simply listening to make sure that this presentation follows the efficient and effective teaching structure devised by PADI.

3) Confined water presentations

Each candidate is given a short list of diver skills which they will need to ‘teach’ during their exam. These sessions begin at the poolside with a thorough briefing before candidates enter the water. Following the same formula as the IDC, the examiner will subtly tell the ‘students’ to make small errors. The Instructor applicant must spot and remedy these mistakes, and then follow up at the end with an adequate debrief.

4) Open Water presentations

Here the candidates must all demonstrate the correct way to respond to an unresponsive diver in the water – an important skill from the Rescue Diver Course.

Then, they will do much the same as in the confined water exercise. They will observe their students performing certain diver skills, chosen by the examiners, and they must identify and correct mistakes while ensuring safety and control of the group.

It is, of course, quite natural for everyone to be very tense on the first morning of the exam, but the examiners are professionals who want everyone to succeed. They are very adept at making everyone feel relaxed and comfortable and nurturing a positive and supportive environment for the candidates to focus on delivering what they have learned. Two days seems like a long time, but it is over in no time and that is when the celebrations begin!

What comes after the IDC?

The IDC and IE will transform Divemasters into Open Water Scuba Instructors (OWSIs). An OWSI can teach the core PADI courses and programmes, from Discover Scuba to Divemaster. There are a handful of PADI Specialties which all OWSI’s can also teach by default.

The next step in a diving Instructor’s professional development is to earn the title of Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT). An MSDT is an Instructor who is qualified to teach 5 PADI specialties beyond those which they can already teach by default; and has also issued at least 25 certifications at any level.

Naturally, it takes a little bit of time working as an Instructor to have issued 25 certifications, but is a standard offering within the IDC to earn Instructor rating in the 5 Specialties right away. Each candidate is welcome to pick the 5 which most appeal to them, and not all candidates have to choose the same specialties as each other. Candidates on our IDC who elect to complete the Specialty training will be provided with a 6th Specialty for free.

Gaining experience and looking for work

Some candidates already have a job lined up for them once they complete the IDC, but most do not. We are pleased to be able to offer advice and assistance in finding work following qualification as an Instructor, using our network of contacts in the industry world-wide.

Occasionally we have been so impressed with someone’s performance during the IDC that we’ve been in a position to offer them a job with us directly after the IE. Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case simply because we do not have a high turn-over of staff and so positions within our team are limited.

For new Instructors who want to gain some real-world experience, we are happy to allow you to team-teach your first few PADI courses alongside one of our Instructors. This is a really valuable way to gain some confidence, and learn some useful hints and tips from more experienced teachers.

Are you ready for the next step?

If you are considering taking your hobby to the next level and becoming a PADI Instructor, why not drop us an email and let us know what stage you are currently at so that we can advise you on what you should do to proceed.

We’re looking forward to watching YOUR transformation!