Choosing the right Dive School

For your PADI IDC

The moment has arrived – you are finally ready to enrol in the PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course) and realise your dream of becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Now, probably, you are facing a very big and daunting decision: which dive school should you complete the course with?

Maybe the decision is obvious: you have always dived with one dive school, you know all of the Instructors and they run an IDC programme. If you already enjoy some familiarity and comfort at a particular dive centre or among specific instructors then your best bet may well be to stick with them. Certainly you will reduce some of the anxiety by already feeling at home with the dive operation and staff. If they offer the training which you want and you feel confident in their abilities then, great: the decision is made!

Worldwide there are far more dive centres who DON’T offer the IDC than there are those that do. Therefore, the majority of divers will need to look for a new dive school before enrolling in this course. With so many IDC Dive schools out there, it can be particularly scary to commit to one without being able to see/meet them all.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared a small list of things you might want to consider or try to research; so that you can rest assured that you are making a good choice.


The first thing to ask yourself is: where would you like to do the course?

Perhaps you don’t want to, or are unable to, travel for the training. In this case, look for local dive schools which offer this course and check out their schedules. Maybe this already narrows down your choices sufficiently that the decision becomes an easy one.

If, after becoming an Instructor, you intend to teach in your local area then completing the course in these conditions will be the more realistic and practical for you. Often ‘local’ dive shops (those outside of tourist areas) will schedule their training to fit around your normal life (evenings and weekends).

If you know already that you want to work in Thailand (for example), then why not check out the dive schools in the area you intend to travel to. If you perform well in your IDC the dive centre will often notice this, and you may impress them enough that they want to offer you a job directly after the course!

Teaching Experience

Experience is everything! Try to learn how many years the dive school has been running IDC’s.

More important is the Course Director themselves: this is the person who you’ll be trusting to guide you through the training. How many years have they been an Instructor? How many years have they been training professionals?

Also, how many other candidates will be on the course and how many teaching assistants will be present? This gives you some idea of how much personal attention you can expect from the instructional staff, should you need it.

Don’t believe the hype

If you are presently trying to do some research on IDC dive centres, then you’ve no doubt seen that many schools boast a 100% pass rate at the exam! What a guarantee! Unfortunately, it is rarely the case. If a Course Director really does have a 100% pass rate then probably this means that they have not been teaching for very long.

Testimonials from previous clients can be very helpful in gauging what to expect. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find testimonials and reviews from a variety of different sources. As well as checking what people say, don’t overlook checking out how many reviews you can find and over how long they have been collected.

Unfortunately, it is not beyond some businesses to make up reviews or hire ‘professional reviewers’. Therefore, wherever possible, try to look into the reviewers themselves. How many reviews have they written and for what types of business? Do they always give 5*’s or is there some balance in their feedback?

Cost and Transparency

By this stage it will come as no surprise to you that diving is not cheap. The IDC is particularly costly, and you’ll find some variation in what different dive centres are charging. Being such a competitive industry, dive centres are often lowering their prices to make their courses seem more attractive. Don’t forget that ultimately they will still need to pay their bills. Dive centres who cut costs often do so at the expense of facilities which most would consider to be mandatory. In diving, low-cost and high-quality rarely go hand-in-hand. Ask yourself what is more important to you.

It is very common that you will be told one price for the IDC which includes everything necessary. This price should include your PADI materials (PADI IDC crewpack and EFRI crewpack), PADI fees for IDC, PADI fees for IE and dive centre fees. To make the course seem cheaper, it may be that certain necessary costs have been hidden until you are committed. Once told a price for the course ask specifically what is included and if there is anything else you’ll have to pay for later.

When it comes to finding a good deal, ask yourself not what is the price, but which programme offers the best value. This value may come from the experience of the Course Director and instructional staff; the facilities at the dive centre; the help you’ll receive in finding work after the course etc.

Already prepared?

The IDC will train you how to teach diving, following well established teaching principles. You should already know how to dive and should have no difficulty in demonstrating the 24 basic Open Water Diver skills perfectly. This is what you learned in your Divemaster training.

Part of the IE is open book, allowing you to use your Instructor manual to find the answers you are looking for. Again, you should have become proficient using the Instructor manual during your Divemaster Course. These types of things are not what the IDC is for.

If you are under prepared before the beginning of the course, you will struggle and hold back your peers during the IDC. A good Course Director will offer a pre-IDC preparation programme. This usually takes around 2 days and is scheduled to finish just before the IDC begins. If it has been a while since becoming a Divemaster, or you have any concern about your abilities then do yourself a favour by finding a course which offers this pre-IDC.


Following the IDC there will be a short period to wait before you can start teaching. This is because your paperwork is being processed by PADI. It is the perfect time to stay on with your Course Director to complete some Specialty Instructor training.

Most if not all Course Directors schedule a few days following the IE for this. Some specialties are very popular and you’ll be recommended to take these as they will be likely to serve you well in the future. If you have some specific interests, however (underwater photography, full-face mask, sidemount etc), then try to find a Course Director who can teach you these courses.

While you are at it, ask if these are included in the price you were quoted or if they cost extra. Since they are not mandatory they are usually not included in the basic cost of the IDC, but the dive centre may offer a package which includes the specialties as well.

Food for thought

To help you out, here is a short list of questions you may want to ask. By no means is this list exhaustive – add to it! We hope you find that some of these questions help you to narrow down your choices.

  • How long has the Course Director been teaching IDCs?
  • When did the Course Director become an Instructor?
  • Does the Course Director have the ‘Platinum’ rating?
  • Will the Course Director teach the whole IDC, or do less experienced Staff Instructors teach most of the course?
  • Where has the Course Director worked, both as a Course Director and as an Instructor?
  • How many students has the Course Director certified – both at recreational and professional levels?
  • Is there a pre-IDC programme? How long is it; what does it cover; and does it cost extra?
  • Do you offer any free diving before or after the IDC?
  • What is the water temperature?
  • Do you have wrecks and currents?
  • Can I dive on days off?
  • What Specialty Instructor ratings can I do with your Course Director?
  • If I take Specialty Instructor ratings, will the Course Director be in the water with us?
  • Can I stay and team-teach courses after the IDC to gain some experience under the supervision of an established Instructor?
  • What is the likelihood of finding work nearby after the IDC, either at this dive centre or at another in the vicinity?

If you would like any further assistance or would like to ask us any questions about this or anything diving-related, please drop an email to

Good luck!