How to become a scuba dive instructor?

Working around the world as a scuba dive instructor – Part 1

Working as a PADI diving instructor
Ellis at work as a scuba dive instructor on Dominican Republic

My story: from an Open Water Diver to scuba diving instructor as a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer

Are you wondering how it is to live and work as a diving instructor all over the world or do you have questions in regards to taking the ´go pro´ step to do your divemaster and become a scuba dive instructor yourself? This and my next article might help to shine some light on it and if you have questions, please feel free to ask me anything by using the comment box in the end! I hope to be able to help other people who are looking to become a scuba dive instructor by sharing my experience of teaching scuba diving in 5 different countries and 4 different continents. In this article, I will share how I became a diving instructor: from zero to hero!

How I discovered my passion for diving: many Discover Scuba Dives

Teaching a DSD on the Philippines
Ellis teaching a discover scuba introduction dive in the Philippines. Photo by Harolds Dive Center

Discover Scuba Dive 1: Turkey

During a holiday in Turkey, I did my very first ´Discover Scuba Dive´. I was only 18 years old at that time and had no budget to do the full course, but I was satisfied enough knowing that I discovered a brand new world on earth! It was my highlight of the holiday and was extremely excited about it. When I came back, I was telling all my friends and family that I went ´deep-sea diving´ during my holiday.

Discover Scuba Dive 2: Italy

A year later I went with friends on holiday to Rimini in Italy and oops… I did it again! Another try dive, no money to do the full course, this time I was studying in the Netherlands, again not much money to spend.

Discover Scuba Dive 3: Egypt

It´s funny how the universe sometimes cooperates with your desires. During my study (BBA in Management Tourism) in the Netherlands, I found a traineeship with a tour-operator specialised in diving holidays. In this time, I was invited to go to Egypt for only 3 days and during these 3 days, guess what? I did another Discover Scuba Dive! That was it, I promised myself that the next time I will have enough money to do the first Open Water Diver Course.

C-Mas Open Water Diver Course & PADI Advanced Open Water Course


Photo of Ellis scuba diving
At work as a divemaster trainee on Gran Canaria in 2006


Making my promise: Doing the Open Water Diver Course

After graduating from university, I was a bit confused about what I was going to do. This is not a surprise at all if you start to read more about me, you will find out that I´m always confused about what to do. But somehow things always fall in place! I went to live in the house with my aunt and uncle on Gran Canaria for 3 months and worked as a waitress in Meloneras, Maspalomas. Yes, by now, you might know what I did with my first saved up salary: I did my Open Water Course. Not being aware of any of these organisations, I realised only later that I didn’t have ´my PADI´, I was C-Mas, 1 star.

The next step: PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course

Once I returned back to the Netherlands, I got a job offered at the same tour operator with diving holidays where I did my traineeship in the third year of uni. Again I got invited to go to Egypt, Dahab this time. The dive centre there asked me if I would like to do my next course. I got confused because this dive centre was PADI and I was C-mas! But I soon realised that you cross over automatically when you’re on the recreational level of scuba diving. I became even more excited about diving. I learned proper navigation, deep diving and I even did a night dive! Even though my English wasn’t great at that time and I got a bit confused during the wheel and the table, I passed my practical skills and knowledge reviews in the end. No exams, so no stress!

The decision to change my job and to ´go pro´ in scuba diving


Photo by Ellis scuba diving on El Hierro, Canary Islands
Scuba Diving La Restinga, El Hierro Island, Canary Islands


Career change: From office girl to PADI Divemaster

Although, upon returning to the Netherlands, I started to feel a bit stressed. Because in Egypt, I started to realise: I am doing the wrong job! I´m not an office girl, I want to become a scuba diving instructor! The question was ´how´? Sometimes we shouldn’t think too much about things in life, if you feel it in your heart, you should go with it. And so I did! I stayed long enough in the Netherlands to save up a bit and after deciding I first like to go to Gran Canaria again, I mailed all dive centres on the island to check if I can do a Divemaster traineeship including rescue diver course. And I found a suitable one!


Scuba diving on the Philippines
Dive in Dauin, Negros Island, Visayas, Philippines


Should I pay for my PADI Divemaster or do it as a DM Internship trainee?

There are some divers out there who prefer to pay for their Divemaster course and do it that way. However, I think the best way to become a Divemaster is by doing an internship. Why? There are a few reasons for this.

  • By taking the PADI Divemaster course you start to enter the ´go pro´ in diving. It means you somehow would like to work in scuba diving and make your profession from it. If you pay for your Divemaster course and still are some sort of ´customer´ to the dive centre, you don´t experience what it is to actually work for a dive centre and see the things from the other side.


  • The PADI Divemaster course provides you with thé basics to become an instructor later on. The theory includes physics, physiology, environment, equipment, the tables and information about the PADI system. Tasks include a project to map a dive site and organise a rescue plan. But, the main thing is scuba diving! You need to complete 60 logged dives before you can get certified as a PADI Divemaster. What is the easiest way to get this amount of dives together? Dive every day! If you dive every day, get working experience as a team member and do all these projects, it´s much easier to work for it during a couple of months in comparison with coming in once or twice a week on a long term and do it that way. You will get a much better feeling for working in a dive centre and create a profound basis which you will appreciate later on whilst becoming an instructor.


  • It’s much faster and probably much cheaper too. If you save for food and accommodation for 2 months beforehand, I think it much cheaper to work for your course then to pay for it and come in sometimes. I´m not sure what dive centres are asking for it nowadays but if you have to pay for all these things you can also do as working as a part of the team, I think the answer will be calculated very quickly! And of course, it´s much faster. If you come in only during the weekends, let´s say, it will take you an enormous amount of time before you finish everything and complete the required amount of dives needed for certification.

Rescue Diver Course & Assistant Instructor Course as part of my Divemaster traineeship

As part of my Divemaster course, I got the Rescue Diver Course for free. And because I worked so hard, my boss also gave me the Assistant Instructor Course free of charge afterwards. This is only possible if your instructor is a PADI Staff Instructor, but make your own deal! Thank you, Dave Gration!

Working as a PADI Divemaster on the Canary  Islands


Photo of Ellis exiting the water after a dive on Gran Canaria
At work as a Divemaster Trainee in Arguineguín on Gran Canaria

The salary of a Divemaster vs the costs to become a dive instructor

The salary of Divemasters is not very high. Depending on where you are in the world, it’s sometimes even very hard to find a job as a Divemaster. And I was not prepared at all. Before I even started my traineeship, I didn’t know the costs for the Instructor Course, I didn’t know about PADI fees, I even didn’t know I needed to get my complete own equipment together. So again, I didn’t know what to do. With all these costs, and working as a Divemaster on the Canary Islands, I calculated it will take me a few years to become an instructor.

Believing in your dreams

But I didn’t give up. I made a deal with the dive centre and the restaurant next door! I could leave the dive centre every day at 17.00 hrs to get ready and transform myself into a waitress from 18.00 –  22.00, for 6 days a week. It was not always easy and hard work,  but it was fun, very rewarding and I was making my dreams come true. After about 10 months, I got my whole equipment together, money saved for my instructor course and I spoke a new language: Spanish. Because in the restaurant, they only spoke Spanish.

Becoming a Scuba Diving Instructor on the Dominican Republic


Ellis working as a PADI Divemaster with Dive Academy Gran Canaria
I worked as a Divemaster for Dive Academy Gran Canaria

Ready to do my PADI IDC: Instructor Development Course

Then I went to the Dominican Republic to my IDC: Instructor Development Course. First I worked a couple of months as a Divemaster and then I started my instructor course. It was fun, I enjoyed to go back to school with my black PADI rucksack and to sit down in something which looked like a proper classroom for about 2 weeks. Since you learn all basics in regards to the dive theory in your Divemaster course, the IDC is all about teaching and how the PADI System works.

Getting ready to become an Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI)

We needed to practice presentations, get our skills absolutely correct in the swimming pool, refresh our Divemaster theory and do flawless rescue diver skills. I was in a small class of 6 students, I remember that there were 4 guys from all over the world (Canada, United States, Cuba and Italy) and 2 girls from the Netherlands, including me. I didn’t know the other Dutch girl, it was coincidental but we have had some good laughs during also times of hard work.

Thanks to the Course Director we became certified as a Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) soon after that!

But we did it, two weeks later we got certified as official PADI OWSI´s: PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors. Our Course Director included the 5 specialities instructor and Emergency First Response Instructor so that we could automatically apply for our Master Scuba Diver Trainer after we had certified 25 students.


Photo of Ellis upon becoming an OSWI (Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor)
Finally, we are official PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors!


Ready to start my adventure of teaching scuba diving in many countries!

That was it. Now I was an instructor. A new world opened up to me with jobs all over the world. This was only the beginning of many new adventures and making a lot of new friends all over the world. I will soon share a new blog post in which I shared how I worked as a scuba diving instructor in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Maldives and Australia.

Tip for scuba divers who are looking for an adventurous story!

If you like to read more about how I became a diving instructor and made my dreams come true, you might be interested in the book I am currently writing, called ´Safety Stop´. I take you to almost all continents on planet earth where I work, mix with other cultures and travel a lot. It describes 15 years of my life and I also share the drama of losing my both parents of cancer and surviving nightmares like psychosis. It also dives deep into subjects as spirituality. Read more here

Tips for doing your Divemaster or becoming an Open Water Scuba Dive Instructor


Team of Pro Marine Watersport Dominican Republic 2008
At work as a scuba diving instructor on the Dominican Republic (I´m the one in the middle)

1. Pick a reliably and recognisable scuba dive training organisation!

If you´re serious about finding a job as a scuba diving instructor, I would absolutely recommend you to do it with a recognizable training organisation. PADI is the most recognized over the world, but there are few other organisation worldly recognised like SSI, CMAS, NAUI and more. However, I´m pretty sure that with PADI it’s easier to get jobs all around the world, although SSI is growing quickly as well.

PADI & SSI offer an online employment search for diving professionals on their website

In my experience, I am very happy I did everything with PADI and got crossed over during my advanced course. PADI offers an employment board on their pro-logins website with jobs offered all over the world. I know SSI offers something similar but I am not sure about the other organisations. Most dive centres over the world are PADI, so to work for them, you need to be a PADI Instructor.

2. Learn & speak more languages to find dive jobs more easily

In my experience for both Divemaster as well as looking for instructor jobs, it´s very useful to speak more languages. I may be privileged to have grown up in the Netherlands, one of the countries that teach a lot of languages at secondary school, but the best practice is just to speak it. I knew nearly any Spanish when I moved to Spain and just picked it up very fast by speaking and mixing with Spanish-speaking people. And even though I learned German at school, it was terrible when I first left the Netherlands. But after I have left the Netherlands, I didn’t take me long before I was actually teaching in German. My languages only got improved by speaking them. I think the best way to learn a language is to move to the country where they speak that language.


3. Travel lightly as a Divemaster or Diving Instructor!

When I did my IDC I did not even have a laptop, I took a small backpack with the complete PADI book selection including the heavy instructor manual that time. Nowadays, it’s all available in digital format. But still, you have to bring your own equipment. What I normally do is have a small backpack with some personal stuff and clothes and a huge overnight bag on wheels with my dive gear. My complete dive equipment including teaching material and things like surface marker buoy already weight nearly 20 kg so it’s important to get used to travelling with basic stuff. Click here for an overview for my posts about packing lists, for tips and recommendations about what to carry whilst working abroad, travelling or working as a diving instructor.

For the females who like to ´go pro´ in scuba and working as a diving instructor abroad

Especially as a female I needed to change on bringing nice clothes and a variety of shoes when I first became a Divemaster. But it’s worth it. In most destination you don´t need many clothes anyway, I usually only carry flip flops and running shoes with me! For more information and tips about your packing list for either working abroad as an instructor or (scuba dive) travelling, you can check out this post: ´In my dive travel bag as a female scuba diver´.  Or check the video on Splashpacker YouTube channel below:



Photo of Ellis after scuba diving on Dominican Republic
Finishing our rescue diver skills on the Dominican Republic


Questions about becoming a dive instructor or teaching scuba diving?

Do you have any questions about taking the step to become a PADI Pro? Ask me anything by using the comment box below. Expect another article soon in which I share my experience working as a scuba diving instructor in and on the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Maldives and Australia. I´m also writing a book about this among other life experiences so far, you can read more here.

Happy Bubbles & Safe Travels!


6 thoughts on “How to become a scuba dive instructor?”

  1. @Neil Trush : Thanks as always Neil :-) When is your upcoming holiday, I should speed up the book though still writing in Dutch!! Although speeding up works with studying or practical things but not so much with writing :-o

  2. @Polo : You´re welcome and it is a pleasure to be able to help people like you! Go for it and if you have any questions or if I can help with any advise, just ask me!

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am about to start my DM internship in a few weeks and it is interesting to know how it looks like. I’ve been diving for 10 years about and feel ready to change my life and become pro.

  4. A fantastic introduction Ellis into giving an insight into becoming a professional scuba diving instructor. I can relate to your experience of working with Dive Academy in GC, The staff always look after their diving guests and have offered excellent training opportunities to their staff. �������� Neil. I'm looking forward to reading the whole book over an upcoming holiday involving recreational scuba diving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.