I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life involved in the dive community, so it’s no surprise that I feel the most important decision in learning to scuba dive, is the dive instructor who will certify you. Choosing the correct instructor involves more than someone who’s capable and experienced. Remember, while learning to scuba dive you might experience a stressful situation, so complete faith in your instructor is essential.
Your Instructor is Essential
Finding your scuba instructor is no different than shopping for any major purchase. Do your research! You might be tempted to look online for reviews or join an online scuba community for guidance. That’s fine, but don’t stop there. Start by talking to other divers, and just not your buddy who received his or her first certification. Don’t hesitate to visit your Dive Center or local Dive Club and ask lots of questions. You need to get out there and get involved in the dive community.
5 steps to finding your instructor
Your instructor is required to provide training to the level mandated by the RSTC/WRSTC. The RSTC/WRSTC provide the standards of training to the Training Agencies. (SSI, PADI, NAUI etc.) An instructor must meet those level of training to issue the certification. You need to understand in detail what the objectives of the class are, and what skills you’ll need to master. Take a moment and read Who is the “WRSTC” and why we need them.
Knowing which agency you’ll be trained through is imperative. Each agency has a minimum set of standards that a student is required to complete. You need to know what you’re paying for prior to enrolling in the course. It’s your hard-earned money, don’t assume you’re getting what you paid for.
- Total number of hours recommended for the academic’s portion of the class?
- Hours provided for the pool/confined water portion of the class?
- How many “Open Water” dives are provided or required?
The instructor or dive center should be able to provide this information. Now confirm what’s being offered actually meets the minimum standards required by the training agency. You need to pay close attention to this step of the research.
Research the Instructor
The instructor needs to be fully certified and in good standings, with the certifying agency they are instructing for.
- Should be in Active Status.
- Certified to instruct the course.
- Have no outstanding negative QA reports. (quality assurance)
- Is your instructor affiliated with a dive store or training as an independent instructor?
You can confirm this by contacting the training agency and ask to see their credentials.
Then confirm they are the instructor who will be conducting the training for your course. It would be disappointing to do all this research to only find out they are having another instructor co-teaching the class.
Where you do training is a vital role in the success of your education. Is it a clean, safe and a professional environment? Regardless if your instructor is affiliated with a dive store or instructing as an independent, you should be provided a facility that is conducive to effective learning. Meeting up at the local restaurant is not an environment you want to receive your training in.
- Instructor to student ratio? (Size of class, there are standards for this)
- The condition of equipment provided during training?
- Security and processing of your personal information.
- Training quality assurance program.
- Emergency action plan.
The training facility is the physical foundation of where you learn. This means that every square foot should be used for activities that support learning. Your instruction should include auditory, lecture and workshop based training and it requires a facility for these styles of learning.
Instructor to Student Ratio
Cost of Training
Sometimes it’s all-inclusive, but most often it’s not. It’s not uncommon for some facilities to separate their charges for classroom and pool training from open-water training. On the topic of open-water training, make sure you know if there are additional charges for equipment rental, charter fees or travel and lodging.
Be sure to ask about what equipment you’ll be expected to provide and what’s included with the course. Don’t be surprised if you end up purchasing at least your own mask, fins, and snorkel. These items are personal to each diver and not one size “fits all” in this case.
Last but not least. What are the associated fees for missed classes or additional sessions required beyond the regular course schedule you might need?
In conclusion, remember the old saying. “ If it seems to good to be true, then it usually is”. Scuba diving is an unbelievable sport and safe if done right. Where and from whom to take your scuba class is very important, and requires you to thoroughly understand and research the details of your training. Finding the right instructor may seem a bit daunting but well worth it in the end.