Finding an Instructor
So you chose your training organization…
Next, you get to choose your instructor.
Like any other profession, dive instructors come in all shapes and sizes. There are lots of different levels of instructor, some with more qualifications than others.
When choosing your instructor, here are some things you should consider:
- How long have they been diving?
- Where in the world have they dived?
- How long have they been teaching?
- What is their teaching style and personality like?
- How long have they been on the island?
- How well do they know the local reef and dive sites?
- How many courses have they taught and at what levels?
- How many students have they certified?
Before choosing a shop, you should also ask about class sizes. Some shops will allow up to 8 students per instructor, but Pro Dive Roatan only allows 4 students per instructor so that you are guaranteed to receive personalized instruction.
The Roatan instructor Life-cycle
Roatan is a Mecca for Divers
Roatan is a mecca for scuba divers from all over the world, so for someone who is considering becoming a professional dive instructor, this is one of the best places to come to do your training.
Because of this, Roatan is also a mecca for what we call Career Development Centers (CDCs). With 10+ CDC’s on the island (and lots more on neighboring Utila) there are a slew of bright shiny new dive instructors produced every month, and probably more dive instructors per capita on Roatan than almost anywhere else in the world.
When you take your Instructor Development Course (IDC), you are taught the standards and what to teach, but not HOW to teach. That comes, as they say, the day after you pass your Instructor Exam (IE).
About Diving Career Development Centers
Career Development Centers (CDCs) these tend to be “busy” dive operations with many students at many different levels. This is part of the operating model whereby you can be teaching multiple paying “customers” on the same dive.
For example, the main instructor may be teaching the basic course (Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Specialties etc.) and at the same time teaching a Dive Master Trainee (DMT) or Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT), or more likely both and multiple ones. That way they can maximize income from each dive.
While this is a highly profitable business model, those other “helpers” on your dives aren’t there for your benefit. And by having extra divers on your tour, these CDCs aren’t giving you specialized attention. Instead, these trainees are really additional paying customers, just like you.
The “Zero to Hero” Training Approach
CDCs make profit by certifying divers to multiple levels. The trend right now is a “zero to hero” approach, which means taking someone who has no prior dive experience and rapidly training them to become an Open Water Instructor.
This approach is concerning, and doesn’t guarantee a quality instructor or MSDT.
Here is an example what the “zero to hero” approach can look like.
Let’s say we have a 17 year-old, 2 weeks away from their 18th birthday. They’re eager to get started on their new glamorous career, so they sign up for the full program.
Here’s the fast-track route for how they will become an instructor:
|Activity||# Days||# Dives||# of Lifetime Dives||Total Time Spent as a Diver|
|Open Water||3||4||4||3 days|
|Fun Dives||10||29||40||17 days|
|Divemaster Training||28 (can be less)||10+||50||1.5 months|
|Fun Dives||4||10||60||1.5 months|
|Instructor Development Course||7-14||10+||70||2 months|
|Fun Dives||10||30||100||2.5 months|
|First Open Water Diver Course Teaching||4||4||104||< 3 months|
Is 100 dives enough experience to teach?
At the end of all of the courses, this brand new instructor has only logged 100 dives, all in the same location, and probably only across a dozen or so dive sites since the vast majority of their dives have been “learning” dives on “teaching” dive sites.
They have little knowledge of different diving and weather conditions, local protocols, hazardous areas and dive plans, they have little to no knowledge of the reef, local boat traffic considerations, etc.
Plus, they are still so new that they haven’t learned HOW to teach, only WHAT to teach.
We all have had to learn and there is nothing wrong with that. However, choosing your instructor is a serious decision, and of course comes with different pricing.
The Importance of Teaching Experience
Some shops even specialize in allowing newly certified instructors to gain experience in teaching and gain knowledge of the reef by having them “volunteer” or work for free until they have enough experience to work elsewhere.
Would you feel comfortable handing your 10-year-old child over to an 18-year-old with only 100 logged dives and that little knowledge and experience?
Each course you teach, you learn from your mistakes and gradually develop your own teaching style. You learn tricks and methods for teaching skills that some students have difficulty with.
You become more relaxed as you see recurring problems that you have experienced in the past and have found ways to solve them. You learn the best teaching sites and their pro’s and con’s.
You grow as an instructor and become a better teacher as the courses and years roll by. It’s a developmental process and maturity as an instructor does also come with maturity in life.
Experienced Instructors are Rare in Roatan
As glamorous as the life of a diving instructor may seem, the most successful instructors understand that teaching diving in Roatan is about the success of your students over anything else.
As a dive instructor, it is very hard to make a living wage (even in a third world country) from dive instruction.
Because of this, the average lifespan of a shiny new instructor worldwide is about 3 years—the same amount of time it takes to develop a breadth of knowledge and experience necessary to be a highly qualified instructor.
And in Roatan, these brand new instructors are paid exactly the same as the experienced instructors, which makes truly experienced instructors hard to find.
The Pro Dive Roatan Difference
We do things differently here at Pro Dive Roatan.
If we don’t have an instructor available who meets our requirements, we will not offer a course or dive package.
Common practice in Roatan is to “call in” any available instructor or dive master. We only employ experienced instructors we know and trust, which is why booking your trip early is essential.
We require all of our instructors to have a minimum of 3 years teaching experience AND 3 years diving locally so we can guarantee a quality dive experience.
Most of our instructors have way more experience than 3 years, have taught hundreds of courses, and can easily count their logged dives in the thousands!
We also pay our staff livable wages so they’re free to teach at your pace. This means our prices may be a little higher than neighboring shops, but you’ll be getting the highest value and quality of instruction that you can find here on Roatan.
We are located adjacent to Half Moon Bay for teaching confined water (our version of a swimming pool—but warmer and nicer).
We also have 2 of the best teaching sites (Lighthouse and Moonlight) right in front of our shop and 10+ teaching sites less than a mile away—no more wasting precious dive or vacation time on a boat traveling between sites!
While some local dive shops will teach up to 8 students at a time, we cap our classes at 4 students per instructor to guarantee you receive personalized instruction. You can also schedule private 1-on-1 classes or a class for you and a significant other or friend.
If a shop is quoting you at the lowest price possible, be warned. Either the instructors are volunteering to gain experience or the shop isn’t advertising the additional costs it takes to be certified (maybe even both!).
At our shop, the price we quote for you is the final price. We will be upfront with you about our pricing and will include all necessary certification fees, rental equipment, Marine Park fees, etc. when you book your trip with us. No surprises.
If you are looking for high quality instruction, personalized attention, and to learn or dive at the best sites available on the island, then Pro Dive Roatan is the shop for you!