Your current diver experience, if any, doesn’t really matter if you would like to become a certified diving instructor. The best way to earn a diving teaching certificate is finding yourself a diving internship that will guide you towards proper certification.
In a lot of places in America, Northern Europe, or the UK, there are not so many options for recreational holiday diving, and you probably will need to get involved in week-night or evening classes at your local dive center where you can help out on your way towards earning your certification.
But there are more options. The alternative may be that you contact a Career Development Center (CDC) in a nicely located (but usually busy) (sub)tropical dive resort. These places are perfect for learning your craft, that is, if you are ready to live that kind of life.
Quite a few (usually older) dive instructors, specifically those who learned their diving skills way back when wearing big helmets, a big suit, and lead boots were common practice, are often sniffing and sneering at recreational Career Development Centers (CDC’s), and regard them as a kind of fast-food-like, takeaway-style instructor training facilities. They often call them ‘Sausage Factories’, like roll them in, roll them out, and don’t think about the number of people that could get hurt.
These older types of divers will complain about the number of people in these classes, and complain that personal attention is impossible if you’re in a Dive-master course together with a dozen or more other candidates. They’re gonna tell you that this sort of courses should be renamed into ‘hero to zero’ rather than ‘zero to hero’ courses.
They also tend to radiate that freshly educated dive instructors could pose a serious threat and danger to the diving community as a whole. Well, the truth is that these sorts of sentiments are way beyond reality, and that truth is that diving instruction at CDC’s are perfectly okay, meet all requirements, use up-to-date equipment, and deliver the best and committed dive instructors.
PADI CDC’s are all certified, and provide the best locations to train and get properly educated. And yes, to a certain point, the bigger they are, the better they often are. Dive instructors or working guides (like interns) can quite easily train and guide some 10 divers or students that will be following them underwater. Why should they have just one?
And let’s face it, individual 1-on-1 training isn’t the best option to get you ready for standing in front of a few dozen people to make a good and functional dive briefing, to supervise everybody’s equipment setup, and be responsible for coordination and communication with the boat captain, other instructors, the dive center, bus drivers, the water police, or anyone else who’s attention you may need during the day.
If you are in a bigger class with peers during instruction you will get all the help you require, you will learn from other people’s ideas and experiences, you may even teach them some things as well. This is actually the best way to train to become a professional dive instructor.
I’ll give you an example. When I followed my instructor training course, I spent some nine months at a Career Development Center in Thailand, together with approximately some eighty other learners. All these folks were at different stages during their training, and the newly arrived interns were instructed by Dive Master trainees, who in turn learned from certified Dive Masters. The Dive Masters again were trained by the center’s certified instructors, so all along the internship, there were lots of people to help everyone get better and better.
CDC’s usually offer a perfect training environment. One trainee may be already a great diver who doesn’t know anything about theoretical aspects you need to understand if you want to be a good dive instructor, and some other trainee may be a physics whizz without understanding how to move best under water. These candidates could be perfect matches.
One helps the other with theory, and the other will help with understanding buoyancy control. That may (and probably will) lead to that both trainees will get faster ahead because a couple of swimming pool hours, combined with a few hours of theoretical instruction will result in both learning a lot from this sort of perfect group interaction. Keep in mind that when you think you are the shy and retiring type, you will notice that having so many buddies to learn from and hang out with, you may change your ways before long!