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SCUBA diving instructor salaries

Certified scuba instructors get paid to do what they love to do. Some call it a dream job. Others say pipe dream. Recreational divers often wonder what turning pro pays. According to, in 2010 professional scuba instructor salaries in the United States average £23,400 annually, ranging from £18,200 in South Dakota and Mississippi, to £28,600 in Massachusetts. This same data, however, also shows a 74-percent decrease in jobs since October 2008.

The reality is that instructor salaries are frequently supplemented or supplemental, and often there is no 'salary' at all. Your potential earnings as a scuba instructor are strongly influenced by where you work, who you work for, what you teach, how much you work and how you are paid.


Scuba instructor jobs pay what the local economy and the laws of supply and demand will support.

Urban areas with their lofty costs of living and lively economies command higher salaries than slow-growing cities where incomes are lower, and than warm, coastal locales where competition is fierce. Popular dive destinations outside the United States, such as the Caribbean, Australia and Mexico, pay less but offer more in the way of opportunity and what, for some, amounts to a 'quality of life' bonus.

Job Types

Instructor salaries vary widely by job type. Dive shops, resorts, cruise ships and live-aboards all employ scuba instructors. Who you work for has much to do with how your pay is structured and how much you can earn.

Dive shops generally provide steady work with compensation packages that include a base salary or hourly rate plus commissions on equipment sales and course fees.

Resorts, cruise ships, and live-aboards may offer less in salary but make up for it with room and board plus tips.

Annual incomes for self-employed instructors trend well above average but are tempered by substantial expenses such as liability insurance, classroom and pool rentals, equipment maintenance and certification-dive travel. rnrnJob types break down even further into full-time, part-time and seasonal categories, making average salary ranges difficult to pinpoint.

While online salary surveys factor in all jobs that include \"scuba diving instructor\" anywhere in the listing, the majority of these jobs are in retail dive shops and centres. Digging deeper into the popular dive forums and job boards reveals more real-world specifics.rnrnFor example, the Pro Dive website puts annual starting salaries for scuba instructors in resort jobs between £11,700 and £14,300, adding on £1,300 to £1,950 for experienced instructors.

Various scuba job boards show cruise ships paying between £975 and £1,300 per month, live-aboards from £975 and £1,625, and prized private yacht jobs topping out at £1,950.

The job board posts scuba instructor salaries between £1,170 and £1,560 per month. While far from exact, these numbers give you a good place to start.

Experience and Ratings

Experienced scuba instructors with advanced ratings will get better jobs and higher pay. Speciality instruction certificates in deep diving, wreck diving, night diving, enriched-air diving or dry-suit diving (to name a few), drive an instructor's marketability and earning potential even higher. Commissions from teaching more classes and the more expensive advanced and speciality classes will vary by compensation arrangement, but can easily double or triple the base pay.

Certification Agencies

Scuba instructors must be certified by a recognised dive agency, ideally one of the big three--PADI, NAUI, or SSI. While salaries may not differ significantly by agency, job opportunities might.

For example PADI dive centres typically hire only PADI instructors. Knowing which agency has the strongest presence in the area(s) where you plan to work helps you to set salary range expectations.

Agency name and terminology aside, all generally adhere to a common training standard and follow a natural progression.

Instructors begin with open-water training and progress through advanced open water, rescue diver, speciality diver, dive master, and assistant instructor courses.

Certified instructors can then advance to master trainer, staff instructor, master instructor, and course director. These top-level spots are typically full-time salaried positions with benefits.

Making the Most

Maximise your salary as a scuba instructor by getting advanced ratings and speciality certificates from a recognised dive agency. Also, log plenty of dives, work full time for a dive operation that pays salary plus commission, fine-tune your water and boating skills, learn how to maintain and repair dive equipment, maintain required CPR and first-aid certifications, brush up on your second (and third) languages and rejuvenate those leadership skills.rnrnCombine your passions and talents. If you're a web designer, build websites for dive shops and teach scuba classes part time. A photographer?

Generate extra income as an underwater videographer.

Have a boat?

Charter it out for dive trips. The more complementary skills you possess and the more creative you are, the greater your earning potential.