Travel and Work Abroad as a Scuba Diving Instructor or Divemaster

by | Last updated Dec 2, 2023 | Outdoor Recreational Activities, Work Abroad Backpacker Jobs

If you have a passion for being in the underwater world then why not make it your profession and become a scuba diving instructor or divemaster. Hmmmm…..your mind is now ticking over! You hadn’t thought of turning a passion into a profession before? Well many have and you could too. Here is how to become and work as a scuba diving instructor or divemaster and travel the world teaching others how to transform their life underwater in some of the best places for scuba diving in the world.


Scuba Diving Explained


So what is scuba diving? Well, after a quick search of the internet for a definition, what I found was that scuba diving is a water sport that involves breathing air from a tank while underwater. Scuba in fact is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Being able to scuba dive allows you to explore underwater environments like reefs, quarries, cenotes, lakes, large aquariums or any body of water.


The Road to a Scuba Diving Career


Before you can teach other people to scuba dive, you need to learn to scuba dive yourself. Now, there are different qualifications or certifications you gain so you can scuba dive. So how do you become a certified diver?


Recreational Certifications


There are 3 basic recreational levels that allow you to become a scuba diver. They are Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue (which includes Emergency First Responder qualification). With one or all of these certifications you will be able to explore some of the best underwater worlds in the world including some of the best dive sites in South-east Asia – which I am hoping to discover soon. It is top of my best places for scuba diving in world list. But you cannot work in the scuba industry with these certifications, only enjoy scuba diving. To work in the scuba diving industry as a scuba dive instructor you will need a professional certification.


Professional Certifications


The two professional certifications required to work in the dive industry are Divemaster and Instructor certifications. The main difference being a Divemaster guides certified divers to dive or assists an instructor in the teaching process, but cannot teach courses without the supervision of an instructor. A Scuba Instructor is the one who provides the training to students who want to learn to dive and gain their certification. With either one of these dive qualifications you can gain work in the dive industry to travel and work abroad.


The Pros and Cons of Being a Scuba Diving Instructor or Divemaster


Before you become a scuba diving instructor or divemaster you may want to know is it worth your while first. At the moment, you may just want to dive in some of the best dive spots around the world! Right? 

The biggest advantages to taking the next step and becoming a qualified scuba diving instructor or divemaster would be that you can work and travel the world, train people in your diving passion and be paid for it. Also, having scuba diving certification means you could get work that involves scuba diving, not just teaching others to scuba dive.


The Pros of Being a Dive Instructor or Divemaster


  • You get to scuba dive around the world.
  • You get paid to work and travel abroad. In some of the best dive spots in the world.
  • Turn your passion for scuba diving into a career.
  • Meet many people.
  • Discover the culture of the country you are living in.


The Cons of Being a Dive Instructor or Divemaster


  • You will be living away from home.
  • Some say the industry isn’t very professional with poorly maintained dive gear.
  • It is a physically demanding job.
  • You are responsible for the safety of your students.
  • You may just want to dive great dive spots around the world as a scuba diver rather than having the responsibility that comes with a scuba diving instructor job.
  • Work hours can be very long and salaries aren’t always the best.
  • Jobs are mostly tourism based and can be seasonal.


Types of Scuba Diving Jobs besides Instructing


Teaching scuba diving is one of the more accessible entry-level positions if you are seeking to make a living in underwater scuba diving. You could work for a dive shop, on an island resort taking people out diving or even on a superyacht! However, with a scuba diving qualification you can get different jobs around the world including:


  • Underwater Photographer – If you are a keen photographer, add these skills to your diving and sell your photography around the world. You will need underwater photography equipment.
  • Public Safety Diver – the name changes for different parts of the world. Basically, public safety diving refers to the underwater work carried out by authorities such as search and rescue teams or police.
  • Scientific Diver – someone who works for a marine organisation to research underwater environments to collect information on marine environments. 
  • Dive Centre Manger – If you don’t want to dive all the time, get a job in a dive centre or shop and oversee the training of dive courses and dive excursions. Many with the divemaster qualification will be a dive centre manager.
  • Underwater stunt person – Movie and TV show makers seek divers to coordinate underwater stunts. You could use your diving abilities to ensure diving stunts are safe. And you could be on screen as a body double!
  • Commercial Diver – commercial divers are paid to carry out construction, inspection or exploration tasks for oil, gas, construction, engineering or shipping companies. So you could work offshore in the oil and gas industry or inland in lakes, rivers and harbours working on bridges and dams.


However, this post is about becoming a scuba diving instructor to teach others to scuba dive rather than the type of scuba diving jobs available. I’ve only mentioned the above to advise you what you could do with a scuba diving qualification. Note: these jobs usually require you to have further qualifications in the field of work.


What About Visas for Scuba Diving Instructors and Divemasters?


Having a scuba diving instructor qualification will mean you can teach other’s to dive anywhere in the world. Many positions are tourism related, so where it is popular to dive, is where people like to get their qualification to dive. South-east Asia, the Caribbean and Australia are popular dive destinations. Not all dive organisations will provide a visa to sponsor you to work for them, however, some do. If not successful with a work permit and aged 18-35 years, check out countries with a working holiday visa available.


How Much Can You Earn as a Scuba Diving Instructor


You are probably wondering how much do scuba instructors make. How much you can earn as a scuba diving instructor will depend on the employer and where you are in your journey. When starting out, you are going to be at the bottom for a while and maybe competing with others. Put in a little extra leg work with more training and qualifications and you will work your way up the ladder. But how much can you make you ask? Well, how long is a piece of string!

The salary of a scuba diving instructor can depend on what part of the world you are working in. For instance, in Hawaii, an experienced diving instructor could be on around US$25,000 while it could be lower in Asia. Depending on where the job is, you may have accommodation included which make living costs lower. Many instructors work on a casual basis, as tourism is often seasonal so you could be paid hourly and only work a few hours a day or a few days per week. Some may only pay you for face-to-face time with clients. Know what is on offer before accepting.

So will you become a millionaire working in the dive industry on a scuba diving instructor salary? Probably not, it is more the ‘diving lifestyle’ that attracts people to the dive industry. You could travel and work around the world or set up your own diving business in your favourite part of the world.

Work and Travel Abroad as a Scuba Diving Instructor under the sea with tropical fish all around.

Choose the Diving Organisation to Gain Your Scuba Diving Instructor Qualification


There are a few organisations to gain a qualification. The top three are:

  • PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors
  • SSI – Scuba Schools International
  • NAUI – National Association of Underwater Instructors

There are other organisations as well, but out of all of them, PADI is the most recognised around the world.


How to Become a Scuba Diving Instructor – The Steps


The steps to become a scuba diving instructor are consistent no matter who you choose to get your qualification with. Here are the main steps:


Step One: Meet the IDC (Instructor Development Course) Prerequisites


To start your dive instructor training you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a certified diver for at least six months
  • Hold a divemaster certification (or qualifying certification)
  • Have at least 60 logged dives (100 logged dives will be required to receive your instructor credentials)
  • Hold a current CPR and First Aid certification and maybe Emergency First Response certification
  • Have an in-date medical approval to scuba dive

Note: To have your divemaster certification you will have the following recreational scuba diving certificates:
Scuba Diver – this initial certification allows you to dive to maximum depth of 12m / 40 feet.
Open Water Diver – allows you to dive independently.
Advanced Open Water Diver – allows you to dive deeper – 30m / 100 feet.
Rescue Diver – this helps you be a much safer diver.
Master Scuba Diver – this is the highest recreational scuba diving certification level and can dive deep, or do night and wreck diving. With this, you then meet a prerequisite of gaining your professional scuba diving instructor qualification or divemaster qualification.


Step Two: complete the IDC


By the time you begin the IDC, you will already have great diving skills so the IDC is usually spent in the classroom covering:

  • How to give classroom presentations
  • How to work with students in confined water (a pool or pool-like environment) and open water
  • Risk management
  • How to market yourself as an Instructor


Step Three: Pass the Instructor Exam


After completing the IDC, you will be eligible to take the Instructor Exam. As long as you pass that, voila, qualified as a scuba diving instructor.


How Much Does the Dive Instructor Qualification cost?


The cost of gaining your qualification as a dive instructor can vary and depend on the inclusions in the course. Costs to be covered will include the IDC training, instructor materials, exam fee, your diving equipment, living/travelling expenses while on the course plus DAN insurance. All up, you could be looking at $4000+. Get a full breakdown of costs from the organisation you are completing your dive instructor qualification through.


How to Find a Job in the Dive Industry


Once you having your dive instructor qualification or divemaster qualification you could look for dive instructor jobs and divemaster jobs. Keep in mind, having a second language is helpful in your job search as you can get a job in foreign lands (waters) abroad. Same as having a very customer service attitude as many people you come in contact with will be on holiday. Check out:

  • Job boards such as the PADI Job Board – only available if you get your qualification through them.
  • Divezone – a website about diving around the world has a job board.
  • Facebook pages such as Dive Jobs Worldwide.
  • Networking is a great way to get a scuba job. Start making connections with everyone and anyone in the industry.
  • Walk in to a dive organisation and ask – take your CV with you!


Places to Work Abroad as a Scuba Diver


Wherever there is water, there is the possibility to scuba dive. Popular places to work abroad as a scuba diver include in the countries of Thailand, Maldives, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and Mexico to name a few.


Bonus Step: Wherever you choose to travel and work abroad as a scuba diver ensure you take out travel insurance for scuba diving to cover you. SafetyWing is the best for long-term travellers and workers abroad. But also consider DAN (dive accident insurance) that insures you for dive injuries often not covered by health or travel insurance.


Are you ready to dive in to becoming a scuba diving instructor?


There are a lot of certificates to gain before becoming a fully qualified divemaster or scuba diving instructor. If you love scuba diving you will probably enjoy every moment of what you learn on your journey to working abroad as a dive instructor or divemaster. With a qualification you can gain employment in the best place for scuba diving in the world that attracts you. Have you turned your passion for diving into a career? I’d love to hear.


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People scuba diving instructors under the sea with beautiful orange coloured fish.

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Sharyn McCullum Sailing Through The Panama Canal With Storm Chasing Boat.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to get the live work play travel lifestyle with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.


  1. Hannah

    Ooh I like the idea of being an underwater photographer! I have the camera, I just need the waterproof equipment to go along with it!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      That sounds like a plan. I presume you can scuba dive too – so there are definitely opportunities to be an underwater photographer.

  2. Shreya

    This is very helpful! I’ve been considering making the leap into turning my hobby into a profession. I might just do it!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Good to hear. Many do turn their hobby into a profession – I hope you do.

  3. Michelle

    Never thought about this, but sounds like a really interesting option to work away from home for a few years!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Yeah – scuba diving isn’t for everyone but for those that love it, it is a great way to travel and work around the world.


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