Choose Scuba Instructors wisely there is a difference, between Independent and Dive Shop Instructors
Choose scuba instructors wisely, with both independent and dive shop instructors you will get the same certification card, but that dos not answer the question of the actual training experience you will receive. All scuba instructors must preform to agency standards (PADI, SSI, SEI, NAUI, RAID, IDEA, CMAS, etc). All the agency standards are all based upon the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) which sets the minimum training standards.
Types of Scuba Instructors
Independent instructors are instructors who work independently of a dive shop. This frees them from under a dive shop authoritarian rule and able to actually work with you. Independents usually work from their home away from busy distractions in a relaxed environment.
Dive Shop Instructors
Dive shop instructors are usually the owner, employee or contracted independent instructor of the dive shop. Under the authoritarian rule of the dive shop the instructor now must consider the stores policy and procedures throughout training. These are generally located in a commercial district with lots of people coming and going and huge monthly expenses.
What is a Independent Instructor?
Independent instructors generally do it for the love of scuba diving and wish to share their years of knowledge and experience with you. Independents generally are more concerned with the quality of students training than the quantity of students they certify. Training though an independent usually means your classes are small and more focused on making you a better diver. They have the time to spend with you to work though any issues that arise during training. Most independent instructors have worked in a dive shop at some point in their careers, and left to be on their own.
A Truly independent instructor has a large investment into not only their training, but equipment they must have to exist. The key word is the equipment or gear they must have in order to succeed. This usually is the same gear as any other dive shop with the exception of selling scuba gear. Typically they have high pressure air compressor, complete scuba gear sets, and extra air tanks. When you figure that a air compressor costs between 5k-25k, and each scuba gear kit costs around $2,500 you can see that the cost can add up very quickly for a independent instructor. This is why a lot of independent instructors still work with a dive shop. Finding a truly independent instructor is quite rare, but usually they are the one who want to give their students the best dive experience available.
Since the cost of becoming a truly independent instructor is so high, some of independents align themselves with a dive shop. Depending upon the agreement that the instructor has with the dive shop you will generally receive a mix of a true independent and a shop instructor.
Independent instructors do not own a dive shop with inventory that must be sold so they are not under pressure to make you buy anything else. While most independent instructors do not have inventory to sell they have owned a lot of scuba gear over the years. They can give you a honest opinion on what scuba gear will work for you the best (learn from their mistakes). While they would love to sell you on the next training class they usually don’t have the high pressure sales tactics that dive shops do.
Who is my Instructor
Your instructor receives the exact same rigorous training that a dive shop instructor receives, but has decided to focus more on training than selling. Usually your independent instructor does not train hundreds of students a year, since they focus on quality training. Your independent instructor will probably be there for you years after you get certified and will answer any question or concern you may have.
An independent instructor generally has the most flexible schedules available. Since a lot of instructors are usually retired or work part-time, this gives them the flexibility in meeting your schedule to get you certified. With the flexibility of independent instructors some dive shops will refer you to an independent instructor to obtain your certification. With smaller classes you get more personal attention to make you a better diver and succeed in your adventure.
Independent instructors are very competitive with a dive shop on training prices. The main difference is most dive shops sell a-la-carte where an independents include everything you need for certification, there are no hidden expenses. Typically most independent instructors charge around 300-500 dollars for open water certification.
You are a customer of the instructor who will be there for you, not a dive shop! so remember to choose scuba instructors wisely.
Dive Shop Instructors
What is a Dive Shop Instructor
Dive shops are business with very high operating costs and depend upon scuba gear to stay in business. Dive shops are small businesses designed to maximize profits. The owner set standards on how their business is ran, with most small business it’s about separating money from your pocket to their pocket. This is done multiple of ways, the first is advertising the cheap dive training, second is making sure you purchase gear, and third is selling you anything else they can.
Instructors are trained to sell you something every time you walk though the door. Gear, training, stickers, trips anything you may or may not need every time you meet with your instructor.
A dive shop instructor is under the strict control of keeping the dive shop doors open, no matter what. Up-selling is part of the instructor training where every mistake is an opportunity to up-sell. Most people have had the experience of a used car salesman a shop instructor is no different. Dive shop instructors are programmed to tell you anything to make the sale. Dive shop instructors generally only wear equipment that the shop sells (sometimes it mandatory). Since they are essentially a used car salesmen they will tell you how great it is just to get you to buy it.
Now there are other ways a lot of shops make you purchase additional items. Most notability is the purchase of personal gear (Mask, Snorkel, Fins) these are also one of the highest markup products. However every dive shop I have visited rent all the personal fit items to you (generally not to students though). They are also there to make the shop money. If they do not have 4-8 students they won’t have a class.
Who is my Instructor?
This is another problem with most dive shops, is revolving instructors. You may have one person that sells you the course, one that teaches classroom, one for pool, and two different ones for open water. Wow, you mean I could have 4 different instructors plus a sales rep? Training agencies breakup learning into sections and they are used to the shops advantage. If one cannot make the sale another instructor may be able to make the sale. When you have multiple instructors this makes the entire learning process very non-personal and reminds you of how much of a number you are. A dive shop controls the instructor that often the instructor is treated very poorly by the owner. Instructors will do what the dive shop owner wants period. This could be why some instructors don’t stay with one shop or quit teaching all together.
Don’t even dare ask your favorite instructor to teach you outside of the dive shop, as this would generally get them fired.
Dive shops try and control every portion of their business, and this means the schedules too. Dive shops schedules are generally set in stone with no leeway. You must be committed to certain days or multiple weekends to obtain your certification. Remember that we need you to walk through our showroom so we have the opportunity to sell you something extra. Flexibility really does not exist in most dive shops, unless you are willing to pay extra. One of the biggest problems with fixed schedules is when you cannot do a skill and the instructor decides to wash you back to another class. This not only opens your pocket book again but now your schedule to obtain your certification is off track. With large classes most dive shop instructors don’t have the time to work with you individually.
Dive shops will generally advertise a very low price to entice you to come in and signup. Signing up you will be guided through the dive shop to some of the larger profit items (usually not the most expensive) to start making up for the difference. Typically dive shops sell a-la-carte, so you have to buy everything indivdually. Dive shops generally will charge around 100-500 dollars however plan on spending more for required purchases.
So what does it cost to get certified at a dive shop? Let’s take a quick look: Tuition ($99) it’s the special, Books ($100), Personal Gear ($300), Rental Gear ($150), Confined Water ($100), Check Out Dives ($200), and Certification Card ($40), all that equals about $989, a far cry from the $99 that brought you into the store.
You are a customer of the dive shop! Your favorite instructor may not be there the next time you walk though the door.
Choose scuba instructors wisely as there a generally a lot of differences in the training and experience you will receive between independent instructors and dive shop instructor . There is always exceptions to how one or the other works, but in most cases I have covered them here.