PADI Divemaster; do I require Experience before starting a PADI IDC?

How much experience do I really need?

This question will no doubt receive a rapid answer from many dive professionals. Highly likely the answer will be;

“Yes. You should get more experience as a Divemaster before starting a PADI IDC. Why not get some experience by working in the dive industry as a Divemaster first? Another option is to complete a long Divemaster internship that can take a few months.”

Actually, although the answer makes complete sense, sometimes people answer “in general” rather than looking at many different factors to make that decision. First, you need to look at the individual. Second, you need to see if that person is ready, or not, for the PADI Instructor Development Course.

This question comes usually from Divemasters who wish to do their IDC as soon as possible. However, they are unsure of their readiness and are asking for a professional opinion! Again, we need to question the individual further to gain more information before we can give a correct and truthful answer to that person.

What should we be asking this individual Divemaster as a Course Director, MI or IDC Staff Instructor?

Where did the individual complete the Divemaster training?

Ask about dive experience and in what different conditions and where around the globe.

The attitude;  of GREAT importance.

Any teaching skills and/or experience – such as DSD leader

Make an in-water assessment of the Divemasters dive skills and confidence in the water.

The financial situation, accommodation and food. (This is important and be very clear what the IDC and IE fees are.)

I ask what the candidate knows already about the PADI Instructor Development Course. And, I will discuss the high quality of expectation that each individual must bring to be successful.

I will ask if the Divemaster training is complete and what quality and form of training did the candidate experience? This can vary from dive centre to dive centre and from Instructor to Instructor.

PADI Standards for Divemaster Courses.

We have clear worldwide training standards to ensure a high-quality outcome. By creating such Standards, PADI ensures the quality of the Divemaster course is equal around the globe. However, in the real world of diving that sometimes doesn’t happen. This is due to diving instructors and dive centres who choose to deviate from these standards to save time and earn fast money.

Even if the diving instructor does teach all the minimum performance requirements of the Divemaster course it still might not be enough. In the PADI Instructor manual, the performance requirements state “mastery” and not just ticking the box. It will depend on the abilities of the student and how well they perform. Some learn quicker than others!

Around the world, in some locations dive centres may lack a certain amount of real students signing up for diver courses at the basic levels. In such cases, a Divemaster Candidate receives “simulated” students to role-play the course scenarios. The “simulated” students are often dive centre staff and instructors playing the role of an open water student. In the case of the Divemaster candidate’s experience, this is not “real-life” training and can affect the quality of tuition quite significantly.

Skill Circuit;

Staying within the PADI Standards, a Divemaster Candidate only need to complete one Skill Circuit (a demonstration of the key skills that appear in the Open Water course) to be able to comfortably demonstrate underwater skills to entry-level divers-in-training. According to PADI Standards and in some places, the Divemaster trainee only needs to get a score as low as a 3 (out of 5) to pass.

However, in my opinion, I do believe this will greatly affect the readiness of the Divemaster trainee or Divemaster when assessing whether or not they are ready to join the PADI IDC. There is a significant difference if the Divemaster trainee practices the skills regularly to improve, or is just given one chance at the Skill Circuit. When IDC Candidates have to think about how to perform a given skill, this increases pressure on them. Comparing this with an IDC Candidate who practices the skill often, it is already second nature for that candidate and they perform without thinking.

At the end of the day, you can complete a Divemaster course between 2 to 3 weeks or in some cases, when dive centres violate standards, even shorter.

If you ask me; is that person ready to start the Instructor Development Course? Then I will most likely answer: “No” and I will recommend that person waits until they have gained more experience in real-life diving situations. It is not just about being able to do the skill, it is about performing the skill in demonstration quality that Open Water students can follow and learn from.

That said; there are many PADI Dive Centres and PADI Instructors around the world that go far beyond the minimum standards. These centres, like ourselves, strive for excellence. Not only do they teach the PADI Divemaster course according to PADI standards, but they also add a lot of extra dive training, putting an emphasis on repetition. Which, in my experience is a vital tool to improve and get the best out of people.

You do not need to wait between DM Course and IDC.

So, if someone has done their Divemaster course with a great, solid PADI Dive Centre, and they have completed an extended PADI Divemaster Internship and they have got the best highest quality training…then, if you ask me if that person is ready to start the Instructor Development Course straight away then my answer will most likely be: “Yes”.

In some cases, an individual with good solid training is often better qualified than someone who completed a quick and minimal Divemaster course. For example; A Dive professional who spends months or years leading and guiding fun dives may not have the skills to teach.

The PADI IDC is not about leading fun dives or assisting in course work. The PADI Instructor Development Course is about teaching people to scuba dive safely, demonstrating quality underwater and surface skills whilst giving them the best time of their lives!

Does a Divemaster require extra theory lessons?

If who have completed a super Divemaster course and you are thinking about joining an equally fantastic IDC: “Do you need more experience before joining the Instructor Development Course?”, then in most cases I say: “No you don’t”. This is only so, under the one condition that the Divemaster Course took place with “real-life” students and you have a good theoretical understanding.

Diving Skills and Individual Confidence;

This relates a lot to the previous point about quality courses. Not only does this relate to a Divemaster Course/Trainee/Intern but also to the basic PADI courses such as Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and even Specialty courses. A good quality Open Water course is worth its weight in gold and the diver will flourish and progress. However, there are still individuals who need more time than others to fine-tune their dive skills and confidence. Practice makes perfect and with enough time and the right encouragement, that person will also become a good, solid dive professional.

Logged Dives;

You need 40 logged dives to start the PADI Divemaster course and 60 logged dives to finish it. To start the PADI Instructor Development Course you need 100 logged dives. This might sound like a lot, which it is for most people, however, some students need a little more to get to the same level.

As we all know, buoyancy truly gets better with time and experience. Same goes for anything we do in life, practice makes perfect. If a person still lacks good buoyancy or other diving skills, I highly recommend them to get more dive experience before joining an Instructor Development Course, even if that person has the 100 required logged dives. If you struggle with good buoyancy in general, it will only get worse when put under pressure and under the scrutiny of a PADI Examiner. Get more practice and review your skill circuit with a fantastic professional to help you.

With a little extra practice and the right feedback, it just might surprise you how quickly you improve.

Diving Skills in Different Water Conditions around the Globe;

Another question I ask is where you learnt how to dive? Here, I am referring to the environmental conditions and water conditions. A Divemaster who has dived all over the world, especially in challenging conditions has a different knowledge and experience compared to a Divemaster who possibly did all their training in the same location, in pristine seas, e.g. with little or no current, minimum waves, good visibility, nice water temperature etc. These factors play a massive role in confidence-building and expertise. Diving in a cold rough sea is very different from warm, clear waters with 25 m visibility.

Zero to Hero Courses; Yes or No?

We read on FB and Diver Forums criticising this method of training. Most of the time training conditions are warm-water-based, the skill practice takes place in the swimming pool and conditions are more than ideal. I can agree to this in some ways and disagree in others. First, the Instructor should offer quality training and make sure the skills are perfect. It really will depend on where the individual wants to work after the IDC? If the candidate trains in tropical conditions then expect to get a job as an Instructor in Europe, then that may be a very different story.

However, not all seasoned Divemasters are good instructors. Because you have heaps of experience does not necessarily mean you will be a good teacher. Instructional skills come naturally to some, to others they need a little polish when dealing with students. Water conditions play a huge role here, teaching in warm water with no current is a completely different experience than teaching in the North Sea or in the lochs and lakes of northern Europe. Teaching must be effective and fun for the student and the attitude of the Instructor plays a key role too.

Good Dive Centres, Bad Dive Centres,

No place in the world is perfect and you can find good and bad Dive Centres, Divemasters and Diving Instructors anywhere. The quality of training you receive in the basic courses through to Divemaster often will define if your skills are good or you need more experience. Location is important, but the Dive Centre and staff quality are much more important. It is not about party time and ”Bier o’clock’, but about gaining a good, solid and professional knowledge. Only this will stand you in good stead for the upcoming IDC, with less stress and few late nights struggling over the Physics section! Remember, there is no time to recap on theory, you should know this before registering for an IDC. The old saying goes “you get what you pay for” and good instruction is not always the cheapest and fastest!

There are other factors that can play a role in the decision when to do the IDC. Amongst others, these might include the confidence level of the person that wants to do the IDC, their diving skills, finances, attitude and teaching skills. Sometimes things are not always so straight forward especially when it comes to the financial side of things. This we will speak about in part two, next weekend.