Choosing the Right Instructor

Two people talking on boat.

This may seem an odd post, coming at the end of the season when most people are hanging up their fins for the winter, but some recent conversations have brought this topic back to mind so I thought I’d share some thoughts. While framed in the context of technical diver training, these notions, I think, apply equally to recreational training.

The student/instructor relationship can make or break your class experience. It can be an informative, challenging and rewarding experience that not only helps you become a competent diver, but also makes you want to get out there and dive as much as possible. Or it can be frustrating, demoralizing and unsatisfying experience that makes you wonder why you dive at all. Hopefully these suggestions will help guide you towards the former and avoid the latter.

The first thing you need to do is to figure out what you want to get out of your course; no matter what level of training you desire. Different instructors have different philosophies and may teach the same course in completely different manners. All courses are not equal (even if both instructors teach through the same agency). It’s critical for you to choose an instructor who is offering the course that meets your wants/needs.

But how do you find the “right” instructor? You have to be an active, rather than passive consumer. You have to do your homework and actively search out training options. Talk to several instructors about the training you desire. Treat these conversations as job interviews. You are interviewing the instructor to see if you want to hire them to train you.

  • Ask your prospective instructor about their experience in the particular area that the course covers. If you’re interested in a wreck diving in the Great Lakes, ask the instructor about their experience in Great Lakes wreck diving. If they aren’t actively engaged in the type of diving you want to do, keep looking.
  • Ask about the balance between teaching and personal diving. If the instructor’s dive log is crammed with 20′ training dives in the local quarry, but lacking in quality, challenging and fulfilling personal dives, again, keep looking (unless you want to learn how to do 20′ dives in a quarry).
  • Ask about details of the course. What topics are covered, how many dives are conducted, where are the dives conducted, etc. Again, not all courses are equal. One instructor may offer a course that covers the basics, while another may go into greater detail.
  • See if there’s a rapport between you and the instructor. It’s no surprise that not everyone gets along. There may be lots of competent instructors, but that won’t give you much solace if you take a class from a competent instructor that you really, really don’t get along with. You don’t have to be BFF’s, but you need some sort of amicable relationship, especially at the more complex levels of diver training.

That gives you an idea of what I’m talking about. I’m sure you can think of additional questions. The bottom line here is to be proactive. By investing some time and doing research, you will hopefully avoid a disappointing course experience and have a rewarding experience that makes you a better, safer diver.