Many divers dream of one day living on a beautiful island by the sea and diving for a living. But does this also correspond to reality? How hard is the path to becoming a Dive Pro and is it even worth it? Or is this just a dream for many?
My name is Daniel Kistler, I am a PADI Instructor and, together with Tamara, owner of the diving school CyprusDivingCentre in Cyprus. A few years ago I asked myself exactly that and I am happy to share my personal views with you here.
As with most divers, it started for me with an introductory dive and then a PADI Open Water Diver. That was in 2011. I was simply amazed by the underwater world, the tranquility and the feeling of floating weightlessly in another world. And right from the start, of course, I looked up at my diving instructor and thought; "WOW - what kind of life does he have!". Lives here on a beautiful island, gets paid to go underground, he doesn't seem to have any stress anymore and he was just happy! And I have to go back to Switzerland in a few days... Back to the kitchen, stress every day, mostly bad weather and everything isn't quite how I would like it to be. Even then I was joking about the fact that one day I would also work as a diving instructor on an island. But of course these were actually more like dreams. I can't just throw everything down and move on? Or does it?
Many years as a holiday-diver
After the training, reality came back to me. Diving became a holiday hobby. So for the first couple of years I collected maybe 4-8 dives a year - or sometimes none at all. Whenever I was diving, the dreams of life by the sea and freedom came back. But it remained a holiday hobby. Until a good friendship developed with Michi in the Swiss army.
He also just got his diving license and we thought "Hey - why don't we go diving together in Switzerland?". Said and done. The first dive was rather uncomfortable because we didn't know how cold the Swiss lakes can get. But it grabbed us, and so I suddenly did around 50 dives a year. At some point, Michi started doing his PADI Divemaster course in Switzerland. This wasn't really an option for me, I wanted to go to the sea.
In the meantime, however, my private life has also changed somewhat. I was no longer a cook, but an officer in the Swiss Army as a temporary soldier. The plan was actually a career as a career officer. I actually really enjoyed my job in Switzerland. But still, I got up every day and something was missing. Early in the morning, it was mostly cold, dark and somehow it was just a working day.
The turning point
I was in a phase where I just didn't know exactly what I wanted anymore. Actually, my goal was quite clearly a career in the Swiss Army. Then I met Tamara. We met and we got together. However, there was a big BUT. We met just before she went traveling for 6 months. So we only had a few weeks together and then she flew to Australia. I stayed behind in cold Switzerland. That's when I realized I had to change something. Without further ado I gave up everything, got myself a plane ticket and traveled to Australia to follow Tamara. So we were on the road together for the next 5 months and explored the world. That's when I realized – I can't go back to Switzerland. I have to try it now or I may regret it a lot at some point.
Important thoughts on this
What was definitely very important to me was knowing that I had received good training, had good job references and that gave me security. And I still advise that today to anyone who would like to become a diving instructor. Do an apprenticeship first, gain some work experience and just keep doors open. It's always good to have a backup.
PADI Divemaster training
During our trip we also landed on Koh Tao in Thailand. A great diving island. So we decided together to go back there and do our PADIDivemaster course. Due to the fact that we did our training in one of the largest PADI diving schools in the world, we have also met many other Divemaster candidates.
As we have established, there are two types of candidates:
- The "I just want a great life" candidates
- The “I want to be a good Dive Pro and I'm willing to work for it” candidates
If you really want to set foot in the diving industry and make a living from it for the long term, you should definitely belong to the second category. We, Tamara and I, have both invested a lot of time in ourselves. Takes everything very seriously and tries to get better with every dive. Ultimately, as a PADI Divemaster or PADI Instructor, you bear a great deal of responsibility.
My first job as a PADI Divemaster
After our apprenticeship, we immediately got our first job together. On Cyprus, where I did my first training for years. The pay wasn't really the real thing, but we knew – for us it's all about gaining experience first and we thought – that's just the way it is in the diving industry. So for us it was definitely: pack things in Switzerland and emigrate to Cyprus.
We worked a lot, rarely had time off and the days didn't just consist of diving. Fill bottles, clean shop, clean equipment, drive guests, do computer work and so on. There was a lot to do. But everything was kind of fun. It was a different kind of work, a different kind of stress. You were happy and above all the people around you were always happy too!
Training to become a diving instructor
We loved what we made and wanted more! So it was back to Thailand where we did our IDC course to become a PADI Open WaterSCUBA Instructor. And there was a great reunion. Michi, with whom I started diving in Switzerland, is in the same IDC course as us with his girlfriend.
It was 2 very exhausting, but also super good weeks! I really felt like I was in a dream for the first time. I'm about to become a PADI Instructor. Dreamed about it for years and joked about it and suddenly you're standing there holding the diploma in your hand: PADI Open WaterSCUBA Instructor – Daniel Kistler. Tamara, Michi and Sani, his girlfriend, made it too! Now the journey as a PADI diving instructor begins.
Working as a PADI Diving Instructor
After our training, we went back to Cyprus, where we were able to work as diving instructors in the same diving school. And it was just MEGA! We had so much fun showing other people how to dive, making them divers and helping the already licensed divers to become better.
But the days as a dive instructor can be long and tiring. It was often 10 hours or more for us. We were maybe 3x 50 minutes under water. The rest of the time we spent cleaning equipment, tidying up the shop and the like.
But also a lot of time just to talk to customers and tell them about the most beautiful diving experiences or to hear the stories of other divers. And that's what makes this job so incredibly beautiful for me. You always have a topic of conversation, you hear so many great stories every day and you live for your job.
Of course, it always depends very much on the diving school which work has to be carried out by a diving instructor. Larger diving schools often have many employees who take on cleaning tasks etc. At smaller diving schools, everyone lends a hand. Both have advantages and disadvantages. With larger diving schools, you often don't have the family atmosphere that you have with smaller diving schools.
What everyone always wants to know - money?
We love our job and for me it's also the best job in the world. But even as a diving instructor or divemaster you have to be able to pay your bills. Is this even possible?
Well yes - basically yes and more and more. Because the diving industry is also going through a change. Diving Instructors and Divemasters are in demand around the world and as a result, the salaries and benefits that you receive as a diver are also increasing. Modern diving schools in particular are at the forefront. But unfortunately there are still many diving schools that are rather reluctant to pay.
Here I can give a very clear tip: Don't sell yourself below your value. It is clear that you earn a little less as a young, inexperienced divemaster or diving instructor. The greatest reward here is gaining experience. But even there you should not work for free and receive a fair wage.
As an experienced diving instructor, with preferably several specialties that you can train, your salary will of course also increase. Of course, it is difficult to say how high it will be, as this can vary from country to country. Of course, the cost of living is also important. If you decide to work in the Maldives for example, you will basically not need a lot of money as there is not much where you can spend money (except in the dive shop of course;-)).
Accommodation and meals are often included in such places. Sometimes even the flights are paid for!
Find out from other diving instructors
We diving instructors and pros are a large community, which you can also use. Are you looking for a job anywhere? Then ask other diving instructors what they earned there. Here is a good example of this page:
How we went on
After two years as employed diving instructors, we took the plunge and opened our own diving school. We have taken over the CyprusDivingCentre. Our concept "Swiss quality meets cypriothospitality" was well received and within just 2 years we became one of the largest PADI diving schools in Cyprus. And this, even though our first two years were the CORONA years. So we can say that we have made our dream come true. But it was, and still is, a lot of work and sweat!
Since 2022 we have also been a PADI 5Star IDC diving school and in the future, in addition to PADIDivemasters, we will also be able to train PADI diving instructors in Cyprus, giving you the opportunity to make your dream come true.