The Hardest Part of Being a Scuba Diving Instructor

I’ve had many people ask me “What is the most difficult part of being a scuba diving instructor?” Certainly there are many things that make teaching scuba diving difficult. Poor performing students, unruly dive store owners, or working long hours for very little pay are some great topics that make scuba diving instructors question if they really want to teach scuba diving. While I have had more than my fair share of frustrations, there is one thing that I find most difficult being a scuba diving instructor.

Just Say No

Just Saying No

The most hardest thing I have to do is to deny a certification to a student who hasn’t fully met the course objectives or lived up to my higher standards. Now, I don’t outright fail students and send them away. Certainly, I am willing to help a struggling student get better at a slower pace. It is always difficult when someone really had their heart set on getting certified before a vacation or before the winter cold sets in.

Saying no became harder when I became a technical diving instructor. Technical diving classes are expensive. When you consider course tuition, materials, travel and lodging expenses; it isn’t uncommon for technical diving students to pay $2000 USD or more. After people have invested so much money into a scuba diving class, and they don’t perform well, it is extremely difficult to tell them they need more practice and come back later.

My objective of every class I teach is to help students meet their personal diving goals. To do this, I cannot simply just show them a few skills and hand over a c-card. That isn’t helping people become better scuba divers. Certification must be earned in order for people to really become better.

Are there exceptions? There are a few classes that are pretty straight forward and a c-card is worthless. Specialties like Underwater Navigation, Dry Suit, etc. Does anyone really require a Peak Performance Buoyancy c-card in order to get on a diving boat? Not really. But this is where selecting the proper instructor is so important. A truly great instructor can make these classes very good and students can learn quite a bit.

I have taken my share of “watered down” classes in the past. Many of these poor classes required me to actually put off doing the kind of dives I was training for. In my opinion, divers should train beyond their level of diving instead of diving beyond their level of training.

The best example I can give you is about my buddy Dave. I started training Dave a while ago. He wasn’t the greatest diver, but showed promise. He took a couple of classes from me and then signed up for one of my Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures classes. While Dave had become one of my favorite students, his performance in the tech class was anything but stellar. He didn’t pass the first time. But he worked through the summer and got better. By the fall, he came back to me for a re-eval and eventually passed the class. He’s now one of my regular dive buddies.

So if you find yourself not passing a scuba diving class the first time around, don’t give up hope. Continue to practice, follow your instructor’s suggestions and of course keep reading the articles on this site.

About Duane Johnson

Duane Johnson is the founder of Precision Diving and runs a scuba diving blog to help scuba divers improve their diving skills and enjoyment. He teaches recreational and technical scuba diving classes in the Chicago area. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @PrecisionDiving.


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jay Lund. Jay Lund said: “@PrecisionDiving: The Hardest Part of Being a Scuba Diving Instructor:” As usual…great insight Duane. [...]

  2. [...] at Precision Diving had a recent post on the difficulty of saying, “no”. He is mostly referring to tec diving, but it applies to [...]