What is the income of a Scuba Diving Instructor – Can I get rich in paradise?

What is the income of a scuba diving instructor?

Dream Job Scuba Diving Instructor. What is the income of a scuba diving instructor?

What is the income of a scuba diving instructor? Can I get rich as an instructor? Or can I survive with the salary of an instructor at all?

These and other questions we are asked often. That’s the reason why we have written down our experiences and put together three case studies with some ballpark figures.

The second question can be answered quite clearly with NO. With the salary of an instructor, you cannot get rich. Although what is meant by rich? Rich in experience, rich in quality of life. But that is probably too philosophical to cover in one blog post.

The reasons why someone would like to work as an instructor are obvious. Tropical islands, palm trees, white sandy beaches, sun and the ocean. Suntanned, pretty, bikini-wearing diving students and beach parties with live music. Doesn’t that sound like a nice way of living? That’s how you could live in the most beautiful places of our world.

That’s how four years of summer or a life in Flip Flop could look like => A life in paradise: Travel & Work

Job paradise under the palm trees

Job paradise under the palm trees

But does this really correspond to reality, or is it just a dream and an illusion? Of course, the places of work in the tropics are often as beautiful as paradise. This is certainly one of the big advantages when working as an instructor. But can you really enjoy this paradise while working as a diving instructor?

A diving instructor is entertainer, teacher, psychologist, mechanic, storekeeper and goofer.

Depending on destination and employer, life as a diving instructor can be heavenly pleasant or totally unsatisfactory and depressing. Cultural differences, a different climate, corporate philosophy, work schedules, requirements, tasks and thousands of other factors can have a major impact on the work as an instructor. As an instructor, you need more skills than just scuba diving. Often you act as entertainer, vendor, psychologist, mechanic, storekeeper, teacher and gofer. Therefore, the choice of destination and employer you plan to work for is of crucial importance for your well-being and satisfaction.

Scuba Diving Instructor at work

Scuba Diving Instructor at work. What is the income of a scuba diving instructor?

Realistically speaking the job as an instructor is anything but a dream. The development of the diving industry has stalled and growth is stagnating. Yet, there are more and more instructors being certified each year. Luckily, there are many instructors who work for a few years only or even just for one season. Even if the market is saturated, there are destinations that experience a lack of good instructors. Generally, however, the income of a scuba diving instructor are rather modest.

Depending on the destination and the employer, the income of a scuba diving instructor can vary greatly. Just as important as the income are the expenditures, and these are, in the most beautiful diving areas of the world, often very low. There are still some cost you have to cover, but life is generally much cheaper in tropical destinations than in Europe.

Depending on the destination accommodation and meals are often included in the wages. These are already two very large expenditure items. Maybe you don’t have to pay taxes, on a small island you do not need an expensive car and also the cost of commuting to work are very low.

The income can be made up as follows:

  • Net salary
  • Student Bonus (per certification)
  • Commission (equipment sales, shop items)
  • Tips

On the expenditure side, the following items may apply:

  • Purchase of equipment
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Leisure, going out
  • Transportation
  • Instructor License
  • Insurance (Health insurance, diving insurance …)
  • Visa
  • Holiday and travel

Of course, the income and expenditures vary a lot from diving destination to diving destination. Moreover, it is of course always favorable when the expenditure can be divided. As a couple, most of the expenditures can be shared and so reduced.

What is the income of a scuba diving instructor?

To give you an indication, we have compiled three case studies with rough numbers of the income and expenditure per month of an instructor.

Case Study 1: Maldives (Working as instructor with a permanent contract)


  • Net salary: USD 700 – 800
  • Student bonus: USD 100
  • Commission: USD 150
  • Tips: USD 50


  • Accommodation and meals: included
  • Expenses for drinks at the bar: USD 100 – 300
  • Health insurance (required by law): USD 100
  • Flight to the Maldives: Paid by the employer
  • Equipment: Provided by the employer

Case Study 2: Thailand (Working as a freelancer)


  • Student bonus (depending on number of students): THB 10’000 – 20’000 (USD 320 – 640)
  • Commission (depending on sales success): THB 5’000 – 10’000 (USD 160 – 320)


  • Accommodation, room or small bungalow: THB 3’000 – 6’000 (USD 100 – 200)
  • Meals: THB 2’000 – 6’000 (USD 65 – 200)
  • Motorbike rental: THB 3’000 – 4’000 (USD 100 – 130)
  • Visa Runs: THB 2‘000 – 5‘000 (USD 65 – 160)

Case Study 3: Egypt


  • Salary: EUR 800 – 1200 (USD 1000 – 1600)
  • Student bonus: EUR 100 (USD 135)
  • Commission: EUR 100 (USD 135)


  • Accommodation and meals: included
  • Expenses for drinks at the bar: EUR 100 – 300 (USD 135 – 400)

All information are without guarantee and can of course vary greatly from destination to destination and employer to employer but also over time. But we hope to help you with above information that we have put together from personal experience.

Working as scuba diving instructors on the Maldives was the best job of our lives so far.

If you find a good employer and you start your job as an instructor with the right attitude and expectation, work can be an enormous enrichment and lots of fun. It is important that you are aware of the fact that the life of an instructor is not always fun and easy, even if you are in paradise. As with any other profession, you will have very good times and sometimes you will have unpleasant experiences.

Scuba Diving Instructor under water

Scuba Diving Instructor under water. What is the income of a scuba diving instructor?

Even if you do not become rich as an instructor, you will certainly be rewarded with beautiful moments and impressions. You can work where others spend their holidays. Tourists pay a lot of money to spend their holidays at the place where you work. You’ll learn a lot about the underwater world and have breathtaking encounters with the inhabitants of our oceans. You’ll also learn a lot about the divers that you take care of and your knowledge of human nature will grow. The training of new divers is an enormous enrichment and it’s a lot of fun.


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37 thoughts on “What is the income of a Scuba Diving Instructor – Can I get rich in paradise?

  1. Great post! I’ve been looking for detailed information about the income of scuba instructors. Right now I’m a divemaster and I have a website that focuses on this, Scuba Internships Thailand. Would you be ok if I were to write a post about the income possibilities as an instructor, using your post as a reference and linking back to you? Let me know.


    • Thanks Jeff,

      Sure you can reference to our post about the income as a scuba instructor.
      I checked your website. Sounds like a good project. We have done our IDC in Koch Tao a few years ago.
      Definitely a good place to start.

      Cheers Marcel

  2. Thank you for the helpful info. I have been researching about dive salaries and possible living destinations. This was very helpful.

    • Hi,

      Will you do your IDC with PADI? If yes, then you will have access to the PADI job board with job openings all over the world.
      There are other websites with scuba diving jobs like SSI, Taucher.net, etc.
      Another possibility is working for the dive center that you are doing the IDC with.

      We never had any trouble finding a new job so far. There are plenty of options around as long as you are flexible.

      Good luck with your IDC,


      • Hi Mr. Marcel,

        Good Day..! Thanks for this awesome article.

        I am AB 24 years old, working as a Software Tester from India. I am bored with my 10 hour sitting job. I am looking forward to change my career into adventure, fun and travel the world.
        I want you to guide me on the below.
        a) In 24 years, its a good decisions for me to change my career into scuba diving ?
        b) I can go ahead and start the PADI Scuba diving open water certificate course?
        c) Other county will recruiter Indian as a scuba instructor ?

        Awaiting for your reply


        • Hi AB,

          AS far as I understand, you are not a scuba diver yet. Before you even think of quitting your job and start a career as scuba diving instructor you need to find out if you really like scuba diving.
          I would highly recommend you to do the Open Water course and dive as much as possible while still working your IT job.
          You need to find out if you really like scuba diving. To work as scuba diving instructor you need to be passionate about the underwater world.
          You need to be very comfortable in the water and you need a lot of energy, patience and dedication.

          Working as Scuba Diving Instructor is a good option to earn money while traveling the world.
          Nevertheless working as scuba diving instructor is a hard way to earn your money.

          I hope that helps in finding your way into the future.

          Sunny greetings from Indonesia


  3. Hi I am jagz fashion designer, I want be came PADI even want to invest in this business , I have good financial support, where should I start from, I am from India, but I don’t know swimming

    • Hi Jagz,

      First and most important is that you need to be comfortable in the water. So my recommendation for you is to take swimming lessons as a first step.
      After you are a comfortable swimmer the next step would be to try snorkeling and then you can think about diving.

      Sunny greetings,


  4. Hi Marcel,

    Great post!

    I am a certified open water diver by SSI and i used to be an active diver during university as my major used to be marine zoology (until I shifted to microbiology due to my immature perception that there would be no future in marine work where i come from)

    Any ways, 15 years later and here I am discovering the water again(no loggged dives since the early 2000 and I’ve misplaced my dive log. I have been actively swimming now and would be recertifying this year (hopefully) with PADI ( There is no SSI where I am as far as I know)

    Your post made me realize that there is a possible career in the water possibly in the future (at retirement perhaps ) Right now I just want to get re acquainted with one of my first love (swimming. Diving and underwater biology)

    Great blog. Hope to read more

    • Hi James,

      Great to hear from you.

      If you have don your certification with SSI and you lost your card, you should still be able to get a replacement card. SSI should have your information in the database and with your exact name and birthdate they should be able to print you a new card. It’s worth to contact them and ask them.

      If you haven’t dived for 15 years it definitely makes sense to do a refresher after you have recovered your certification from SSI.

      The you can gain experience again and enjoy the beauty of the underwater world again.

      I wish you good luck with getting your certification and many beautiful dives in the future.

      Sunny greetings,


      • Hi Marcel,

        I was able to find my SSI card thankfully.

        I have also talked to the local PADI dive centre here for conversion options.

        Funny thing happened along the way, I’ve actually began doing amateurish freediving. (I did not know the name initially, I just missed the feeling of “flying” in all directions possible which what I loved about scuba)

        I actually saw ur comment recommending southeast Asia as a destination of choice for scuba careers. I happen to be filipino and I was thrilled at the opportunities that you mentioned. However, I have been based on a different southeast Asian country for the past 13 years.

        Anyways I’m planning to do the conversion by march 2017… Oct to feb is quite rainy where I’m from 😁

        Great blog thanks for the advice.

        • Hi James,

          Great news that you found your SSI cert. With that card you have a big advantage. You do not really have to do the whole course again to cross over to PADI because they accept the SSI card as well. I would definitely recomend you to do a refresher course because you haven’t dived for a long time but after that you can practicing and if you like do the next course level with PADI.

          Southeast Asia is a great spot for a scuba diving career. The Philippines offers great opportunity because there are so many beautiful islands with lots and lots of dive sites.

          Have fun in the water.


  5. Awesome post..my name is Jayadev and the career of being a diving Instructor always fascinated me…i am 21 and am in the final year of graduation..i want to get in this profession…earning a lot of money is not my priority..i am from India so from where should i take up my course..please suggest if i should learn scuba driving here in India or from any other reputed institutions abroad..help me out please..and which country do you think is the best for a Diving Instructor to live…Income wise and quality of life wise both…please do reply…thank you 🙂

    • Hi Jayadev,

      Thanks for your message.
      First of all have you ever tried scuba diving? If not, that must be your first step. Then you need to get a lot of practice and need to scuba dive as much as possible.
      You need to know if you like scuba diving and you need to be really passionate about scuba diving and working with customers in the oceans.
      A good place to start your scuba daving career is Southeast Asia, Thailand, Philippines or Indonesia offer many options.
      On the other hand, there are some places along the coast of India where you can start off your career as well but Southeast Asia offers much more possibilities.
      I would go with one of the big players like PADI or SSI, that will enable you to work wherever you like in the future.
      Once you are a certified scuba diving instructor you can start looking around for jobs but it will take some time and money and a lot of passion to reach that point.

      I hope this helps you and wish you all the best for your next steps.


  6. Hi Marcel,

    I am Ishan from India. I already got Advanced open water certificate few months ago. I have calculated the entire cost from scratch to diving instructor to be around Rs. 4,00,000 ($6100) .

    What I want to know is, are there any other places in the world preferably in South-east asia where the cost would be less or at least similar or comparable.

    • Hi Ishan,

      Congratulations to your AOWD. That’s already agreat achievement.
      Southeast Asia is definitely the best and cheapest place to start your professional scuba diving career.
      Thailand and the Philippines are good places with good variety and cheap options.
      We did our DM and IDC in Thailand and it was around USD 4’000 at that time but tha’s a few years ago.

      Hope that will help you. Good luck on your way to scuba instrutor.


  7. I am a PADI and NASE OWSI and I can confirm that you cannot become rich as an instructor. I have been working in cairns where day pay is 160$ a 14 hour day…and in Ningaloo Reef for around 200$ a day onboard a ship. When you consider that you get a lot of responsibility taking care of the safety of your diver, that you don’t get health insurance and a simple ear block put you out of work for week, you are not well paid.

    In the other hand you are living awesome experience, see thing that few imagines and have the best office in the world.

    I am now starting my own dive business and will tell you if it gets better as a business owner!

    • Hi Antoni,

      Thanks for your comment and the insight into what the income of an instructor in Australia is.
      For the start of your new business we wish you all the best and hope that it will run well.

      Cheers, Marcel

  8. Hi Marcel,

    Wow, first of all, I have to say this post is really helpful! Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge with us. I am a PADI Rescue Diver from China. I have been thinking about quitting my job in China and go to Indonesia for DM and IDC. After that, I plan to stay there and look for a job as dive instructor. I am very passionate about diving and like to monitor other divers underwater (like put their second stage back in place when I find out it’s hanging around / help diver if their foot gets cramp and stay with them in case of any further situation happens). But from time to time, I couldn’t help to wonder if I am really fit for this job and I have hesitation. I am 26 years old and have a great job in an international five-star hotel. Life is pretty stable and easy for me here. But I don’t think this is the life I want. Be that as it may, I am worried about not getting a job after my IDC finishes as I expect my funding will be running out at that time. That means I have to go back to my country and start to live my old life again which is the last thing I desire. With my four years experience in customer service and my advantage of speaking both English and Chinese, do you think I will get a job very fast after I graduate from IDC? I am very flexible about working location. But I do prefer Indonesia.

    Oh I have been blah blah blah a lot. Thank you so much for reading this.


    • Dear Belinda,

      Thank you for your comment and it’s good to hear that it helped you.
      It is a tough desicion to quit your stable life and job in China and start a completely new life in a unknown country. It will not be easy and you will certainly miss your friends and family.

      Generally speaking if you have two languages, English and Chinese and have experience in customer service it should be relatively easy for you to find a job. The Chinese market is booming in the scuba diving business. We have met a few Chinese instructors in different places of the world an all of them found jobs quite easily. You need to be flexible and be prepared to start in a job that may not be your dream job to gain expirience.

      Indonesia should be a good place to start a career as Chinese speaking instructor too, Thailand and Philippines would be other good places.

      The only one that can decide, if it’s woth to leafe a stable life back home where you have all your relatives and friends in exchange of living the dream as scuba diving instructor in the most beautiful places, is you. For us it really worked out but we also know people who haven’t been happy with their decision.

      Hope that helps you decide and keep us up to date with your progress in becoming an instructor.

      Best Regards,


  9. Hey Marcel
    Really helpful, valuable post.. Some nice that you kindly sharing your experiences
    We are iranian couple and recently we’ve done our DM course in Koh tao we decided to work for a while as DM, get some experience and after couple of years start our IDC, IE
    Do were have chance to get a paid / unpaid position as a novice DM?
    Thank you

    • Hi Yanoush,

      If you are already in Thailand and have don your DM cert it’s maybe a good idea to look for a job in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam) or somewhere on the Red Sea. Maldives for example, you would have no chance because you need to be Instructor. We started with our first freelance jobs directly on Koh Tao. There is always some work around and life is cheap.

      Hope that helps,


  10. Hi Marcel,
    Thanks for this post which is totally helpful for new divers! I am about to graduate from college and realized scuba instructor could be my dream job. Yet, I still have many doubts about the earnings. Not that I want to get rich or something but I am concerned if as a female diver I will ever earn enough money to afford seitching locations because this is one of the things that attracted me to this job in the first place.

    My question is about a detail you didn’t mention in the article or maybe I missed.
    What about the work permits? Because after some research I realized that it is often not very easy to jump from one paradise to another and you need to geta work permit, which could be difficult for some countries like Thailand and more importantly, costly. (Between $1000-2000)

    Are earnings usually enough to cover up these expenses? Is it common that the employer pays for the workpermit or flight tickets?
    What skills do you think made you difficult to give up for the employers?
    I’s really appreciate if you could give more info on this.
    All the best

    • Hi Yagmur,

      Thank you for your comment. Scuba Diving Instructor is a really cool Job but maybe not for ever. We did it for a few years and we earned enough to cover expenses and pay for traveling the world for a few months. Before we became Scuba INstructors, we worked in normal corporate jobs in Switzerland and earned much more during that time. We saved a lot of money and that’s much more difficult as scuba instructors.

      We have been lucky and our employers payed for the work permits. That’s one reason why we liked to work for european companys. In Thailand, that’s different. On some islands, instructors work without work permit.

      Languages are the main skills employers are looking for. As Swiss, we already cover german and english, a bit of french and some italian. The more languages you speak, the better.

      Hope that helps you.


      • Thanks a lot for your reply Marcel 🙂 It really helped.
        I currently speak english and french fluently and spanish and italian in an intermediate level. I also plan to learn german to improve my chance to be employed.
        My only concern is that I am a recent graduate without any corporate career or something and though I have some savings I think they might only cover my trainings. I am sure I might need some additional income but, since I am not a competitive candidate for corporate positions because I didn’t do any internships during my studies, I guess my best bet for a second job would be in tourism industry, which also doesn’t often provide sufficient earnings.
        On the other hand, I have a solid chance of chosing academia as a prior career to scuba but it demands so much dedication and give much less in return, so I don’t think I want to commit myself to that path for now.
        So, I hope I might find a way to make things work and earn a decent income by doing dive instructor and some other seasonal jobs.
        I just hope I won’t regret this decision.
        All the best

  11. hi marcel,

    my name is edward im 24 yrs old from india i want to become a scuba diving instructor and right now im learning swimming and its going great by febuary or march i want to do my course of ow and aow from andaman n nicobar islands my concern if will get job once i do the course and incase if i get the job do they provide accomodation and what would be the income at the start can you suggest me

    • Hi Edward,

      Becoming a scuba diving instructor is a longer journey if you first need to learn to swim. I don’t want to say its impossible but it sure will take a lot of effort and time. OWD and AOWD is only the start. To become a professional and earn money with scuba diving you need to continue and do the Rescue Diver, Divemaster and Dive Instructor. All will cost you some money. In some places like Koh Tao in Thailand they offer packages to start from scratch and become a professional in scuba diving.

      I hope that information will help you and good luck with your plans,


  12. Hi marcel. What a wonderful read. I’ve just started debating on whether it’s worth me doing the qualifications needed to become a scuba instructor as I am completely fed up with my career as a truck driver. Been one for 17 years and I for the last 4, I’ve been promising myself a change of career. I love the water, always have and always will. I’m not really fussed on making it big money wise, I want a career that challenges me and I enjoy, hence my interest. I have to start from scratch obviously, but what are the chances is being able to eventually ditch my driving career and becoming an instructor in any of the countries you’ve mentioned within the next 12 months? Am I being realistic or do I need to expand my timeline?? Any advice you can give would be highly appreciated. Thanks, nick.

    • Hi Nick
      Thanks for your message.
      First of all, have you ever tried scuba diving? If not, that must be your first step. Do a try dive and if you like it the next step is an Open Water Diving course. You really need to find out if you love diving and being under water. If you get hooked the next step is to practice. The more dives you do, the more you will find out if a diving career is the right thing for you.
      A good place to start your scuba diving career is Southeast Asia, Thailand, Philippines or Indonesia offer many options.
      It is a tough decision to quit a stable job. But should you love diving and if you can imagine working in the diving business, it can be worth it. At least it was for us.
      I would go with one of the big players like PADI or SSI that will enable you to work wherever you like in the future. Once you are a certified scuba diving instructor you can start looking around for jobs but it will take some time, it costs money and a lot of passion to reach that point.
      I hope this helps and wishing you all the best.

  13. Hi Marcel,
    Thank you so much for all the information you guys have given in your blog! I am curently looking at making the move from manager to scuba instructor and your blog has been truly inspiring and informative!

  14. Very informative article, I don’t think you can get rich been a scuba diving instructor, but you can definitely increase your income a lot.

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