It won’t be long and I will be starting my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) to teach scuba. I chose Florida Keys Dive Center in Key Largo, Florida. Tom Witmer is the Course Director who will lead the IDC and he has been a course director for about twenty years. I’ve wanted to teach scuba since I first took my PADI Open Water certification class in Austin, TX. It didn’t take me long to become a Divemaster because I trained really hard. I enjoyed being a Divemaster but it is time to go further in my study of scuba.
I start the IDC in early August and I look forward to taking my instructor examination (IE) directly after. The IDC taught by Florida Keys Dive Center is an intensive, boot-camp 10 day course. I plan to start my Master Scuba Diver Trainer course directly thereafter and we decided to stay in Key Largo until December.
I did a lot of research on different IDC’s offered in Florida and I am happy with my decision. There are a lot of options out there for people wanting to become instructors. Many of the different schools have several options for IDC including all-inclusive, housing, meals, different types of advanced training or certifications, a certain number of dives allowed during training, etc. Several of the schools offer internships that seemed to offer the student a way to pay for the non-PADI fees through a work exchange to pay for the education. I’ve heard from a lot of instructors who chose this route for their education and others who stayed away from this practice.
I thought I would write down some of my thoughts in case this reaches any other instructor candidates on the Internet who are considering different IDC options in Florida.
I spoke to the big schools in the Keys and elsewhere that seem to make most of their money from teaching instructors. They often had the all-inclusive route with options for an internship. Personally, I found this type of option to be the least desirable. I didn’t like the idea of going to a large IDC with a lot of candidates per class. The dive industry attracts a lot of people to its ranks and I like to choose the type of people who I prefer to be around. I spoke to a course director who worked for one of the big schools and he was carrying on a conversation with another person during our talk. he obviously didn’t have the time for me and I took that as a sign of thing sot come, if I chose that school for training. Frankly, I don’t care if XX number of course directors run a school or if XX number of course directors came from a school. The average class size for a large school was about 20.
I was more concerned about what I was going to learn and from whom. How much time would be taken with me, given my own learning style and how much experience would I get from the course. There seems to be a big hype on the Internet about 100% graduation rate and 100% pass rate on the IE exam. I took that for granted. I figure that I am a good diver and a reasonably good student. If I pay attention and learn to teach the PADI curriculum, I will pass the IE final with no problems. I was concentrated on learning the most for my future students benefit and not simply passing a course. It seems like many instructors have this mindset and nobody would ever want to admit they took the easiest training offered just so they could pass the IE final.
I spoke to several medium-sized schools that were in the Keys or East Coast of Florida that offered solid IDC programs. Several had free housing or apartments that they would let students use while others had a room and board approach. I realized that many candidates travel from far away and just want to stay in-house with everything. The medium-sized schools also offered a different price for the stand alone course. The average class size for a medium school was about 6-8.
I spoke to many smaller schools and I was generally more impressed with those options. The people seemed to be talking about what they actually did and not about what would be done by someone else at the IDC. They seemed to be more in touch with answers to my questions and they were also more flexible with what options I could take within their programs. Tuition ranged from place to place depending on what types of additional certifications were offered, when and how, etc. The average class size for smaller schools was 1-4.
In the end, I chose Florida Keys Dive Center and Tom Witmer. I got a really good feel from our long conversations and I believe that he is a great course director. He has a vast amount of experience teaching thousands of instructors and working in the industry for a few decades. He is a boat captain and taught the US Coast Guard course at a college and he also taught many other PADI resort operation programs. He is also a TEC diver instructor and has advanced courses on wreck diving credentialed through PADI. I chose his program because I got the impression that he cared more than the other people about the hands on training and would work with me individually so that I could develop into the best instructor possible.
We are leading a remarkable existence as a family and we have a unique experience, given the fact that we will soon be living aboard our boat and headed to Key Largo from Galveston Bay, Texas. Tom was very helpful in suggesting a great marina that is only 2 miles from the scuba shop for us to stay. He and the owner of the dive operation have offered to help us out with many of our needs and it is really nice to meet people who see you more as a person and less as a dollar sign.
The IDC at Florida Keys Dive Center in Key Largo was the least expensive program that I found when I took into account the additional certifications that were offered. I will be living aboard my boat so I didn’t need a place that included living expenses. I know there are a lot of IDC options out there for divers wanting to be an instructor and my advice to anyone is to make a lot of phone calls and take a few months interviewing prospective schools. I encourage anyone to speak to Tom Witmer (or shoot him an email) in the process because he will take the time and give honest advice.
Good luck and look me up if you are in the Florida Keys to go diving. We will be out on the water on our boat, somewhere.