You are interested in the SSI Instructor Training Course (ITC)? Maybe you are thinking about becoming a diving instructor yourself or maybe you are already preparing for it? Then this blog post is just right for you. In this post, we will write about the individual components, the importance and our experiences about the diving instructor course.
If you'd rather watch the whole thing in video format, feel free to check out our YouTube video on it directly (we have English subtitles!):
The ITC is SSI's Instructor Training Course that prepares you for teaching entry-level courses and for the Instructor Evaluation (IE). During the ITC you will learn different areas in theory and practice. These must be passed before you can be admitted to the IE.
It is also possible to complete only part of the ITC and then be certified as an „Assistant Instructor“. However, we will not discuss this path in more detail, as we went directly through the entire ITC including IE.
A few words about us: We decided to do the ITC in the Maldives with DivePoint. We worked there before (as dive guide) and after to gain our first experiences. Unfortunately Corona got in our way during our first attempt on Guraidhoo (South Malé Atoll). Therefore we had to push the whole course back a little bit. In the end, the ITC took place in a group of four students on the island of Ukulhas in North Ari Atoll.
The theoretical part of the ITC is divided into the following subsections: Instructor Manual, Exam, SSI Standards and Micro Teaching / Presentations.
As with every SSI course, there is also something to read about the ITC in the SSI app. The manual is divided into chapters, because, as already mentioned, you can only complete the part up to the Assistant Instructor. Roughly speaking, the "Assistant Instructor" manual consists of chapters 1 to 6, and the "Instructor Training Course" manual consists of chapters 7 to 10.
These two manuals should definitely be mostly understood and the review questions completed before starting the ITC.
In our case, we went through the manuals again completely in the theory lessons and were quizzed on them.
During our ITC we also took some exams. The Assistant Instructor exam was the final exam for the Assistant Instructor part. All other exams were more meant as practice for the IE, because there is also a written exam. From time to time we got exams for courses like Open Water Diver, Stress & Rescue, Nitrox, Perfect Buoyancy or Dive Guide.
Another important part for future instructors are the SSI standards. So quasi the law book for diving instructors. These are also available in the app or for download from the website. During our ITC we went through all the sections of the standards and by the end we had to be comfortable with them.
The important part here is knowing where what is written. We were asked questions over and over again and we had to not only be able to answer them, but more importantly be able to show where to find the info. Because there will also be a part on the standards in IE in the exam.
As a prospective instructor, one of the most interesting areas is of course teaching itself! Whereby it must be said quite clearly that the reality for most probably depends heavily on the presentations learned in the ITC. But somehow the subject has to be graded anyway.
So we got (almost) every day as homework another subchapter of a course. The next day we had to give a 15-minute presentation. The whole thing is evaluated on the basis of different criteria, which are given to you beforehand. So you have to work through a kind of checklist during this presentation, and it's relatively easy to get a high score. A certain number of these presentations must be passed in the ITC in order to be admitted to the IE. At the same time, however, it also serves as practice, since exactly such a presentation must also be held in the IE.
Before we started with the in-water lessons, we took the fitness test. This consists of, as with all professionals:
- 15 minutes of treading water on the surface
- 25m distance diving with mask & fins
- 375m swimming without ABC equipment or 700m with ABC equipment in max. 20 minutes
- Diver rescue in 8 minutes over 100m distance
If you have just done your Dive Guide training, you can also get the fitness test credited from it, as it is valid for 6 months.
And last but not least, the really important part of the whole ITC: The lessons in the water!
As a future instructor you will of course also teach skills in the water. For example, regulator retrieval, mask removal and reattachment, or sharing breathing gas.
During the first sessions in the water you first learn and practice how you would demonstrate the respective skills correctly and in detail to your students. Here it is most important to proceed step by step, slowly, exaggerated and in demonstrative quality.
After that, we went through the skills in "real" situations. That is, for our exercises, one was always the instructor, one the assistant and the other two the "students" who had to do the respective skill. However, for the imitation, the "students" were given hidden mistakes by our trainer. The purpose of this is to recognize & react appropriately to mistakes in the instructor position.
In the skills themselves, the safety of the students is always at the top of the list. For example, the evaluation includes whether and how quickly you react to mistakes, but also the position and organization of the students, so that you always have everyone in view.
Furthermore, the so-called skill briefing and debriefing also belong to the area. This means a clear explanation of the skill on the surface, including the purpose and sequence of the key points. And afterwards the feedback to the student, what was good and what could be done better.
By the way, the in-water lessons are divided into "Confined Water" and "Open Water", just like later in the real Open Water Diver course. The big difference here is the depth at which the skills are performed, and that the skills in "Open Water" are no longer demonstrated by the instructor, as they are just a repetition.
For the Instructor Evaluation a separate examiner comes. This is of course a little unsettling at first, but simply ensures an independent evaluation of the prospective instructors.
In our case, the IE started with an orientation, i.e. a short introduction to what to expect at IE. There, we were randomly given a piece of paper with our topic for the presentation and the selected skills on it.
We started with the exam: 100 questions from areas like the open water course, nitrox course etc. and the standards, where 90% have to be answered correctly.
Afterwards, each of us held his presentation and was directly evaluated, whereby a certain number of points had to be achieved to successfully pass.
We continued the same day with the first in-water lesson in the confined water, i.e. skill briefing, positioning and organization of the students in the water, skill demonstration in front of the students, finding the problem in the students' imitation, and then the debriefing to the students. So each of us had different roles in each skill (instructor, student, or assistant) in IE as well.
Another skill that had to be demonstrated exclusively was an assigned skill from the Stress & Rescue program. This is to check how the own rescue skills are and also the demonstration, because this course may also be taught afterwards.
We started the second day with another in-water lesson, but this time in open water. For this, each candidate had received two more skills, which did not have to be demonstrated, but only briefing, finding mistakes and debriefing. In this session, however, the most nervousness was involved, because this is the only area of the IE that may not be repeated. If you fail in these skills, the IE is directly considered as not passed.
As a conclusion, we had a 1:1 conversation with the examiner, where 30-50 minutes long oral questions were asked about ALL areas, the standards, the courses, the SSI philosophy, the teaching system, the app, the website, and much more!
By the way, in the background on both days you are also evaluated on your own professionalism, i.e. punctuality, neat appearance, behavior, organization, etc. However, we didn't notice any of that at all.
In the best case, of course, you pass every single section on the first try! Fortunately, this was the case for us, which we were very happy about. In some areas, however, you could theoretically not pass and then repeat this section, but this may only occur once in total.
So if, for example, the exam was not passed, it can be repeated, but then every other area must be passed on the first try. The only part that may not be repeated is the in-water lesson in open water. Failing this will result in a failed IE.
The costs of such a course are of course always very interesting, especially since these are usually not on the websites of the dive centers, but must be requested. But it must be said clearly that it depends strongly on the dive center, the country and the conditions!
In any case, we have paid for our ITC in the Maldives 2,500 €, where this was also the accommodation & food on a local island in the two weeks included.
Mostly the ITC itself takes 12 days and the IE another 2 days. But of course this also depends on the trainer, examiner and possibly also on the students.
The ITC definitely cost us a lot of energy and nerves! But we were also simply not used to having theory lessons in a classroom and especially at the beginning everything was of course very new. And also basically our days were very, very long during these 12 days. Since we always had homework to do, we spent 12 days doing nothing but ITC, sleeping and eating. Nevertheless, of course, you must not forget that you have a goal in mind: You want to become a diving instructor, and this is the only way to do it.
And at the latest the moment you get your OPEN WATER INSTRUCTOR certificate, everything is compensated and you are just overjoyed!
If you have any questions, feel free to write us a message or ask the question in the comments below.
Otherwise, you are welcome to follow our further journey as OPEN WATER INSTRUCTOR on Instagram at @divingthisworld !
Tami & Chris