Gone are the days of boot camp style scuba instruction where push-ups were a pre-class warm up. Nowadays scuba instructors are made up of more than just ex-drill sergeants so choosing a scuba instructor can be difficult with the many options available. If you do a quick search you will notice many shops and individual instructors. So, how do you know what to look for?
The first way you can find out about an instructor is by word of mouth. You may know someone who has been certified and they can tell you about his/her experience with a particular instructor. This person will not have all the details about the class so it is still very important you go to meet the instructor prior to signing up for the class.
When you meet the instructor you can now start forming your own opinions about him/her. The instructor will explain every detail about the class, including the risks that are involved. During this initial conversation you will notice if the instructor has everything in order and is organized. Organization is a critical skill an instructor should possess.
Once you form your first impressions of the instructor you may now want to ask some questions. You can start by explaining what your interests are concerning scuba, and see if they match those of the instructor. You may be very interested in marine life so it would be nice to have an instructor with the same interest. You can ask the instructor about his/her experience, and how much local diving he/she has done. It is important that your instructor have local diving experience. If you would like to check the instructor's credentials you can check his/her c-card (certification card) or check with his/her agency.
Other things to consider when choosing an instructor is what else they can offer you. You may want to find out about clubs, discounts, equipment deals, free DAN insurance while in class, free magazine subscriptions, etc. Instructors and dive shops come up with a variety of ways to get students and new customers and you can benefit from them.
It may seem like a complicated way to choose an instructor but this is a person you may be spending a lot of time with. It is not just one class. You may choose to take multiple classes with them and they may lead local dives that you want to participate in. He/she may work in the shop and can help you with purchases. The important thing to remember is a good instructor is going to make your underwater time much more enjoyable.