HomeBlogWhat is a PADI Specialty Instructor

PADI Specialty Instructor Training Course (MSDT)


I was sitting having a coffee with one of our Rescue Diver students over the recent Instructor Examination that was held here on Koh Tao. A close friend of hers was actually on that IE, inspired by the feedback she had received about the IDC, and buoyed by the thought her friend was about to become a PADI instructor, we were discussing her personal goals and her ambition to also become a Professional scuba diver.

She was particularly interested in what options she would have, once qualified, to work in the industry. She asked my advice on how she could make herself stand out to prospective employers.

What are you particular interests?

I asked what her favourite dive site was, and what she enjoyed most about diving. She replied that she loved learning all the different species of marine life that she saw during her dives, and researching which families they belong to. She also mentioned how she takes her underwater camera with her on every dive. This she said, allows her to record what she has seen, and after the dive she spends time going through her photos and educating herself further on the underwater world. She enjoys diving all of Koh Tao’s dive sites but especially likes Sail Rock due to the sheer diversity of what is there; small macro stuff mixed in with large pelagic’ s and everything in between.

I asked whether she has ever considered taking any PADI Specialty training. Maybe she can learn more about the different species of marine life she is seeing on her dives and which fish families they belong to. I then continued. If you are serious about a career in scuba diving, and you want to make yourself as employable as you can then why not become a PADI Specialty Instructor? This way you can pass your passion for a specific aspect of scuba diving onto your student divers by teaching standardised PADI Specialty courses in areas such as Underwater Naturalist, or Fish ID.


PADI Specialty Instructor training course

We conduct PADI Specialty training courses every month on Koh Tao, usually after an IDC/IE program, and like a couple of other IDC centres in Asia, we have multiple PADI Course Directors on staff so are able to accommodate candidate requests at other times during the month. This enables us to tailor our Instructor Specialty training programs to candidates’ personal timeframes.

As a natural follow on from the IDC, a PADI Specialty training course will involve candidates understanding the course standards and procedures specific to that Specialty as well as being taught how to schedule and conduct all segments of the course in an effective manner. Naturally you must demonstrate mastery of all knowledge development and water skill performance requirements for that specific specialty course.

You will be asked to present a knowledge development presentation from the specialty outline and conduct an Open Water teaching assignment, demonstrating the Open Water performance requirements for that particular specialty


Usually on Koh Tao a Specialty Instructor training course can be conducted over 1 day, a morning in the classroom, then a couple of afternoon dives although we tend to teach Instructor Specialties in bunches, often in tandem with the Master Scuba Diver Trainer program where a candidates will complete 5 Specialty Instructor courses over a 5-6 day schedule.

Promote what you enjoy

Another important part of the PADI Specialty Instructor training course is discussing marketing and promotional techniques that will allow PADI Specialty Instructors to successfully encourage their student divers to continue their PADI education through the PADI Specialty diver courses. I find in general, sales and marketing is one of the weaker areas of your average PADI Instructors skill set.

Often, our focus as an Instructor tends to be more on the quality of training we provide. Of course this is the most important part of our job when teaching people. However, we also need to know that after this course we have another course lined up next week too or we will need to find another job!

To ensure we have continuous work we need to focus on how we market and sell the courses and programs we are certified teach. Although we cover this during the Marketing presentation on the IDC we also go into this area more specifically during the Specialty training programs.

Make it Pay

So we are teaching good quality courses. And we are marketing ourselves, and the courses we offer in a way that is encouraging people to follow their specific diving interests and sign up for our PADI Specialty diving courses. But we also need to make sure it pays and determining the costs involved when pricing a specialty training course is also an important part of PADI Specialty Instructor training courses.

This is something our PADI Specialty Instructor candidates would have covered during the IDC; specifically during the Business of Diving presentation but again, we cover this in a more PADI Specialties courses specific manner.

So what are the benefits to you of becoming a PADI Specialty Instructor?

Just finished your IDC and planning your next step which in a nutshell is to find a decent job. What are dive centre managers looking for when hiring PADI Instructors in 2017?

Let’s break down why you should consider taking some PADI Specialty Instructor training courses.

Employability – lots of PADI dive centres, especially those whose main income stream is training will ask their Instructors to be an MSDT as a minimum. This gives dive centre’s more flexibility in the courses and services they offer, with the knowledge that all their Instructors hold a minimum of 5 PADI Specialty Instructor rating

Increased Income Potential – being able to offer and teach a wider range of courses will increase your earning potential. That’s simple maths! Not just teaching additional courses and receiving additional income but many dive centres have incentive schemes in operation which offer bonus income for those instructors who are more productive in encouraging their student divers to continue their PADI education.

Personal Development – taking PADI Instructor specialty training courses will further your knowledge & skills as both an educator and a diver.

Job Satisfaction – variety is the spice of life. As we discuss during the IDC ‘burn out’ is a significant factor in many good Instructors hanging up their fins! Teaching people to clear a mask or hover for the first time is rewarding but doing it day in, day out is boring. If you plan to be in the dive industry for the long haul then ensuring a varied working life is important and to do this you need to be certified to teach a wide range of PADI courses. Mixing things up and having a nice varied teaching schedule is going to mean you love your job even more than you do right now!


Climbing the PADI ladder – holding a minimum of 5 PADI Specialty Instructor ratings is a minimum for any PADI Instructor wishing to get involved in Instructor Development and becoming an IDC Staff Instructor. Experience in teaching PADI Specialities also credits to both the PADI Master Instructor rating and the Course Director Training Course application.

What are the most popular Specialties?

PADI offers a full range of Specialties, many of which are geographical specific such as Ice, Altitude, Drift and Cavern. Here on Koh Tao we can teach the majority of the PADI Specialties program but which ones are the most popular with our student divers?

Get Deeper into your Diving

The PADI Deep Diver course is the third most popular PADI Specialty taught on Koh Tao, and one our Instructors love to teach. Consisting of 4 training dives the course is open to any diver who has a minimum certification level of PADI Adventure diver, although the majority of our divers that enrol are PADI Advanced Open water divers or above. Experiencing Nitrogen Narcosis, learning how pressure affects flexible objects and demonstrating how colour is absorbed at depth are some of the things your divers will learn and experience. As a PADI Deep Diver Instructor you will also teach divers about emergency decompression procedures and delve into DCS a little deeper than during their previous diving courses. At the end of the course divers are certified to dive to a maximum depth of 40 metres – which is also the absolute maximum depth limit within the PADI recreational system.

Here on Koh Tao we teach the PADI Deep Specialty course on a variety of local dive sites and often promote special dive trips in conjunction with Deep diver training as part of our marketing strategy. This includes our full day trip to Sail Rock and our afternoon ‘double Chumphon’ trip. Both of these dive sites offer easy access to 40 metres as well as being two of the premier dive sites in the Gulf.


Get Wrecked!

Since 2011 the PADI Wreck diver course has overtaken the Deep diver course in the popularity stakes here on Koh Tao, although worldwide its number 3. In 2011 the Royal Thai Navy sank the HTMS Sattakut off the west coast of Koh Tao. Since then we have been producing lots of happy Wreck diving enthusiasts, and such is the demand, we are often scheduling daily wreck diving trips. During this course, as a PADI Wreck Instructor you will teach your students how to avoid potential hazards when wreck diving, map or survey a wreck as well as use lines, in order to penetrate a wreck safely.


Enriched your student’s life. Become a PADI Nitrox Instructor

It comes as no surprise that the most popular PADI Specialty course here on Koh Tao, and worldwide is the Enriched Air Nitrox diver. Allowing divers to spend even longer under the water, having fun is clearly a big sell! The great thing about being able to teach the Nitrox course is the flexibility we have as Enriched Air Nitrox Instructors when teaching it. We can teach the course as a stand-alone with two Enriched Air dives included or we can teach the non-diving option in a situation where Nitrox is unavailable.

A third option is to combine Nitrox with another course and conduct the training dives of that second course ‘on Nitrox’. Our most popular ‘combos’ here on Koh Tao are the Advanced Open water Nitrox combo where we often schedule the Deep & Wreck Adventure dives on Nitrox as well as the Deep Diver / Nitrox combo when we schedule dives 2 & 4 on Enriched Air but the combinations of ‘combos’ are endless as you can pretty much combine any other Specialty course with Nitrox offering your students value for money in gaining two PADI certifications.

Other notable mentions here at Crystal Dive include the PADI Equipment Specialist and the Emergency Oxygen provider Specialty. These courses are hugely popular with our Divemaster candidates. As Professional level divers they realise the importance of understanding how to maintain and service scuba equipment as well as understanding how, and being certified to administrate Oxygen to divers with suspected DCS.


In summary, in a highly competitive industry such as scuba diving it’s important to stand out from the crowd when applying for work. Becoming a PADI Specialty Instructor is one way of differentiating yourself from the rest. Being a PADI Specialty Instructor will enable you to teach areas of personal interest, meaning a more enjoyable and varied work life. It will also allow you to teach specialised areas of diving that are popular, meaning more work and increased income potential.


As a 5 Star PADI Career Development Centre based on Koh Tao, IDC Koh Tao in conjunction with Crystal Dive offers the full range of PADI Specialty Instructor courses. With three PADI Platinum Course Directors on staff we are also able to offer flexible and personally tailored programs for those PADI Instructors short on time or unable to fit their busy schedules in with the advertised dates.


Matt Bolton

Award Winning PADI Course Director – 463599