In scuba diving, there are a lot of different courses you must accomplish to climb the ladder. Most of us already know about Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, and Divemaster, but what about becoming an Assistant Instructor (AI)?

If you’re looking to gain some more responsibility in the professional diving world, but need more time before you jump into becoming an Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI), then the AI rating could be a perfect fit for you. But what’s the difference between AI and OWSI?

If this course is a surprise to you, or you don’t know the difference between an Assistant Instructor and Open Water Scuba Instructor, you’re in luck. In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the key differences and what it takes to get your Assistant Instructor rating.

PADI Assistant Instructor vs. Open Water Scuba Instructor

Before we dive into the roles and responsibilities of an Assistant Instructor (AI), here’s a look at the levels of PADI scuba diving courses up to OWSI so you can see where AI falls.

  1. Scuba Diver
  2. Open Water Diver
  3. Adventure Diver
  4. Advanced Open Water Diver
  5. Rescue Diver
  6. Divemaster
  7. Assistant Instructor
  8. Open Water Scuba Instructor

You’ll notice that Assistant Instructor lies one step under an Open Water Scuba Instructor and forms a nice bridge between Divemaster and OWSI.

Following these courses concurrently is imperative to developing your skills as a diver and making you a better professional. Once you reach PADI Divemaster, you’ve officially breached the surface of the professional world, and you can now start to take on responsibilities as a paid scuba diver. Some of these tasks could be guiding divers, loading and setting up gear, or even assisting an OWSI. With that said, once you’ve mastered the skills of a Divemaster, you’re ready to work up the ladder even higher, and become an Assistant Instructor.


How to Become an AI

A PADI Assistant Instructor is a scuba diving professional who has completed specific training and certification through the PADI Assistant Instructor course. As an Assistant Instructor, you can assist certified PADI Instructors in teaching scuba diving courses and programs.

To become a PADI Assistant Instructor, individuals must meet specific prerequisites, including being a certified as a PADI Divemaster or having a similar leadership-level certification from another scuba diving training organization. Then, they will need to complete the PADI Assistant Instructor course.

If you’re familiar with the PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course), you’re already ahead of the game, but if you’re not familiar with this program, we’ll explain. The IDC is made up of two parts – the Assistant Instructor (AI) course and the Open Water Scuba Instructor Course (OWSI), and once successfully completed, the Instructor Examination (IE) follows. During the Instructor Development Course, you’ll learn how to effectively teach a variety of PADI courses and programs, including the Open Water Diver course, Advanced Open Water Diver course, Rescue Diver course, and Divemaster course. You’ll also learn how to manage and supervise dive operations, including planning and organizing dives, conducting risk assessments, and managing emergency situations.

To become an Assistant Instructor, you just need to take the first part of the IDC. Then, you’ll have a final exam to assess your readiness and dive knowledge. Upon completing this, you will be an AI.

Responsibilities of an AI

Now that you’ve achieved this rating, what responsibilities do you have, and what can you do within PADI standards? PADI Assistant Instructors can assist certified PADI Instructors in teaching and conducting some of the academic presentations, confined water skills, and open water training sessions from PADI courses and programs. There are also some courses and programs an AI can independently teach and certify students.

For example, an Assistant Instructor can conduct some of the knowledge development sessions for any PADI Diver course under an Instructor’s indirect supervision. An AI can also present initial skills training under an Instructor’s direct supervision during confined water dives and also conduct open water surface skill evaluations during the Open Water Diver course dives under an Instructor’s indirect supervision.

In addition, an AI can:

Students learning scuba diving skills in confined water during a PADI Open Water Diver course

Who Should Become an Assistant Instructor?

Some of you may be saying, why would I stop at AI instead of continuing right to OWSI? Below we’ve made a list of reasons why you might benefit from taking some time at the Assistant Instructor level:

  • Preparing for the PADI Instructor Development Course – Some divers may aspire to become PADI Instructors later in their careers and choose to start by becoming an Assistant Instructor. The AI course provides an opportunity to gain teaching experience and learn more about PADI teaching methods and standards firsthand.
  • Career Progression – Becoming a PADI AI is also an excellent way for professional divers to advance their scuba diving career. It opens up more job opportunities than as a PADI Divemaster, including working as a teaching assistant for PADI Instructors at dive centers and resorts.
  • Personal Growth – The AI course allows divers to improve their scuba diving skills and knowledge and gain confidence in their ability to teach and lead others.
  • If You’re Nervous – There’s nothing wrong with some nerves when getting into a career where you’re directly responsible for other humans. Becoming an AI is a great way to develop your confidence, build your skills, and feel ready to become an OWSI.

How to Progress from AI to OWSI

As we mentioned above, the second part of the Instructor Development Course (IDC) is the OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor) course. While most people take both the AI course and the OWSI course consecutively, those individuals who want to take time at the Assistant Instructor level can take these courses separately.

To progress from AI to OWSI, you need to complete the second part of the IDC. Once you’ve finished the Open Water Scuba Instructor course, you’ll be eligible for the Instructor Examination (IE). Successful completion of the examination will allow you to become a PADI OWSI and to begin working as a scuba instructor.

Stepping into the professional diving world can be extremely rewarding in many ways. If you’re serious about advancing your career and developing your skills and knowledge, click the link below to find an Instructor Development Course happening near you!

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