Okay, so I see this question get posted quite a lot on social media forums. The answers can be very interesting as we all know there are A LOT of options if you are looking at exploring different activities underwater. So, where do you begin. There are the haters out there who basically say all of the many different specialties are a pile of #$%^&*. I say, you are wrong. I think all courses are valid, provided you have an instructor who is passionate about the subject that they are teaching.
Heres an example
I’ll give you an example, Boat diving. Really? You need to take a certification to dive off a boat? I don’t think so. But, then I have always dove off of boats. I don’t generally shore dive unless it is a lake in Arkansas, or off a dock in Bocas. That doesn’t need a certification either. But could I shore dive in California and effectively do a surf entry safely? Probably not, or at least not without advice and help from someone experienced in that. For many people. boat diving, backwards rolls, negative entries etc can be very daunting. So, an enthusiastic instructor who has plenty of experience in the area could for sure teach them something there.
Another example, underwater pumpkin carving. Really? But, hey on Halloween its probably a bunch of fun and for a lot of people, getting a certification card is something extra special so where is the harm?
Where’s your passion?
So, do we get the idea? All specialty courses are good as long as they are taught by an instructor who is passionate and knowledgeable about that subject. As an instructor it is fun to teach different specialties and the same questions is posed when I teach and IDC….what specialties should I teach? You will always get the same answer from me, What type of scuba diving activities are you most passionate about? That is what you should teach as your students will see and feel the enthusiasm from you when you talking about that type of diving.
Within our shop, all of instructors are passionate about diving and teaching, but each has their niche. You need different instructors with different abilities to be able to have a good balanced team. We have out coral nuts and marine conservation buffs. They spend hours pouring over a fish ID book. Then those who like to go exploring and delve into the realms of technical diving. They like to teach deep, search and recovery etc. Maybe they like a bit of both like me.
The questions is always posed, “but what are the most popular specialties? New instructors think that by picking the generally most common specialties they will teach them. It doesn’t work that way unless you are in a career centre where the students don’t get to pick and they are stuck on a certain route. If your students hear you talking about a certain type of diving, or activity, because of your enthusiasm, they will want to learn about it. Just because you can teach deep diving doean’t mean anyone will want to learn about it if you are not talking about how amazing it is all the time.
In our dive center. the most popular specialty certification is marine conservation and research. Why? Because we are partnered with a marine conservation non-profit, and spend a lot of out dives, surveying and learning about the reef. Everyday the instructors and students are talking about conserving the ocean, posting about and people see that. They then come to us so they can join in. Makes sense right?
Something to think about, some areas may have more popular specialties depending on their geographic location. For example if you are in a cold water area, dry suit diving could be very popular as it is a necessity.
There is no right answer. Sorry guys. But I cannot stress this enough, pick specialties that you would LOVE to teach. Your passion will be contagious and pass to your students. They will want to learn from you. And remember, if there isn’t a course covering your specific niche of scuba diving, maybe you could create one. It is a great way to focus on what you love about scuba diving and create something unique.