The term “zero to hero” is controversial in the dive industry. It’s usually used to refer to someone who’s progressed from a new diver to an instructor in six months. If they’ve trained with PADI, that means taking the Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response (EFR), Rescue, Divemaster, and Instructor Development Course (IDC), followed finally by the Instructor Examination (IE). If it sounds intense, that’s because it is. Many divers and dive professionals express concern about this method of dive training. On the other hand, some think it’s a great way to become a dive instructor for various reasons. Below we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of completing your IE in this whirlwind manner. We’ll address the controversy and also the benefits. Full disclosure: The author is a zero-to-hero herself.
Zero to Hero: Pros and Cons
Approaching your dive training in such a way is, in my opinion, a great idea if you’ve got time for back-to-back courses. You’ll start and finish everything much faster, and become qualified sooner to enter the professional dive world.
Keep in mind though that quick doesn’t necessarily mean better. Some people learn and acquire skills with ease and speed. Others must learn at a much slower pace in order to reap the benefits of education.
In terms of study, the zero-to-hero approach means that all of the skills, knowledge and information you learn during each course stays fresh in your mind for the next one. The information will be easily accessible when you need it because you aren’t taking lengthy breaks between each course. And this makes sense logically. The longer the break you take between certification levels, the higher the chance you’ll forget what you learned. Taking courses one after the other allows you to build upon your knowledge and skills without needing refreshers beforehand.
Again, however, the rapid succession of courses won’t be suitable for everyone’s learning style. Many dive students prefer to take a break to rest their mind and body for the next round of training.
Another pro: you’ll get a real feel for the dive industry, because you’re fully immersing yourself in the dive-work lifestyle. Should you opt for employment in diving at the end of your training, you’ll find it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life, far different than any of your previous jobs. The familiarization with, and habituation to, the lifestyle you’ll receive by choosing the zero-to-hero training approach is, in my opinion, priceless.
Of course, the downside to choosing the lengthy, full-immersion, zero-to-hero method is that it takes time — time out of work, which is out of the question unless you can take a long sabbatical or quit your job entirely and live off savings. And as you’ll likely be out of work while you complete your training, you won’t have an income for some time.
Where should you train?
With dive centers and resorts to choose from around the world, we are lucky to be able to train literally anywhere we wish. The selection process, however, will require quite a bit of research. You must be sure that the facility you choose is reputable, provides quality training, and employs experienced instructors. Contact dive centers or resorts that boast the PADI Five-Star rating. Then check their social media pages and customer reviews to get a feel for each to see if they seem like a good fit.
Thanks to the many dive-training facilities, there’s lots of financial competition between them to attract potential students. This ultimately works in your favor, especially if you plan to take all, or even a chunk, of your courses with the same facility because they usually offer deals and discounts. Shop around and see which could offer you the best deal based on your needs and budget. Scan diver forums, social media pages, and dive center/resort websites, and contact staff directly to see what’s available.
This being said, however, your dive education will not be cheap. Wherever you train, dive courses are costly, and you may have to budget for long-term accommodation and food as well. The prices are set for a good reason, and as you want the highest quality training and best experience possible, do not let the price tag be your only guide.
Overall, my opinion of the ‘zero-to-hero’ approach is a definite “yes.”
I chose to train this way because I knew I wanted to quickly make a huge career and lifestyle change. I gained not only great diving skills and a shiny new PADI Instructor qualification, but also knowledge of my physical and mental strength, especially when under pressure. Of course there were setbacks. I struggled with homesickness, self-doubt, being sick in a foreign country, and money woes. But everything worked out and I learned from each obstacle.