The Ultimate Guide to Become a Skydiving Instructor

A skydiving tandem pair in mid-air, freefalling in head-down position against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, clouds, and an expansive view of the earth and sea below.
The Process of Becoming a Skydiving Instructor Requires Dedication

Are you passionate about skydiving and looking to turn your passion into a career? Becoming a skydiving instructor could be the perfect opportunity for you! As a certified skydiving instructor, you’ll have the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with others while helping them to achieve their own skydiving goals.

To become a skydiving instructor, prospective instructors need a USPA D-License and Coach Rating, 3 years of skydiving experience, 50 jumps completed within the last year, a total of 500 skydivers, and 4 hours of free fall time. They also need to pass an USPA-approved tandem training course and secure an FAA Class III Medical.

It takes more than just passion and meeting these requirements to become a great skydiving instructor. In the following comprehensive guide, I will explain what each of the requirements includes and what skills skydive instructors should possess in order to excel at their profession.

The Process of Becoming a Skydiving Instructor

Accumulate 500 Skydives and 4 Hours of Free Fall Time

This requirement is in place to ensure that instructors have the necessary experience and skills to guide and teach others in the sport. Skydiving instructors must be able to handle a wide range of challenges and situations that may arise during jumps, and their extensive experience helps them to do so with confidence and ease.

For example, if a student experiences a mental breakdown and starts panicking during a tandem jump, an experienced instructor will be able to stay calm, assess the situation, and guide the student through the necessary steps to calm down. With their extensive experience, an instructor can anticipate potential issues and proactively take measures to prevent them, or if necessary, react appropriately to the situation at hand.

Additionally, it helps to establish credibility and build trust with clients who are putting their lives in the hands of their instructors. While it may seem like a daunting task to reach this level of experience, the rewards of becoming a skilled and trusted skydiving instructor are well worth the effort.

Hold a USPA D-License and Receive USPA Coach Rating

The USPA D-License is the highest skydiving license issued by the United States Parachute Association. This license allows skydivers to participate in advanced disciplines and activities, such as wingsuit flying, high-altitude jumps, and skydiving exhibitions.

Similarly to the jump requirements, it ensures that instructors meet certain performance and experience requirements. It also ensures that the instructors have proven their skills in written, oral, and practice exams.

The USPA Coach Rating is a certification that allows experienced skydivers to train and coach newer jumpers. In order to obtain a USPA Coach Rating, a skydiver must have at least 100 jumps, complete a USPA-approved coach training course, and pass an evaluation by a certified USPA Instructor.

A USPA Coach Certification Course typically takes two to three days and covers topics such as teaching methods, risk management, and student progression. It is set in place to ensure that instructors not only possess skydiving skills but also master teaching techniques.

In case you wondered: The requirements to train solo skydivers are lower than those of becoming a tandem instructor because tandem skydiving is more difficult for the instructor to perform. In addition, the life of the tandem student solely relies on the tandem instructor whereas, in solo skydiving, the student can still help himself.

Gather Three Years of Skydiving Experience

You might wonder why skydiving instructors should have at least three years of experience in the sport if they are already required to accumulate 500 skydives.

First, it takes time and practice to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to become an effective instructor. Even though you will gather a lot of experience by performing 500 jumps, knowledge takes time to settle in.

Second, being three years in the sport ensures that skydiving instructors are mentally strong enough for the job. You can think of it as a very long probation period. If the skydiver has not been conspicuous for three years, it is likely that he is mentally fit and prepared for the task.

Are you curious about how much skydiving instructors earn? Wondering if it’s possible to make a living in the industry? Check out my post on skydiving salaries, where we break down the numbers and give you an inside look at the earning potential of a skydiving career.

50 Jumps Completed Within Last Year

Having 50 jumps completed within the last year is important for maintaining proficiency and staying current with skills and knowledge. It demonstrates that the skydiver has been actively practicing and refining their abilities in a relatively recent time frame.

This requirement helps ensure that skydiving instructors are well-prepared to teach and guide others and that they have recent experience dealing with the challenges and risks of the sport. Safety is significantly boosted by ensuring that instructors have up-to-date knowledge and skills.

Pass USPA-Approved Tandem Training Course

A USPA-approved tandem training course is a program that prepares skydivers to become certified tandem skydiving instructors. The course covers a range of topics, including tandem equipment, student harnessing, safety procedures, emergency procedures, and more. The course typically lasts for a few days and involves both classroom instruction and practical training.

The cost of a USPA-approved tandem training course can vary depending on the training center, location, and course format. Generally, the cost can range from $500 to $1500, not including the cost of the required equipment. Some training centers offer package deals that include the cost of equipment rental and the course fee.

What Skills Are Needed to Be an Excellent Skydiving Instructor?

Beyond receiving the necessary qualifications to become a skydiving instructor there are also certain skills that a skydiving instructor should have. I compiled a list of four aspects that make a skydiving tandem instructor legendary.

The Importance of Excellent Skydiving Skills for Instructors

This might be needless to say, but a skydiving instructor needs to be an excellent skydiver in order to provide the best possible guidance and instruction to their students. They must be highly skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of skydiving, including proper technique, equipment maintenance, and emergency procedures.

They also need to counteract any mistakes that their students make and even be able to handle panicking students. Excellent skydiving skills allow them to not only ensure the safety of their students but also to provide a fun and exciting experience for them.

Skydiving Instructors Must Excel Under Pressure

Skydiving instructors need to perform under pressure because they are responsible for the safety and well-being of their students during the skydive. In an emergency situation, they must act quickly and decisively to ensure a safe outcome. If they fail to do so, they do not only risk their life but also that of the student.

This is a key differentiator to solo skydiving. Some people can handle the responsibility for their own safety but being responsible for someone else is another level.

Empathy and Communication Are Essential Skills for Skydiving Instructors

Skydive instructors need to have empathy and communication skills to be able to create a safe and comfortable environment for their students. Empathy helps them understand and anticipate the emotional state of their students, and adjust their communication and teaching methods accordingly.

Clear and effective communication is also essential for giving instructions, providing feedback, and ensuring that students understand and follow safety procedures. Without these skills, the instructor-student relationship may break down, and safety may be compromised.

It is not uncommon that some students will feel extremely afraid before their jump and therefore want to back out before their jump. An excellent instructor will be able to calm the students down in these situations and give them the confidence and courage to jump.

The Importance of Teamwork in Skydiving

Skydiving is a team sport, and instructors will be working with other instructors, pilots, and staff members at the dropzone. Being a team player is crucial to ensure everyone’s safety, promoting a positive environment, and delivering the best possible experience for students.

This involves collaborating, sharing knowledge and expertise, communicating effectively, and being willing to help and support others when needed. Ultimately, a strong team dynamic is essential to the success of any skydiving operation, and instructors play a critical role in fostering and maintaining that culture.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Skydiving Instructor?

Skydiving instructors need to have at least three years of skydiving experience as it is a requirement of the USPA. The average skydiving instructor takes five to seven years to compile the necessary 500 jumps. However, some may take longer. The tandem instructor course itself is relatively short, lasting only 2-4 days.

Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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