How To Become A Professional Skydive Instructor

June 8, 2023

Being a full-time skydiving instructor is the dream gig, but it doesn’t come as easy as you may think! Being a skydiving instructor means getting paid to be a certified badass, but it also means working hard, having exceptional communication skills, and a true passion for exposing others to the sport. Let’s jump into what it takes to be a good skydiving instructor, what the tandem instructor course entails, and what the skydiving instructor's salary is. 


Tandem Skydiving



First things first, you need to get your 
skydiving license. Most skydiving centers offer a skydive training program called Accelerated Free Fall (AFF), which is used as a comprehensive student progression program to introduce newcomers to the sport safely and efficiently. 




  • Coach: How many jumps do you need to be a skydiving coach? Once someone becomes a B-licensed skydiver and hits their 100th jump, they’re eligible to apply for their Coach rating. A Coach is a step down from an AFF instructor (AFFI) and Tandem Instructor (TI). Once a student skydiver has completed their AFF requirements successfully, they’ll be taught by a Coach until they achieve their 25th skydive and all their A-license requirements! Coaches are required to complete a Coach Certification Course and essentially work under the supervision of instructors. A Coach Rating shows competency to mentor others in a safety-oriented way along with a dedication to the advancement of new jumpers in the sport. 

Learning to Skydive

  • AFFI: Accelerated Freefall Instructors (AFFI) are our gods and goddesses of the student world! AFFIs are tasked with taking students on their first-ever solo skydive. The requirements to become an AFFI include:

    • Being 18 years old
    • Having a USPA Membership 
    • Holding a USPA Coach Rating
    • Having a USPA C-license
    • A minimum of 6 hours of accumulated freefall time
      *If you have the Coach Rating for less than 1 year before the AFFI course, you must have at least 500 skydives. 

AFF instructors are responsible for introducing novices to the sport on the ground through pre-jump training and in the sky, by holding onto them during freefall and talking them down via radio to land their canopy. AFF instructors are superheroes! 


  • TI: Tandem instructors have the unique opportunity to take people on their first-ever skydive, which is a cherished lifelong memory for tandem students! Let’s take a peek into the specifics of what it takes to throw drogues for a living. 

Learning to Skydive

Learning to Skydive USPA A License




There are four skydiving licenses, A, B, C, and D, which are issued through the United States Parachute Association (USPA). A tandem instructor must first achieve each license, and finally the D-license (the most difficult one to earn!) before applying for the tandem instructor course. The D-license requirements are listed below: 


  • Meet all requirements for the USPA C-License
  • Minimum of 500 skydives
  • Minimum of 3 hours of freefall time
  • Pass the USPA D-license written exam 
  • Complete a minimum of two of the following: 
    • Night jump 
    • Landing within 7 feet of a target center on 100 jumps (yes, 100!)
    • Intentional water landing
    • Successful 100 formation skydives; 25 must have a minimum of 8 jumpers
    • Completed a canopy stack of 3 or more canopies, completing a full rotation 

Professional Skydive Instructor 

Getting your D-license is tough work! A tandem instructor is a professional skydiver who can’t even think about getting their tandem instructor rating before completing the above requirements. 

  • How the heck can someone reach 500 skydives? Okay, we know it seems like a lot, but we assure you it flies by! Skydiving is addicting (in the best way), and the cost for licensed skydivers with their own gear to jump from full altitude is only $29! 

become a skydiving instructor at skydive danielson



You’ve made it to the fun part – congrats! After achieving your D-license, it’s time to hit the books and get a taste of the tandem instructor life. Potential tandem instructors are required to take a course through the USPA. This course is designed to teach the new instructors how to take passengers on their first tandem skydives and learn how to operate the tandem parachute system, which is slightly different from the one used by solo jumpers. What credentials must they have before taking the course? 

learning how to pack parachutes for skydiving

Tandem instructors must: 

  • Be 18 years old
  • Have made 50 skydives in the last year
  • Be a USPA Coach
  • Have accumulated 4 hours of freefall time
  • Have been skydiving for at least 3 years
  • Passed an FAA Class III Medical

During the Tandem Instructor Course, new instructors will take “students” (who are actually instructors) on practice tandem jumps. The “students” will do everything they can to test the skills of the new instructor, which conditions them to be able to handle any and every situation when they start skydiving with real first-time students. 

professional skydiving instructor



Yep, skydiving can 100% be made into a career! How much a skydive instructor makes is usually dependent on which rating(s) they hold and where in the world they are. How much do skydiving instructors earn in the USA? Well, it depends. Each region's economy is a bit different and therefore salaries vary. We can assure you that here at Skydive Danielson we only employ the best of the best and pay our staff sufficiently. 


If you're interested in getting your USPA A-license and starting your journey to become an instructor, check out our Learn To Skydive page! If you have yet to make your tandem jump and are ready to take the leap, check out our step-by-step guide to know what to expect. We can’t wait to have you!