Becoming A Skydiving Instructor & Being Paid To Skydive

I’m sure high-end CEO’s or luxury chef positions are up there, but so too are skydiving instructors.

These guys and gals get paid money to jump out of planes and have the time of their lives! What’s not to love when the view from the office is 12,000ft up?

Aside from being able to make endless jokes about their job (“it has it’s ups and downs”), skydiving instructors are generally pretty happy in their work. If you’re curious about the steps you need to join them, then you’re in the right place.

Below is every step you need to take to go from a newbie jumper to a licensed instructor.

If that sounds good, then let’s dive in.

Note: This article is based around becoming an instructor in the USA, but generally it’s the same journey anywhere in the world.

Step 1: Jump!

Requirements: A positive attitude!

It turns out that before you can teach something, you need to have experience in it!

The first step is to take your first skydive. Yes – I wasn’t kidding. This really is a zero-to-hero style list.

Skydiver in static line course

The very first step is getting yourself into the sky solo

Step 2: Get Your Skydiving A & B Licenses.

Requirements: 25 & 50 jumps

Once you’ve flown through the air with the grace of a gazelle, it’s time to get licensed. Your first 25 jumps or so will be a journey towards getting your skydiving license.

This is the passport you need to transition from student jumps to working towards real goals in skydiving. Be that wingsuit jumps, jumping at unique airfields, or learning to be a coach.

Step 3: Become A Skydiving Coach

Requirements: 100 Jumps + a B License

Once you’ve got your B License and 100 jumps under your belt, you can start working towards becoming a skydiving coach.

This is the first rung of the ‘being paid to skydive’ ladder. You’ll help coach students alongside instructors, and generally get your first taste of being on the business side of skydiving.

Skydiving Coach Courses are typically a 3 day course. 1 day spent in the classroom on theory, with the other 2 days on jump practicing. Courses tend to be evaluated using 2 evaluation jumps plus ground tests to make sure you’re capable of teaching the sport at a good level.

Step 4: Get Qualified to Teach AFF

Requirements: 200 Skydives + Coaching Rating

In skydiving, 200 skydives is like the sweet-spot of maturation. It’s sort of like turning 21. It unlocks all the cool stuff (wingsuits, skydiving with a board, etc) – and also being able to teach Accelerated Free Fall (AFF).

However, if you’ve been a coach for less than a year, the requirement jumps up to 500 jumps to account for the relative lack of teaching experience. You also tend to need 6 hours of freefall time logged.

Before the course, there’s some pre-requisites you need to complete on an AFF proficiency card you can get. This involves:

  • Assisting in two AFF first-jump courses
  • Observe AFF ground preps in all categories
  • Assist in two Cat C + Cat D AFF ground preps
  • Teach freefall stability and basic freefall maneuvers
  • Prepare an effective flight canopy plan and provide radio instructions to students
  • Pass the AFF Instructor Final Examination theory test

After all that’s done, you can only then go get qualified to teach AFF fully! The AFF course typically runs for 5 or 6 days. As before this is 1 day in the class room, and the other days practicing the theory.

The course makes sure you’re ready to cover things like hard exits, docking to students, stopping spins, and generally making sure out-of-control students are brought back to safety.

You then need to pass a couple of evaluation jumps and a written exam. This is one of the pricier courses, normally coming out to around $750.

Step 5: Get Qualified For Tandem Jumps

Alright – it’s been a heck of a journey and we’re at the last step!

I’ve not listed the requirements for this step above, because there’s quite a few. To start your qualification process for tandem jumps, you need:

  • 500 jumps
  • 3+ years in skydiving
  • 50 jumps in the last year
  • FAA Class 3 Medical Certificate
  • 4+ hours freefall time logged

Once you’ve got that pretty huge list all sorted, you can finally take your tandem rating course. These cost around $1.5k-2k, and are a pretty rigorous course to make sure you’ve fully capable to fly with a scared student attached to you.

The course typically lasts around a week – which will familiarize you will with things like the tandem equipment, exists, drogue freefall, canopy flight and landing with a student. (All with your instructor strapped in front of you – no pressure!)

As well as learning to handle all sorts of tricky situations (bad exits, freefall spinning, delayed drogue deployments), it’s canopy flight which can be the most tricky to master. If you’re used to a smaller canopy, a huge tandem parachute will fly much straighter and slower than your normal kit. This sounds easy, but it often leads to completely overshooting your landing locations. Flying students into trees is typically frowned upon.

You can read more details about the course on the USPA website here.

Are You Suited To Be A Tandem Instructor?

While getting paid to skydive is almost a too-good-to-be-true type of deal, it’s not all fun and games.

Before you start down this path, try to be sure you’ll really be suited to being a tandem instructor. Here’s a few of the “not so fun” responsibilities that come with the jump:

  • Inspecting & maintaining your gear
  • Chitchatting with nervous students
  • Briefing students on the jump and landing procedures
  • Managing student anxiety in the plane
  • Canopy flight is significantly different to your main chute.

Being a tandem instructor means you’re also playing a significant part in someones life! No-one will ever forget their first skydive, so it’s up to you to make sure that students are having the best time possible. A positive, upbeat, friendly attitude is just as important as excellent canopy handling and landing skills.


I hope this quick guide has given you a little bit of insight into how skydiving instructors got to where they are.

It’s a huge journey, built step by step with tons of experience and regulations along the way. Despite how relaxed and fun-loving your skydiving instructors may seem, they all will have had to go through this rigorous amount of training and testing to get to where they are!

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If you’re a newbie jumper reading up on skydiving, be sure to check out the related articles below. I’m doing my best to try and cover all topics to help out beginner jumpers.

How Much Money do Skydivers Make? Skydiving Average Salary

As Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you’re madly passionate about skydiving you’re probably pondering the possibilities of working as a skydiver. But just how much money can skydivers make?

The job ‘skydiver’ as in a performance artist, is only for the fortunate few. Very few skydivers are skilled and talented enough to get paid to perform skydiving alone. But there are many jobs and paid tasks within the skydiving community, from packers and photographers to pilots and instructors.

Let’s take a look and the types of skydiving jobs available. We’ll explore the different roles and salaries and how to gain employment. And we can answer that all-important question: how much money can skydivers make?

In what ways can skydivers make money?

tandem skydive

A tandem skydiving instructor

Web and marketing: Skydiving jobs aren’t all up in the air. Marketing and content creation plays an integral part in the skydiving industry. Web builders and designers, content creators, and social media managers, there are many skydiving-related jobs you can start while sitting at home in front of your laptop.

Drop zone crew: Then there is the admin and drop zone operators. They make sure everything is prepared and organized, and your skydiving day goes super smoothly. The ground staff and admin are usually the first points of contact and the backbone of any skydiving team. Another such role is that of parachute packer. Packing is a critical role and one for which anyone can be trained. With the right commitment and dedication, you can become a skilled parachute packer. As a packer, you will gain a lot of knowledge and respect, and make lots of valuable connections.

Skydiving instructor: Being a skydiving instructor is one of the most prestigious jobs to have. It requires a lot of skill, training, time, and determination to achieve. As a skydiving instructor, people are constantly putting their safety and trust in your hands. But this isn’t the only skydiving job that will take you up in the skies.

Skydiving photographer/videographer: Most modern skydiving organizations will have at least one. Being a dedicated skydiving photographer is a thrilling and rewarding job; you get to make skydives while also being creative.

Jump pilot: A skydiving pilot, also known as a jump pilot, is a unique job. This job is an ideal role for commercial pilots working their way up the career ladder. With lots of short flights, you’re going to learn fast and become a valuable member of the skydiving community.

How much money do skydiving instructors make?


Can you make a living through skydiving?

To become a skydiving instructor, you will need a lot of skill, knowledge, passion, and experience. Not everyone can become a skydiving instructor. Firstly, you’re going to have to become a licensed skydiver.

The first step on the path to becoming a skydiving instructor is to work your way up the skydiving licenses. To do this, you’ll need to attend a beginner’s skydiving course or program. Here you will learn all the basics, and within your first 17-25 skydives, you’ll receive your skydiving A license.

Once you have your A license, you can start to jump solo and work your way towards your USPA coach ratings. At this stage, you can already become part of the manifest team or ground crew and learn to become a parachute packer. In fact, many skydiving organizations don’t require any parachuting experience to become gound crew or packers. This work can be trained for, although diving experience will always be beneficial.

To become a basic level skydiving instructor with a USPA coaching rating, you’ll need a D license (achieved after 100 solo jumps). You’ll also need to complete an instructor’s course and pass the exam. On top of that, you’ll need at least three years of skydiving experience and achieve an FEE Class III Medical certificate.

Remember, this will only bring you to the bottom rung of the coaching ladder. You will need to start working on your teaching skills and gaining valuable knowledge and reputation. If you are lucky to find a full-time role as a skydiving instructor, as a new instructor, your wage will be around $20,000 to $40,000 per year. More experienced skydivers can make more money. Career site, Glassdoor puts the average skydiving instructor’s wage at over $44,000 per year.

How much money do tandem skydivers make?


Tandem skydiving

As you gain more experience and continue to work your way up through the skydiving licenses and USPA coaching ratings, you’ll eventually qualify as a tandem skydiving instructor.

To become a tandem skydiving instructor, you will need to have your D license. While you can achieve your D license after 500 solo skydives, in the U.S., many organizations will be required to have completed 800 skydives before qualifying as a tandem instructor. We have seen some companies which require at least 1,000 skydivers. However, in some countries, such as Australia, it’s possible to work as a tandem instructor with 500 skydives under your belt.

As a tandem master, you will be able to go straight into the $40,000+ per year earnings category. It’s worth noting that while talking about how much money tandem skydivers can make, full-time jobs are often hard to find. In areas where skydiving is seasonal or sporadic, companies tend to pay per day or hour. Getting paid by the hour, a skydiving instructor can make $15 to $45 an hour, with a tandem master likely to earn towards the top end.

How much money does a skydiving photographer make?

skydive photographer

Helmet camera

Most modern skydiving companies will use a skydiving/videographer, so how much do they make?

A skydiving photographer will usually have a video camera and stills camera mounted to their helmet. They will have to jump alongside the other skydivers and maintain perfect positioning to get the best angles and distances to record everyone. It’s a rare or one-off occasion for many of the skydivers being filmed, so the photographer is under pressure to capture all those magic moments.

While a skydiving photographer isn’t directly responsible for the well-being of the students and other skydivers, they need to be highly skilled and know what they are doing. Most companies will require skydiving photographers to have a C license and 100 solo skydives to their name. They also need to show a lot of skill for filming in the air and edit photos and video professionally.

Skydiving photographers tend to be required and paid on-demand and earn per hour. Some can find it hard to build a full-time living. It’s possible to make $20 to $40 an hour as a respected skydiving photographer, as well as earning while editing footage back at your desk. However, the popularity of skydiving is expected to grow in the coming years. We should start to see more full-time skydiving photographer jobs.

How do you get work as a skydiver?

team skydive

Make the right connections

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The best way to look for skydiving jobs is via the regular job website. It’s also worth contacting and following local skydiving companies and watching out for vacancies, as well as following popular industry noticeboards and forums such as Drop Zone.

If you are starting to work your way up through the licenses to become a skydiving instructor, consider seeking drop zone work experience. It can take some time to log enough jumps even to begin your instructor’s training course. In the meantime, it’s worth gaining extra knowledge by working as drop zone staff or as a parachute packer. Working as a parachute packer would not only give you vital experience of how drop zones and courses work, but it will help you make important connections and build a reputation.

One possible career path would be to work as a drop zone admin and learn to pack parachutes. After gaining experience as a parachute packer and logging your first 100 jumps, you can become a skydiving photographer. While working as a photographer and getting paid, you will also be getting free jumps and working up the licenses. From here, you can gain the added experience and knowledge to progress and become a skydiving coach, then a tandem skydiving instructor, and an AFF fully qualified skydiving master. The sky really is the limit.

How much money can a skydiver make?

Ultimately it depends on the skydiving job you take. Skydiving performing jobs are rare and dangerous, but you can still earn an excellent living as a skydiving instructor. Even as a part-time skydiving instructor or skydiving photographer, you can make around $40 per hour. And you are also getting free jumps and doing a job you will love.

Remember, working as a skydiving coach or instructor carries great responsibility. As well as risk to your safety, as a coach and instructor, you are responsible for the lives and well-being of your students. But as a job, be it full-time, part-time, or seasonal, it’s undoubtedly one of the most rewarding and exciting out there.

The Salary of Skydiving Tandem Instructors (and How to Earn More)

Become a Skydiving Instructor and Skydive for Free

Once you become a skydiving “D” license holder, you can apply to be a tandem instructor and make a living by jumping out of planes. But what is the salary of a skydiving tandem instructor?

The average salary of a freelance instructor ranges from $20,000 to $40,000 per year depending on the number of jumps. A full-time skydiving tandem instructor is paid around $50,000 per year. Salaries vary widely depending on the location, certifications, skillset, number of jumps, and years in the profession.

Jumping out of a plane at the height of 10,000-15,000 ft while being strapped to tandem students not only is exciting but can also support you financially. Becoming a tandem instructor will allow a person to do what they love—skydiving—and get paid per jump at the same time!

Per-Jump Salary and Annual Salary of a Skydiving Tandem Instructor

Skydiving instructors are paid around $25 and $40 per jump, depending on their location. The reputation of the skydive center also matters since busy dropzones usually offer higher rates for qualified instructors.

If the skydiving company pays instructors on a per jump basis, the instructor should also look for a busy dropzone because he will be able to perform more jumps there than at idle dropzones.

Skydiving companies can gain a reputation by locating themselves in beautiful landscapes and by emphasizing customers’ comfort and fun. Skydiving centers that offer specialized jumps such as HALO jumps or tandem jumps with overweight guests will also attract more customers.

On average, a tandem instructor can earn $50,000 or more if they work full-time, and the salary tends to increase based on the instructor’s certifications, advancement, skillset, number of jumps, and years in the profession. For example, tandem instructors that perform jumps with overweight students are likely to earn more.

The location of the skydiving center also matters a lot – country- and state-wise. According to, the average salary of a full-time tandem instructor in California is $50,095, with most of the salaries ranging between $45,743 to $58,926.

For example, cities such as Alviso, Campbell, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and San Jose provide the highest average salary for tandem instructors (around $58,926 per year) while other cities in California will offer much lower salaries. This is because the skydiving centers in the aforementioned cities cater to both local and international skydivers.

Freelance tandem instructors will often be paid more per hour because they will be hired on a flexible and part-time basis. A busy freelance instructor can earn around $20,000 to $40,000 per year when he jumps extensively in his free time or during weekends.

Other Income Opportunities for Skydiving Tandem Instructors

Aside from assisting student jumpers during a tandem jump or during “Accelerated Free Fall” courses, instructors can also add more skills and certifications that allow them to work as a videographer during tandem jumps and solo skydives.

Another way for additional income is to become a certified parachute rigger who repackages reserve parachutes every 180 days. According to, the average salary of a parachute packer is approximately $19.64 an hour, which is equivalent to $3,404 per month.

Some skydiving centers also hire parachute riggers on a parachute basis (often freelance) and pay between $10-15 for each parachute that they packed. This is a good way to earn some extra money during your wait time for the next jump.

Tandem instructors can also advance in their careers by becoming trainers for future skydiving instructors and by consulting bigger companies about aviation and working under pressure. This will also give tandem instructors the skills to start their own skydiving business someday.

Finally, experienced tandem instructors also go on international travels to attend different skydiving competitions and work as coaches for competitive skydivers. However, this is quite a competitive track and the tandem instructor needs to have a lot of experience to succeed.

Requirements and Training Needed to Become a Skydiving Tandem Instructor

Before you can earn money by doing what you love, you need to become a certified tandem instructor. Skydiving tandem instructors do not need to have a high school or college diploma. Rather, they need to show that they have the necessary experience and attitudes to jump with students.

In order to earn their certificate as licensed tandem instructors, they need to complete a specialized training program and they need to be rated by the United States Parachute Association (USPA). Here are the requirements for tandem instructors in one glance:

  • 18 years old or older
  • Attended the Tandem Training Course
  • Completed a minimum of 500 jumps (logbook required)
  • Skydiving “D” license holder or foreign equivalent
  • Minimum of 3 years in the sport
  • FAA class 3 medical certificate or foreign equivalent
  • Hold an Instructional or USPA Coach Rating
  • Had at least 50 jumps within the last 12 months
  • Accumulated at least 3 hours of freefall time

The requirements are relatively straightforward except for the tandem training course which includes training by the USPA and by the equipment manufacturer. The tandem course consists of at least three phases and will take 3 to 4 days to complete depending on the weather conditions.

The first day covers ground training and theoretical training such as methods to calm panicking students down. The second day is usually dedicated to more practical activities including evaluation jumps. On the third and fourth day, instructor candidates will complete more jumps – this time with a tandem passenger. In order to pass the course, they need to perform at least 10 jumps with experienced skydivers as their passengers.

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Sometimes the other requirements also seem to be a challenge. If you want to learn more about the requirements and best practices to become a tandem instructor make sure to check out this article.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Skydiving Tandem Instructor

In total, tandem instructors are likely to have spent between $18,525 – 30,950 on skydiving before they earn money with skydiving. These costs include the costs of learning skydiving, equipment costs, lift fees, and the tandem instructor course costs.

TypeLower RangeUpper Range
Learning Skydiving (AFF course + license costs)$3,400$4,700
Lift fees (to complete 475 jumps)$11,875$14,250
Equipment costs$2,000$10,000
Tandem instructor course (including health certificate, USPA ratings, etc.)$1,250$2,000
Total costs$18,525$30,950

An Overview of the Costs to Become a Tandem Instructor

In other words, skydiving instructors need to work 6 – 12 months just to recover the upfront costs that they paid to learn skydiving. As you can see, the salary of skydiving instructors is not very high and no one should become a skydiving instructor just because of the money.

However, if you love skydiving, skydiving instructors have a lot of benefits that “compensate” them beyond the money.

Job Benefits of a Skydiving Tandem Instructor

Becoming a skydiving tandem instructor can be a long and expensive process; however, it also has benefits that you won’t get on a regular office job or any other jobs related to sports. I have listed down a summary of the perks of being a tandem instructor.

  • Free skydives – The standard lift for a solo skydive is between $25 and $30 each. Being a tandem instructor will allow you to skydive for free, daily. You can have a minimum of 12 skydives on a busy day.
  • Not tied up to an office desk – You will not be a desk-bound office worker. In skydiving, your office is the entire skydiving facility, the airplane, and most of all the sky.
  • Skydiving is very open to travel – You can work anywhere you want since most major cities in the US have skydiving centers. Many instructors also work in other countries during the off-peak season. You will be able to explore the beautiful and majestic views of skydiving centers around the world.
  • Workload management – You have the freedom to decide whether you want to be a freelance or full-time tandem instructor.
  • Physical benefit – Skydiving is a good workout. Instead of going to the gym, skydiving can burn around 284 calories per hour. A full-day shift can burn more than 2,000 calories. It will also strengthen your core muscles and improve your flexibility.
  • Emotional and mental benefits – The body produces several hormones during strenuous activity. These “good and happy hormones” will give you emotional and mental stability. You will be able to make good decisions while under pressure.

Responsibilities of a Skydiving Tandem Instructor

Skydiving tandem instructors have a lot of fun during their work, however, their job also comes with high responsibilities. Tandem instructors are responsible for the safety of the tandem student before, during, and after skydiving.

They prepare the tandem students before the jump by conducting a safety briefing, providing safety reminders, and assisting them when boarding the aircraft.

During the jump, tandem instructors need to make sure to maintain a stable belly-to-earth position and achieve the correct “banana” arch for a smooth parachute opening. This can sometimes be difficult specifically when students make unclever movements and panic.

Even if a tandem student makes every mistake that one can make, it will still be the responsibility of the tandem instructor to bring him down safely.

In case of an emergency, tandem instructors are responsible for fixing any malfunction in a matter of seconds. They will also decide if it’s the right time to cut away from the main parachute and deploy the reserve parachute. Overall, they are responsible for the safety of the tandem students until the skydiving activity is over.

Tandem instructors are also responsible to ensure a safe landing on the ground. It is important to remind the tandem students that they will need to lift their legs and point their toes towards the sky to avoid any injuries. Once on the ground, the instructors are responsible to remove the harness from the tandem students and bring the parachutes to the packing area.

Some skydiving companies also demand from their instructors to ensure a fun ride for the students. While it is understandable that skydiving companies want to keep their customers happy, the fund often depends more on the student himself and the weather conditions. So in my opinion, tandem instructors are not responsible for the fun and comfortability of the customers.

That being said, skydiving comes with a lot of responsibilities and only offers a decent salary. However, it is quite common that people with high responsibilities do not get paid a lot.

Firefighters, for example, bear many responsibilities but only get paid an average of $47,000 per year but their job is far more important than that of a business manager (and it is also more dangerous compared to skydiving).

At the end of the day, you will be able to pursue your passion for skydiving and provide for yourself and your family.

Enjoy your freefall!

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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Skydiving is a recreational sport for most people but it can also be a profession for some extreme athletes or tandem instructors. Before someone can take passengers and become a tandem instructor.


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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