There’s no better job than being paid to skydive!
That said, many students are often left wondering how much this dream job pays. In the immortal words of one skydiving instructor, John Berry:
Being a skydiving instructor doesn’t exactly make you a good living, but it’s livin’ good!
The real answer to how much skydiving instructors make, is really that it depends. I know, vague answer! I’ll cover this in more detail below, but basically skydiving instructors are paid by the jump. Here are some very approximate amounts to give you an idea:
- Tandem skydiving instructors make the most per jump. They can make around $80 per student they fall through the sky with.
- The skydiving cameraman comes in second. They might pull around $50 per jump that they film. It’s a tricky skill to master, but they don’t need to worry about training or looking after students!
- Lastly, we have skydiving training coaches. These guys can make $20-$30 per student they coach through the course. For a day coaching 6 students, that could be $180 for the day’s work. Not bad!
Again, these are SUPER generic figures. They vary a ton depending on a few factors – covered below.
In short, skydiving instructors make enough to fund their own hobby, pay rent, buy beer, and have a good time. They might not be putting tons into index funds each month, but you can be sure they’re having a damn good time!
Looking for a bit more detail? Then let’s dive in.
Image credit – SkydiveChesapeake
The Most A Skydiving Instructor Makes – & The Deciding Factors
As I mentioned above, the rates of instructor vary A LOT.
You may have one instructor at a tiny airfield simply running students to get free jumps. On the other hand, other instructors treat things like a business. The most I’ve ever heard of is a skydiving instructor making $100k a year. But that’s like the stars aligning.
Here’s what I mean.
Income Factors – Experience & Qualifications
Like any job, the more experience and qualifications you have, the more pay you can demand.
For instructors in particular, this can mean getting qualified to run camera, to run tandem students, to jump in different dropzones, to jump different types of equipment – even to handle heavier students!
You need the following requirements you can take a tandem instructor training course (USA):
- Over 18 Years Old
- Hold a USPA Coach Rating
- Hold a D License
- Log 500 Jumps
- Log 100 Jumps within the last 12 months
- Have a minimum 3 years in parachuting
- Pass an FAA Class 3 Medical Certificate
Most instructors got their position due to a near lifelong passion for the sport, often having jumped solo for years before becoming an instructor. Getting fully qualified is no easy feat, and one that you’ll need a real passion for the sport first.
Income Factors – Reputation / Position
It doesn’t matter how qualified or experienced you are, you need to find an opening that you can fill. That’s true in any job, but especially in the wild west of skydiving instructors.
You need to not only have a good airfield to jump at, but to know the team behind that airfield enough to be allocated plenty of students to train or jump with.
This is typically developed naturally as you get to know people at your home base. However, it does mean it can take a little while to break into a new location if you’re on the move – unless of course they’re actively looking for more instructors!
Income Factors – Location, Location, Location
There’s a massive difference between airfields.
There are tiny ones like the dropzone I learned at – which boasted 2 little Cessna planes and a grass runway, only open at weekends.
At the other end of the scale, you’ve got 7-day a week, multi-plane, concrete runway, fully professional and commercial skydiving centers. These places are where the real money is made.
Lastly, to make a yearly salary an instructor often has to travel. US instructors in particularly are typically up north in the summer, and migrate to southern states in the winter. This is totally different to the part-time instructors who just help out at their local drop zone for a free case of beer!
Income Factors – Outside Work
I mentioned before that there are some instructors who are just happy to get free rides on the plane, while others treat the job like a business.
For the more entrepreneurial minded instructors, there’s a few ways to increase their income. They can offer more camera work, edit the footage, and generally build a reputation. With a bit of promotion and word-of-mouth, bringing more students to the airfield will also mean they can request a bump up in commission.
The $100k/Year Skydiving Instructor
Like I said, there’s plenty of factors that influence how much an instructor makes!
There are instructors out there who are in the 6-figures. These guys are masters of the trade. They’re big names at the most commercial dropzones, and aren’t afraid to travel with the seasons to keep riding the good weather. They’ll often offer the best type of experience, jump at the higher altitudes, and generally just provide the best experience a student can have. They’ll be super veterans with about every qualification under the sun, and work 6 or more days a week – practically living at the drop zone!
Average Skydiving Instructor Salaries
The word ‘salary’ typically is reserved for proper office-style employees, and in this case it’s true.
Most (90%) of skydiving instructors get paid by the work they do, as freelancers or contractors. They’ll get paid by student, and not a salary.
That being said, there are some drop zones that are commercial enough to offer full-time positions. These aren’t limited to instructors, and include all other positions that help run the drop zone. As an instructor these jobs will likely be a little less pay for more work, but the job security in an industry like this is worth gold!
In general, the average (full-time) skydiving instructor can make anywhere from $40-70k. Again, this varies massively, and a salaried position is rare enough in itself.
Perks of the Job!
While the top-end instructors make a good living (as well as livin’ good), there’s a few real downsides to work like this. There’s a ceiling on how far you can go – though you could progress into running the drop zone. It’s also fairly weather dependent, and quite a physical job.
That said, there’s some amazing perks of being a skydiving instructor (or so I’ve heard). Including
- Sharing your passion with students. This is the real joy, and what keeps most instructors going.
- You meet tons of new people. Especially if the drop zone has a bar (at which you’ll definitely get a few free drinks from your students!)
- You’ll often get some fun jumps for free.
- You get tips! Especially if you do a great job and make people smile.
- The view from the office ain’t half bad. (Shamelessly quoted by about every skydiving instructor ever).
A skydiving instructor is a very niche job, and jump students are often left wondering what the life is like, and how much it pays.
I hope this quick article has helped clear things up for you – at least a little. It’s a super varied topic, but by understanding the factors and base numbers, you can hopefully get an idea of the lifestyle this provides.
If this content helped you, consider checking out the related articles below!
Thanks for reading, and happy jumping.