Simply put, a CPR instructor, teaches classes, to individuals seeking that knowledge. The exact class, the business arrangement, and many other facets of being a CPR instructor can vary widely. Many people who become CPR instructors have a background in healthcare or public safety and do it as an additional source of income or more likely to provide an additional service for their organization.
Having experience actually using CPR helps to establish the instructor as a subject matter expert which students expect and deserve. As an instructor you will have a curriculum provided by a national organization but often students have questions that may not fit exactly with the curriculum and some things like the emotional impact of providing care in an emergency are difficult to convey without first hand knowledge. Let’s unpack the various parts of being an instructor so the path becomes more clear.
How do I become a certified CPR instructor?
In theory anyone can say they are a CPR instructor, but to have the logistical and legal backing of national organization and to be able to offer a certification that is widely recognized you must earn an instructor certification. The process to become an instructor typically involves several steps which vary slightly based on the organization offering the certification. Specifics for the major organizations will be discussed later on. Here is the general process:
- Select which major organization you would like to instruct for. If you will be teaching for an employer they likely have already made this decision.
- Obtain a certification in the course you would like to instruct through the organization you would like to instructor for.
- Enroll in an instructor development course through the organization you wish to teach for.
- Complete the course which often includes teaching while being observed.
Upon completion of the process you will be certified to teach specific classes through a specific organization. Some organizations recognize the instructor certification from others and some do not. Typically the American Heart Association is the most strict in that they do not accept any other organizations instructor credentials. Other groups like the American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI) evaluate applicants individually and those with good credentials and experience teaching can move through a fast track process to become an ASHI instructor.
What will I learn in an instructor development course?
Some of the course will deal with organization specific information like the proper paperwork to fill out, how to evaluate students, and how to go about issuing certification cards. Much of the course will likely address how to effectively teach adult learners through lecture, facilitated discussion, scenarios, and other methods. You may give short presentations in your instructor development class or go through scenarios to help you learn to be a great instructor.
What are the requirements to be an instructor?
Specifics vary slightly among the different organizations issuing instructor certifications but generally speaking one must:
- Be 16 or 18 years of age by the completion of the course
- Be fluent in the language the classes will be taught in
- Able to effectively communicate verbally and in writing
- Physically able to perform the skills in the course
What are the national organizations?
In the United States the major national organizations that create CPR curriculums and certify instructors are:
- American Heart Association
- American Red Cross
- National Safety Council
- American Safety and Health Institute
How do I start teaching?
There are a few common ways for someone to begin instructing.
- Independent training organization: This is a company that teaches CPR only or a variety of health and safety related classes as its primary function. They will have existing customers and advertising meaning that once hired you may only need to arrive to teach your classes rather than worrying about the business aspects.
- Emergency services organization: Some fire departments, ambulance services, and police departments offer classes for the public and do so by using their own employees as well as external instructors. These positions are not always advertised so checking with your local service may help you find a position.
- For your current employer: Your employer may want you to teach in house classes for coworkers. If your employer already has a program in place you can likely be smoothly integrated in to it but if they do not have a program established you will need to help get them setup as a “Training Center” (or become affiliated with a pre-existing one) and then you can teach for them.
- Start a business: Although many websites list starting a CPR business as a great venture given the relatively low startup cost (typically under $3-5000) and potential to recoup the cost through a few classes this can be a very difficult road to take. Even if you are a great instructor to run a great training business you must also be good at marketing, advertising, and other facets to get the students to you. Additionally many markets are saturated with qualified instructors and trainers so you need to determine what makes you special.
How much money can I expect to make?
Most people who are CPR instructors do it part time in addition to a career in healthcare, public safety, or a related business such as safety products or business support services. Depending on the area an hourly rate of $10-20 is not uncommon but you may only make that a few hours a week or a few hours a month. If you are running your own training center your compensation can be better, but is more difficult to earn. Your cost per student may be $10-30 and you may charge $30-100 per student. With a class of 10, 20, or 30 students that can mean several hundred to a thousand dollars after expenses. Most training organizations require an instructor to student ratio of 1:6 or 1:10 so a larger class will require additional instructors decreasing your total profit.
What classes would I teach?
Each national organization calls them something slightly different but the content is similar. The primary classes are CPR for bystanders, CPR for professional rescuers, first aid for bystanders.
Is there liability associated with being an instructor?
Yes. Most instructors carry individual liability insurance or have it through their training center. In most places anyone can sue anyone else for anything. Even if you as the instructor did nothing wrong you will still have to retain an attorney to deal with the case. A major advantage of being a certified instructor through a national organization is that as long as you stick to the curriculum and deliver the course as directed, the process you are using has been reviewed by physicians and lawyers for the national organization. You must be able to prove you adhered to the curriculum as well which means keeping records from your classes.
Why would I want to be an instructor?
CPR instructors save lives. As an individual you are one person who can do CPR but when you become an instructor you train many people who may go on to do CPR. If you believe in the power of CPR and are committed to educating your community you may be a good candidate to become an instructor. If you become an instructor continually work on being better educated and a more effective educator.
Hopefully that information gives you a better sense of what it is to be a CPR instructor and allows you to evaluate if this is a good choice for you.