There is no centralized authority that grants self defense instructor certification in the U.S., nor is there an accrediting institution that oversees those that train instructors. This means that quality of self defense instruction and the quality of self defense instructor training are inconsistent. However, many of the programs that exist do provide quality training.
In many martial arts organization, the black belt signifies that a practitioner is qualified to teach. Others require higher rank, typically three to seven years of post-black-belt training or completion of an instructor training course. Depending on the art, organization and school, black belts may be trained with a focus of self defense, artistry, sport performance or some combination. If seeking self defense training or certification through the martial arts, confirm that the course of instruction has a strong self defense focus.
Several systems of applied self defense offer instructor training courses. When it comes to self defense training, these are often a better bet than training with a traditional martial artist. Martial arts are valuable, but most of the applied systems out there are based in law enforcement or military techniques and experience. This means they're more likely to train based on first-hand experience in self defense and combat. The drawback of these programs is that many operate much like a pyramid scheme, with the certifying organization deriving its income from certifying instructors. The less scrupulous of these organizations certify participants without any kind of evaluation of candidates who pay the licensing fee.
Most states have a system of certification in defensive tactics for law enforcement and security guards. These range from basic unarmed security law to weapons training to firearms certification. Instructor certification for these classes is strictly regulated and requires continuing education. This is the closest thing the self defense community has to centralized regulation. The main drawback is that both student classes and instructor training are usually more expensive than other options.
Certified self defense instructors have two basic business models available to them. They can open a training center, such as a boxing club or martial arts dojo. This brick-and-mortar style of business is time consuming with lots of overhead, but can be profitable. A second option is to offer seminars and workshops to law enforcement, community groups and health club or dojo members. This is less time consuming, but rarely offers more money than a part time job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups self defense instructors with sports coaches, reporting a median salary range between $10.69 and $23.10 per hour. These numbers are consistent with what a certified self defense instructor can be expected to earn teaching self defense in a group fitness environment. Running your own seminars will often result in a paycheck of several hundred to $2000 for six to 10 instructional hours. Celebrity self defense instructors, such as Tom Patire and Dan Inosanto, make as much as $10,000 for a weekend workshop.