What are the Different Types of Diving Certification?

A. Gabrenas

There are several different organizations around the world that offer self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA, diving certification. Many of these groups offer a variety of certifications, including basic permissions that allows a person to go on simple ocean dives without an instructor present, to more advanced and specialty certifications in areas such as deep ocean, night and cavern diving. While the groups generally operate independently, most have similar requirements for basic scuba certification and recognize each others certificates when it comes to organization-sponsored activities and clubs for certified divers.

Certification courses are used to train divers on underwater safety.
Certification courses are used to train divers on underwater safety.

One of the most well-known international scuba diving certification organizations is PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The most common basic diving certification through PADI is the open water diver course, which anyone who is older than 10, is in good health and can pass a swimming test can generally take. This course typically requires time spent learning about the technical aspects of diving either in a classroom setting or online, as well as hands-on training in both a closed water setting, such as a pool, and in an open water setting, such as a lake or ocean. Once all of the training is successfully completed, student divers are usually awarded a diving certification card, also called a “C-card,” which allows them to go diving to depths of up to 60 feet (about 18.3 meters) without a certified diving instructor present.

An individual who wants to earn a diving certification must be familiar with first aid procedures.
An individual who wants to earn a diving certification must be familiar with first aid procedures.

PADI also offers many other certifications that typically allow divers to go deeper or to dive in more challenging conditions. For example, it offers a deep diver certification, which allows divers to go to depths of up to 100 feet (about 30.5 meters), as well as certifications that allow for dives on shipwrecks, in caverns and under ice. In general, each new diving certification through PADI and most other diving organizations requires additional coursework and hands-on training.

PADI courses teach the proper use of prismatic compasses, dive tanks, and other pieces of equipment.
PADI courses teach the proper use of prismatic compasses, dive tanks, and other pieces of equipment.

Another popular international diving certification agency is NAUI, the National Association of Underwater Instructors. NAUI offers a similar basic certification as PADI and has similar age, health and training requirements. It also offers a variety of specialty diving certifications, such as its advanced diver certification, which allows for dives up to 130 feet (about 39.2 meters). Other certification agencies include Scuba Schools International (SSI) and the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), the latter of which primarily services divers in the United Kingdom.

In general, most diving certification agencies recognize other agencies’ certifications as equally valid. This could be helpful, for example, if a diver has a basic NAUI certification and wants to take a PADI wreck diver course, which would normally have the basic PADI Open Water certification as a prerequisite. In such a situation, the PADI course would typically accept the NAUI certification as an equivalent, so the diver would not have to retake the same basic course again to move forward in his or her training. Similarly, the BSAC, which runs a diving club, generally accepts divers with any valid certification, not just those who are BSAC certified.

Diving certification can be earned to explore shipwrecks.
Diving certification can be earned to explore shipwrecks.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - If I was going to do something like that, I'd take a free one hour lesson first. It seems pretty standard for diving schools to offer some kind of short lesson in their pool for free, in order to determine whether people are going to want to take their courses. You don't learn much, but you get to experience breathing underwater and you can see whether it's likely that you'll be able to take the longer lessons.

You don't want to find out that you're going to panic and quit after paying for the classes. And this could help if you want to dive overseas as well.


@clintflint - I would suggest that if you want to go for SCUBA certification this time, you should take a holiday to Thailand or somewhere similar, where they will teach you how to dive as part of a holiday package.

As long as you aren't still holding on to any fear or resentment about diving, you would have a whole bunch of new memories to displace the old ones. And they often run internationally certified courses for cheaper than you would get them at home.


I took a diving certification course when I was about twelve, but I ended up not completing it. It was one of the worst experiences of my life to that point.

For starters, my father had convinced them to let me do it in spite of the fact that I was about three years younger than anyone else in the course. I was also quite chubby at that age and none of the wet suits fit me without a half hour struggle at the start of the lesson.

That was OK though and if that had been it, I probably would have passed, because I was a good swimmer and I quite liked the diving.

Except that I was deathly afraid of heights and part of the final exam was that we had to jump off the high diving board in full SCUBA gear, in order to simulate jumping off a ship for a dive.

I started crying and refused to jump. So I failed, after six weeks of not very much fun. One of these days I'm going to have to try for my certification again.

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