What Are the Different Types of Diving Qualifications?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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The different types of diving qualifications can be separated by the body that awards them, by the level of the qualification, and whether the qualification is for instructors or students. The worldwide and most recognized provider of diving qualifications is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), but many others such as the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) also offer qualifications equivalent to those provided by PADI. Diving qualifications also have different levels, from beginner to intermediate and advanced, although these levels are named differently by different organizations. Most institutions offer both instructor courses and basic diving courses.

Different organizations around the world offer diving qualifications, differentiated by the body that awards them. PADI, BSAC, and NAUI are three awarding bodies already mentioned, but many others exist. Some other major diving associations include the Sub-Aqua Association (SAA), Scuba Diving International (SDI), and the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS). These organizations each offer their own type of diving qualifications. Each course contains different information, so if a diver has qualifications from one body, he or she may need to pass a test before being allowed to dive with another organization.


Although different organizations have different titles for their qualifications, they can generally be split into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Beginners’ qualifications are generally called “Open Water Diver” qualifications, which generally indicate that the diver knows enough to dive in open water. This title is used by the SAA, PADI, and SDI, among others. Intermediate diving qualifications have different names depending on the specific awarding body, but are often called “Rescue Diver” or “Sports Diver.” Advanced qualifications are ordinarily called something akin to “Dive Master” or “Dive Leader.”

Diving qualifications can also be split into those that are intended to teach a person how to dive and those that are intended to teach a person how to teach other people. Essentially, the two types of diving qualifications looked at in this way would be instructor qualifications and diver qualifications. All instructors have to be advanced divers, but not all advanced divers are capable of instructing. The majority of awarding bodies include the word “Instructor” in the title of all instructing qualifications.

Tables available online can help divers determine the value of their diving qualifications with other institutions. This enables people to have a good idea of what level they would be at with another organization, and therefore makes it easier to dive with different companies. Most equivalent courses have similar names, but some, such as those offered by the CMAS, are unique.


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