Training and certification is essential for scuba divers. Carrying a scuba certification card from a recognized scuba association assures others you have been trained to dive safely and responsibly. A full-service dive shop will require you to show your scuba certification card before arranging a chartered diving excursion. It”s because they should be concerned for your safety, but also because on any dive in a group, large or small, dragging along a novice who can”t keep their mask on properly is highly annoying, possibly dangerous and can easily ruin the experience for everyone.
Dive shops also require a certification before they will rent you any equipment. Scuba equipment can be damaged if it isn’t used and handled properly, and it is in their best interest to make sure you return the equipment in good condition.
It has often been said that getting a scuba certification is harder than getting a library card, but easier than getting a driver”s license. This is a very fair assessment. A scuba certification is not free or easy; you are required to prove that you know how to use the equipment, handle yourself underwater and know how to react in a wide range of underwater situations.
The two most popular scuba certification courses today are the PADI Scuba Diver certification and the NAUI Scuba Diver certification. Either program is sufficient to get you ready for your first “real scuba dive”.
PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors
PADI is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI sets a standard of quality for diving instructors and offers curricula in dozens of specialized diving techniques. PADI was founded in 1967 and issues over 850,000 certifications every year. Since 1967 PADI has issued over 10 million certifications. PADI offers many levels and courses from beginner to advanced.
The PADI program is generally considered to be “lighter”; ideal for vacationers who just want to take a few supervised dives on a tropical vacation.
NAUI – National Association of Underwater Instructors
NAUI is the National Association of Underwater Instructors. NAUI is a highly respected international association and is esteemed worldwide for the indispensable NAUI repetitive dive tables. Like PADI, NAUI sets a standard of quality for diving instructors and offers curriculum guides and certification. By reputation, the NAUI standards are slightly higher than most, the curricula are more complete and NAUI certification is a little more challenging than other programs. When your instructor uses NAUI materials and training you are arguably getting the best training available anywhere.
The NAUI program is somewhat more involved and is ideal for a beginner taking up scuba as a recreational sport. After completing the basic beginner level of scuba training, both PADI and NAUI offer further training up to the advanced level.
Some certifications offered by NAUI are:
- Scuba Diver (a.k.a. “Open Water”)
- Advanced Scuba Diver
- Master Scuba Diver
- Gold Master Diver
- Scuba Rescue Diver
- Advanced Scuba Rescue Diver
NAUI offers courses in:
- Night Diving
- Underwater Hunting and Collecting
- Search & Recovery
- Underwater Photography
- Underwater Archaeology
- Ice Diving
- Deep Diving
- Cavern Diving
- Enriched Air (EANx) Diving
SSI – Scuba Schools International
Founded in 1970, Scuba Schools International offers school-based scuba diving education and scuba certification. An SSI certification card is accepted at all dive shops for rentals and diving packages.
PDIC – Professional Diving Instructors Corporation
Professional Diving Instructors Corporation is a training association which offers education programs at every level from Open Water to Advanced Instructor.
When you decide you want to become scuba certified the first step is to choose a good scuba instructor. Often the best place to find a good instructor is at a local dive shop. A great proportion of storefront dive shops which rent and sell equipment are also affiliated with scuba instructors and scuba classes.
Here are some things to look for. If the answer is “no” to any of these questions you may want to look for another scuba instructor.
- Is the scuba instructor certified by a major diving association such as PADI or NAUI?
- Does the scuba instructor communicate well and explain scuba concepts in a way you can understand?
- Is the scuba instructor patient and willing to spend extra time with those who need help?
- Is the scuba instructor affiliated with a diving school, pro shop or other recreational diving group through which scuba lessons are offered?
- When you ask questions, does the scuba instructor answer you confidently?
- Does the scuba instructor have a lot of practical diving experience?