Different Types of Diving and Certifications

Diving is a difficult skill which is gained through practice and lessons from teachers who are experts themselves at it. The training is focused on providing skills that enable the diver to navigate the waters without issues and to avert any problems that may arise.

When one has passed the tests for a certain level of diving, they’re issued with a certificate that’s specific to that type of diving. With there being many organizations in charge of training and certification, knowing what each one stands for is important for a diver who intends to explore a certain type and depth of water body.

The reason for the certification is to prove their qualifications when seeking employment, filling diving cylinders, booking for a diving trip or even when hiring diving equipment. A qualified diver is issued with a diving certification in the form of a card called a C-card.

History of Diving Certification

The need to certify divers before they went into the water came about due to the two divers who died while using diving equipment owned by the University of California in 1952.

Diving history
Scuba Diver

Robert Gordon Sproul, the university president, would enact the rule that only divers certified by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) would be given the diving equipment.

The concept would be picked up by the US government with the creation of the Los Angeles Underwater Instructors Program. This was the very first training program in the United States. The idea quickly spread worldwide.

Today, the certification card (C-card) will be given to a diver after undergoing the needed training and proving that they can dive safely. Among the details on a typical C-card include the following:

  • The name and logo of the certifying body.
  • The name and picture of the certified person.
  • The certification serial or reference number.
  • Date of certification.
  • Type of certification.
  • Instructor’s name and registration number.

These details are always standard and understood by resorts, charter boats and other parties no matter the certifying body.

Types of Diving Courses and Certifications

While the certifications for divers are large in number, the levels of certification can be put into 12 categories with from a beginner to the highest professional.

The levels include the following:

1. Junior PADI Scuba Diver or PADI Scuba Diver

As a certified PADI scuba diver, you’re allowed to dive a distance of up to 12 meters or 40 feet. However, you must at all times be accompanied by a professional diver for safety purposes.

2. Junior Open Water Diver or Open Water Diver

As an open water diver, you’re certified to scuba dive on your own. As such, the course is focused on giving you autonomy through learning the proper equipment management skills and how to handle disasters. The swimming depth is 40 feet for children and 59 feet for adults.

3. Advanced Open Water Diver

With this certification, you’re allowed even more autonomy as a diver. You can dive as deep as 100 feet. You can also handle more complex diving situations compared to an open water diver. Still, you need supervision to an extent.

4. Rescue Diver

The next level of diving is that of a rescue expert. This level entails learning disaster management skills in the water and is among the most developed given that many situations entailing divers facing problems. Most stages of diving will also have rescue skills for when a professional rescue diver isn’t readily available.

5. Master Scuba Diver

The master scuba diver is the highest level of recreational scuba diving. Before earning the certification, you must have several other certifications especially in rescue diving and deep sea diving. Night, deep and wreck diving are also recommended for this certification.

6. Dive Master

As a certified dive master, you’re able to join the diving industry in leadership roles such as leading diving expeditions and training others to attain diving skills. You can also work with diving instructors to provide diving lessons for others.

7. Assistant Instructors

Assistant instructors are sourced from certified dive masters and their role is helping instructors perform their duties. They can also offer theoretical courses to their students as the instructor deals with the practical aspects of the courses. As an assistant instructor, you can also evaluate the performance of your students for the surface exercises.

8. Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI)

Becoming an open water scuba instructor requires getting certified through undertaking the Instructor Development Course (IDC). You’ll be trained by the course director of that specifIc institution. After passing this course, you can train, examine and even award diving certifications to your students.

9. Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT)

To qualify for the title of master scuba diver trainer, you must have undertaken and passed at least 5 PADI Specialty Instructor courses and certified at least 25 divers in your career as a trainer. Besides that, you can directly undertake the master scuba diver trainer course.

10. IDC Staff Instructor

The IDC staff instructor is an assistant to the course director. They help course directors design and teach courses to other instructors below them. Their work is supervised by course directors and it’s focused on theory as well as practice.

11. Master Scuba Diver

To become a master scuba diver, you must have participated in 3 PADI seminars, taught 10 Emergency First Response courses, and issued 150 PADI certifications. As such, a master scuba diver is both an expert in teaching and diving themselves. High levels of experience are required for this certification.

12. Course Director

At the very top of the certification ladder is the course director. They teach instructor development courses designed by PADI and other accredited agencies around the world. They attain their certification through the Course Director Training Course and are assisted in their work by the staff instructors described above.

These certifications are standardized the world over.

Diving Certification Institutions and Agencies

To learn more of the certifications available for the budding diver, there are various internationally recognized institutions which offer training and certifications. A certificate from one agency is often recognized by the others hence no need to obtain certifications from more than one agency.

They’re as follows:

1. Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

PADI was founded in 1966 in the United States as an institution to improve the existing training programs. These programs had become redundant as they made it very hard for budding divers to get certified. PADI would quickly rise in popularity until it became the most popular training agency not only in the United States but the world over.

Courses were created for various diving divisions such as freediving, scuba diving and many others. This was a welcome deviation from the universal course existing with other certifications.

The courses by PADI differed from the existing courses as they were based on performance rather than theoretical skills in the existing courses. Divers are trained and tested based on their mastery of motor skills, practical knowledge, physics, safety, chemistry, physiology and other disciplines.

At the moment, PADI centers have trained and certified up to 70% and 55% of divers in the United States and the world respectively. They train and certify various diving categories such as:

  • Advanced Open Water Diver
  • Open Water Diver
  • Master Scuba Diver
  • Rescue Diver
  • Adaptive Support Diver
  • Divemaster
  • Scuba Diver
  • Adventure Diver
  • Assistant Instructor

Many more certifications are offered by the ones listed here are the most popular ones.

2. British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC)

The British Sub Aqua Club was established in 1953 with its headquarters in the United Kingdom. It’s presently the largest dive club in the world given it’s membership of more than 50,000 from around the world. The UK government also recognizes it as the official body in charge of diving.

The BSAC carries out its operations through schools and independent dive clubs around the world. Among its most important lessons are on safety given the cold waters and poor visibility around the United Kingdom.

Among its certifications include the following:

  • Sports Diver
  • Ice Diver
  • First Class Diver
  • Ocean Diver
  • Dive Leader
  • Advanced Diver

This institution offers almost all the available diving courses.

3. Scuba Schools International (SSI)

The Scuba Schools International is a retail-based organization focused on the quality of diving training around the world. It was founded in the United States in the 1970s and has grown to over 2,200 dealers around the world.

It has online theoretical courses which are tested through hands-on tests and further training. The lessons include actual open water diving with instructors on several occasions before one receives their C-card in Open Water Diving Certification.

Among the certifications offered include:

  • Open Water Diver
  • Night Diving
  • Deep Diving
  • Scuba Diver
  • Enriched Air Nitrox Diver
  • Wreck Diving
  • Master Diver

It offers many more courses on a global scale.

4. National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI)

NAUI is a recreational scuba certification agency based in the United States and was founded in 1959. It’s a non-profit organization focused on championing for safety in all forms of diving. It achieves this through education programs designed to equip divers with the needed skills and certifications.

NAUI comes only second to PADI in terms of the size of the certification agency in the world. This agency is synonymous with some big names in the celebrity arena such as Tiger Woods and Kevin Costner to mention just a few.

Among its certifications are:

  • Tandem Scuba Diver
  • Advanced Scuba Diver
  • Master Scuba Diver
  • Night Diver
  • Divemaster
  • Public Safety Diver
  • Try Scuba/Passport Scuba
  • Scuba Diver
  • Enriched Air Nitrox Diver
  • Rescue Scuba Diver
  • First Aid Provider
  • Deep Diver
  • Underwater Imaging

NAUI has also contributed immensely to the current diving standards for diving and its teaching.

5. Confédérarion Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (The World Underwater Federation) (CMAS)

The World Underwater Federation, founded in 1958 and headquartered in France, is the overall organization responsible for providing the international framework for diver and instructor qualifications. Its members are picked from dive agencies such as the ones on our list.

The focus of the CMAS has always been improving the standards of diving through education in various capacities. Schools and other institutions employ the framework put into place by the CMAS worldwide. Unlike US-based education programs, the CMAS doesn’t focus on profits as much.

Among the certifications offered include:

  • Advanced Skills Diver
  • Enriched Air Nitrox Diver
  • Night Diver
  • Wreck Diver
  • Introductory SCUBA
  • Apnoea Diver
  • Underwater Navigation
  • Rescue Diver
  • Cave Diver

The complete list of the certifications offered by the CMAS includes almost all the diving courses available.

6. Scuba Diving International (SDI)

The Scuba Diving International is relatively young as it was founded in 1998 as a part of the Technical Diving International. The organization was created by industry experts with the aim of training qualified divers all across the board.

The SDI offers education on a continuing basis with a long list of opportunities to further utilize your skills once certified as a diver in any given category. Their courses are also vital for when you need to be a dive professional with clearly defined pathways to becoming an assistant instructor, divemaster or other professional-level courses.

The SDI boasts of more than 24 offices across the world and thousands of instructors and dive instruction centers as well. The wholesome nature of the courses from the SDI have set it aside as one of the best diving institutions.

Among the courses and certifications offered include:

  • Advanced Adventure Diver
  • Solo Diver
  • Sidemount Diver
  • Rescue Diver
  • Divemaster
  • Open Water Scuba Diver
  • Computer Nitrox Diver
  • Wreck Diver
  • Night/Limited Visibility Diver
  • Scubility Diver
  • Scuba Instructor

A full list of the certifications they offer can be found on their website.

Besides the institutions listed above, other notable ones include:

  • The American Canadian Underwater Certifications (ACUC)
  • The Scuba Divers International/Technical Divers International (SDI/TDI)
  • The International Diving Educators Association (IDEA)
  • The Professional Diving Instructors Corporation (PDIC)

If you need to be a diver, you can choose any of these organizations to get your certifications from anywhere in the world.

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