Interested in trying your hand at scuba diving? Welcome to an incredible new adventure that will just take you further and further along the more you explore and practice. Scuba diving is a sport that cannot be done without a certification – this is due to its safety precautions and risks. You need to know about the underwater and how to best manage yourself so that you can breathe and pressurise appropriately. Naturally, that means you’ll need to learn under the supervision of a qualified instructor and teacher, by taking a scuba diving course.
The thing about scuba diving is that there are a number of certifications you can do. You cannot just flick through the catalogue and pick the one you like, though, there’s a natural progression you have to follow to teach you all the necessary skills. You’ll be starting with a basic scuba diving certification and working your way up as you build confidence, eventually being qualified with an advanced or technical certification.
So, what are the different types of scuba diving certifications out there? Read up and start dreaming – you could be a pro scuba diver a couple of years from now!
Scuba certification #1: Scuba Diver Course
This is the most basic of all scuba diving certifications, designed for people who want to dive but are too short on time to do the proper course. Not all scuba diving companies or operators will offer this course, but if you do find it available, this is a great ‘taster’ course to give you a feel for what scuba diving is like. If you decide you love it, you can proceed with the open water diver certification, and if not, you’ll at least have given it a go.
The Scuba Diver Course will typically go over three half days, where you will cover three theory sections, three confined water dives, and two open water dives. Essentially, this course is a halfway course for the Open Water Diver course (next paragraph). Once finished, you’ll be able to dive under the supervision of a professional for up to twelve metres deep. If you decide you want to take your skills further, you can always continue with the Open Water Diver certification when you have more time.
Scuba certification #2: Open Water Diver
This is the course where your scuba diving journey will truly begin, picking up from where the express Scuba Diver Course left off. There are a number of requirements for taking the Open Water Diver course, including:
You need to be above 10 years of age,
You need to be a confident swimmer,
You must be physically fit, with a medical certificate to prove it.
Since this is a starter course, it’s very palatable and general, easy for people of all ages to enjoy and understand.
The course goes through three different phases, starting with a theory or ‘knowledge development’ stage that gives you all the background information necessary for scuba diving. Three of these theory elements are covered in the Scuba Diver Course, and you can do them either online or in a classroom with a group. The next step is doing five confined water dives that help you apply the basic theory you’ve just picked up. Finally, you’ll do four open water dives that help you put all of this new experience into practice, building up confidence for your newfound skill.
3. Scuba diving certification #3: Adventure Diver
This certification is a sub-part of the Open Water Diver course, giving you all the preliminary information before allowing you to learn specialty dives (like night diving or wreck diving). Let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to be an adventure diver? It sounds truly badass, and it’s the route to doing bigger and cooler specialty dives. If you’re wanting to take your scuba diving adventures beyond the occasional holiday dive, then the Adventure Diver course is a must.
4. Scuba diving certification #4: Advanced Open Water
Once you’ve passed your Open Water Diver certification, you’re eligible to take this Advanced course, whether you believe you’re advanced enough or not! The idea is that the course will teach you all of the advanced skills to take you to the next level. You have to be at least twelve years old to take the Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
You can work with your instructor to decide on the specialty dives you’d like to eventually learn, and the Advanced Open Water Diver course will take you through five different specialty dives. Two of these dives are mandatory and must be performed by anyone taking the Advanced Open Water Diver course – the deep dive, which trains you with all of the physiological effects that occur past a certain depth underwater, and an underwater navigation dive, which helps you further your understanding with using a compass, visual landmarking, and time when underwater. The other three specialty dives can be whatever you like!
5. Scuba diving certification #5: Rescue Diver
With the Open Water & Advanced Open Water certifications, you’ve got all you need to get out there and dive by yourself in locations all over the world. To take things to the next level, you can enrol in one of these other scuba diving courses. Rescue Diver course will teach you how to respond to underwater emergencies, usually by other scuba divers. This is the most challenging scuba diving course but gives you the skills to foresee, manage, and prevent problems from happening.
Again, you will have to be above 12 years of age to take the Rescue Diver Course, and you have to have passed your Advanced Open Water certification along with the Underwater Navigation dive. In addition, you’ll have to have done a CPR or First Aid training course within the last two years. The first aid courses can be done as part of your Rescue Diver certification, but if you get it out of the way earlier then you’ll be reducing your workload in what is already quite a complex course.
6. Scuba diving certification #6: Master Scuba Diver
Now, who wouldn’t want to be a master of something? To truly know all of the ins and outs of scuba diving, and to possess a confidence in the water as good as being a fish yourself, you’ll go for the Master Scuba Diver course. Less than 2% of scuba divers take the Master Diver Course, so let’s just say, having this certification will make you practically an elite in the diving world. To be a scuba diving master, you’ll have to have passed your Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Rescue Diver qualifications, as well as logged in a minimum of 50 hours of scuba diving. Safe to say, if you’ve done 50 hours then you’ll probably feeling like you’ve mastered the underwater by now.
7. Specialty scuba diving course #1: Underwater Naturalist
This course will advance your knowledge of the underwater marine life and creatures roaming around you while you dive. The Underwater Naturalist course teaches you about the behaviour of creatures and the different roles they play in the underwater ecosystem. You’ll learn about different fish groupings, the role of plants, food chains, and prey-predator relationships underwater. You’ll also learn about responsible interaction with underwater marine life (so you don’t do any harm or damage while down there), and more about what part each organism has to play in the underwater environment. To take this course you need to be above 10 years old and have passed your Open Water Diver certification.
8. Specialty scuba diving course #2: Fish Identification
Ever wondered how scuba divers seem to know the name and species of every creature they spot under the sea? It’s the number one conversation after you’ve gone scuba diving as well – “What fish did you see?” Well, if you want to know just what it is that you’re looking at, then this specialty course will teach you everything. You’ll be able to identify all different kinds of fish and species, making your dives much more interesting and immersive. Why be a silent observer when you could know exactly who and what you were looking at? Without this course you’d never know if you floated past a rare wonder – taking this course means you can show off about it back at the dive centre. For this course you have to be above 10 years old and have passed your Open Water Diver certification.
9. Specialty scuba diving course #3: Night Diver
This is your introduction into the spellbinding world of the underwater at night time. Your instructor will make sure you feel safe (and are safe) in the dark, helping you grow accustomed to navigating the waters without sunlight. The Night Diver course will also introduce you to a whole new underwater animal kingdom that comes alive only at night. If you thought you’d already done a dive site all the way through, do it again at night and you’ll be opened up to a whole different world. For this course you need to be above 12-years-old and have completed your Open Water Diver course.
10. Specialty scuba diving course #4: Wreck Diver
The ocean is littered with shipwrecks – except they’re not considered garbage underwater, they’re thriving ecosystems that are filled with unique marine life just waiting to be discovered – not to mention amazing stories of human history! That said, you shouldn’t just wander into a shipwreck on your own and hope to navigate it safely… there are all sorts of tricks and processes that should be followed, to minimise damage to both you and the shipwreck environment. The Wreck Diver course will teach you everything about how to survey and map shipwrecks properly, and how to responsibly explore the site without disturbing its marine life. To do this course you have to be over 15-years-old and have completed your Adventure Diver certification.
11. Specialty scuba diving course #5: Ice Diver
There is a lot to learn when taking the Ice DIver course, and it’s not for the faint of heart! Ice diving can be an incredibly dangerous activity, and it’s only with the necessary skill sets and guidance that you should attempt these dives. The Ice Diver course will teach you how to use the specialised equipment and safety lines used in ice diving, as well as a whole new language of signals and communications to be used while under the ice.
The course will also teach you how to cut holes in ice of different depths (up to six feet!) It’s important to note that with an ice dive, you’re trapped underneath sheets of ice and can’t simply rise back up to the surface from any point. For that reason, you have to be over 18 and passed your Advanced Open Water Diver course before you can take this certification.
12. Specialty scuba diving course #6: Divemaster
This certification is for those who want to take their scuba diving to the next level, a career level or a life level. You’re not satisfied with just exploring here and there and you want to be incredibly competent and confident in all aspects of scuba diving. So take this course! It will help you advance your skills to become a mentor to other scuba divers and help them with their own training. If you want to be a scuba diving instructor then it’s necessary to take the Divemaster course beforehand. You’ll have to be over 18 years old, have a minimum of 50 logged hours of scuba diving, as well as your Rescue Diver certification.
13. Specialty scuba diving certification #7: Open Water Scuba Instructor
Where can you go beyond trainer? Nowhere! The highest scuba diving certification you can reach is to become an instructor yourself, passing on all those complex skills to new and eager beginners. The Instructor Development Course is taken in three different parts, which must all be passed before you receive the certification. Once you have it though, you have boundless freedom when it comes to scuba diving and should be completely confident with all of its ins and outs. To take this certification you’ll have to be over 18, have your Divemaster certification for at least 6 months, have 60 logged dives before you begin, and then 100 dives before you can sit your Instructor Examination.
Scuba diving is such a complex and varied activity, you could spend the rest of your life learning how to do it! Start with your open water certification and, who knows, you could one day become one of the world’s 2% of master divers…