How To Become A Certified Scuba Diver: Questions and Answers
If you are thinking about entering the world of scuba diving and are wondering what it takes to become a certified scuba diver, look no further! The Leisure Pro has put together a guide that contains all of the basic information you need to know and what is required to achieve your scuba diving certification.
When you get certified, a whole new world will open up to you! It is both an investment and an experience you will not regret. After more than 13 years of being a certified scuba diver, I have experienced unimaginable beauty and formed lasting friendships. I am certain anyone considering getting their scuba diving certification will enjoy it for the rest of their life.
If there is any questions you still have after checking out this guide, be sure and let us know in the comments and we will answer them!
What Is a Scuba Diving Certification And The Requirements To Take A Scuba Course?
A certified scuba diver is allowed to dive on their own, and fill their own scuba tanks or rent them from a local dive shop (most shops require proof of certification to do so). You may also go scuba diving with just about any dive shop in the world without additional training as long as it is a basic open water dive trip.
The requirements for taking dive course are few. It is advisable to ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to participate in scuba diving. Most organizations administering the course will require you to fill out a medical questionnaire as well as a release form.
There is also an age requirement. PADI requires divers to be at least 10 years of age to receive the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification (which can be upgraded at age 15). SSI’s requirement is the same and is known as the SCUBA RANGERS. NAUI requires divers to be 12 years of age to take the course. Beyond that there is not really any other requirements to take the certification course.
The following aren’t necessarily requirements, but it is recommended that you be in good physical shape and you are comfortable in the water. It can be a dangerous situation for both the diver and the dive buddy to be down to a depth of 80 feet and panic.
If you can meet those requirements, find a local dive shop and ask them when their next open water certification will be! You can visit the websites for PADI, NAUI, and SSI to find out if there is local dive shop offering their respective certification
What Does The Scuba Diving Certification Course And Training Entail
The coursework and training is administered in 4 parts.
- Book Work and Training Videos
- Written Exams
- Pool Training and Performing Basic Skills
- Open Water Dives
The book and video portion of the scuba diving certification will be taken online or in a classroom with other prospective divers. Course material is usually a text book, a video, and your dive tables and dive log book to be used to plan dives. This material will help you learn basics of diving and dive principles
When you have completed a few hours of the classroom material, you will likely start your sessions in the pool or other protected environment. The instructors will demonstrate and then watch you practice the basic scuba skills needed for your scuba certification. These skills usually include removing and successfully putting back on various pieces of scuba diving gear like your mask, regulator, and fins. Another skill you will need to demonstrate is sharing air with a dive buddy and basic underwater hand signals.
After completing all of your classroom material, pool sessions, and assessment exams, you will then have to complete 4-5 open water dives in a lake or ocean. This is the final requirement of the scuba diving certification process and usually the most fun. You will once again demonstrate all of the skills you have learned in the classroom and pool sessions. This usually does not take long, the rest of the dive time is spent exploring.
After completing each of the four requirements I just covered, you will receive your scuba diving certification card. It is commonly referred to as a C-Card. The dive shop or organization that administered your training course will submit your paper work to the certification agency (PADI, NAUI, or SSI) and they will then send your card to the dive shop to give to you.
How Much Time Does It Take To Get Scuba Certified?
The time is takes to get your scuba diving certification depends on how you choose to complete your certification. It usually takes between 14-18 hours to complete the book instruction and the pool sessions at a local dive shop. You may be able to save you a few hours by doing a home course or online learning course.
Depending on how where you take your course it can be completing over the course of a weekend or spread over several weeks. Dive shops will usually offer both condensed that can be completed in a few all day sessions or over several weeks with each sessions lasting a couple of hours.
After completing the book material and pool sessions, you will get a referral to complete your open water certification dives. You take the referral to any dive charter operation that accepts certification referrals and over the course of two days, complete 4-5 open water dives in a lake, ocean, or quarry. It is also important to note that these dives must be completed within a certain amount of time after receiving the referral.
How Much Does It Cost To Get A Scuba Diving Certification?
The cost of a scuba diving certification course and pool training can vary depending on location but you can expect to pay an average of $225 at a local dive shop. You can take PADI’s online course for as little as $170 but the course also requires that you purchase additional materials including your dive planner and log book which brings the cost even higher. Take into account the added cost of pool sessions with a dive shop and the total cost for online scuba diving certification will be as much or more than a course at a dive shop.
For more information on other scuba diving related costs, see our guide the Costs of Scuba Diving as well as our complete Guide To Scuba Diving Gear for a full break down of what you can expect.
How Long Does A Scuba Certification Last?
Once you complete a certification course and get your certification card you are certified for life. There is no other training required to continue diving for the rest of your life.
Your certification card is your credentials and proof of meeting the basic skill requirements needed. Dive shops will allow you to rent gear and join dive trips they may be hosting by showing them your c-card.
It is always best to check with the dive shop you may dive with. They may require a checkout or competency dive. This is to ensure you are a capable and competent diver.
You will usually encounter checkout dive requirements at shops located at dedicated dive resorts. These checkout dives will usually allow you to dive unaccompanied by a dive master. Given this freedom, the company is looking out for the safety of the diver and the interests of the company.
I will note that you may also encounter dive shops that will require a checkout dive or a short refresher course if it has been a long time since your last dive. The length of time you can go before most shops require this refresher is 6-12 months. There is no rule in place around this, but the dive shop can exercise any requirements at their discretion before allowing you to dive with them.
Types of Scuba Dive Certifications
If you just entering the world scuba diving the first step for recreational divers is the Open Water Diver Certification. This likely will not be your last either, as most divers want more out of their dives.
The open water certification level has its limits. This level limits the depth you can dive to 60 feet. The recreational limit is actually 130 feet but to dive to this depth you will need additional training.
With additional training you can qualify for the Advanced Open Water Certification. The training required for the advanced open water certification is much shorter than the open water certification. It is only a few hours of book work and typically 5 certification dives. Two of the required skills learned and dives you must complete is underwater navigation and deeper water diving.
The cost of the Advanced Open Water certification is usually around $130. Below is a typical list of the two required and other optional skill dives you can in which you can choose three.
Advanced Open Water Dive Choices – 5 Required Dives
- Deep Dive (required)
- Underwater Navigation (required)
- Night Diver (recommended)
- Wreck Diver (recommended)
- Underwater Naturalist
- Boat Diver
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Underwater Photography
- Multilevel Diver
- Search and Recovery Diver
- Drift Diver
If you are interested in the Advanced Open Water certification and haven’t even started your Open Water Certification, you are in luck. Some shops will offer the classes for each certification back to back so you can go directly into learning the Advanced Open Water skills. Then all you need to do is complete the dive requirements to receive each of the respective certifications.
Where Can I Get A Scuba Certification?
There are many places to get your certification but the first place to start is your local dive shop. They will have all of the information you need and can answer any questions you may have. The local dive shop is not the only option. If you are enrolled in University or Community College you may be able to get certified as a part of your elective hours just as I did.
Another convenient way of getting certified is while you are on vacation. Worldwide, you can find many beach resorts that have onsite dive operations. They will usually offer both full certification courses as well as a resort course.
It is important to verify which course you are signed up for as a “resort course” will only allow diving for the duration of your stay with that resort. Also be aware that getting your certification while on vacation will take up a large portion of your time do the training. You can always choose to do the classroom work and pool training before and head to your vacation ready for your certification dives. If you choose to only do your certification dives, verify that the resort or dive shop at your destination will accept your referral.
What Are Common Injuries Associated With Diving?
The most common injuries you may encounter or experience yourself are relatively minor. Divers usually face injuries such as sunburn, seasickness, and dehydration, which are all easily preventable. If you are diving with minimal exposure protection and no wetsuit, you may also encounter minor scrapes and stings by rocks and sea life.
More serious Decompression Illnesses include Decompression Sickness (DCS) also known as the bends and Arterial Gas Embolism (AGE). DCS typically afflicts underwater divers on poorly managed ascent from depth or aviators flying in inadequately pressurized aircraft. AGE is typically caused when an underwater diver holds their breath while ascending. In either case, both are easily preventable as well.
What Scuba Gear Will I Need To Get Certified?
If you are just getting into the sport you do not need much gear to start your certification. In reality you do not need any gear as you can rent everything from a dive shop. That said, it is best to start with a scuba mask and snorkel that is comfortable and fits well and a pair of scuba fins. Check out the guides for choosing the best scuba masks and best scuba fins which will get you started.
After you have completed your course you may be interested in investing in more scuba gear. If you want to know more about all of the different equipment required to scuba dive, check out our complete guide to scuba gear.
After You Get Certified, What’s Next?
After you first get certified you will probably very enthusiastic about diving and want more. If you become really addicted to scuba diving it is a good idea to start investing in your scuba gear.
One benefit is the cost saving over renting your gear every time you go on a dive. The biggest benefit of owning your own gear is getting familiar with your own gear. When you are familiar with your scuba gear you will gain confidence and your dive experience will improve dramatically.
Beyond your basic Open Water and Advanced Open Water Scuba Certifications you may want to start adding specialties to your certification. You will need additional training to participate in cave diving, wreck diving, and many other advanced diving activities. Just browse the course catalogs of your scuba certification agency and browse what is available.
Can You Switch A PADI, NAUI, OR SSI Certification To A Different Agency?
Choosing your certification agency is really a matter of preference as well as what is available to you at the time you choose to get scuba certified. The good news is, if you are certified with one of the major agencies there is really no need to switch as they are usually recognized worldwide.
One reason you may need to switch agencies is if you are wanting to continue your diver education and training. You may have relocated and your current certifying organization may not be available in your area. You also may want a particular specialty that one agency offers but another doesn’t although this would be rare.
In any case, if you are needing to crossover to another agency there is good news. It is possible to do this without starting over from the beginning by starting the referral process. For recreational divers, you need to provide all of your current credentials, and divers may need to complete a pre-assessment. This is to ensure the diver has mastered the skills and knowledge required to meet the basic Open Water course standards.
It is often possible to just enroll in the course you desire for another agency that is equivalent to the next level of training in your current agency. The most recognized agencies have equivalent certification courses and level which makes for easy transitioning between them. Inquire with the organization providing the course training for eligibility and they will give the final word on any necessary requirements if any at all.
Start your Certification And Get Underwater!
I hope I have answered all the questions you have to get started. Scuba diving is incredibly fun and is great for meeting new friends. I am certain you will enjoy it as much as I have.
Have fun and safe diving!