Table of Contents

The 5 Scuba Diving Certification Levels Explained

How do you become scuba certified? For those around the world that feel the burning curiosity to explore the underwater universe, scuba certification offers the perfect balm.

Once divers discover the adventure that habitats under the ocean surface have to offer, a natural next step for the curious diver is to explore how else they can interact with scuba.

Scuba diving is an entire network of possibilities, from discussing dive destinations to contemplating the different arenas of training.

What are the different scuba diving certification levels?

The levels of scuba certification correspond to specific categories of training. The first level of training is all about how to keep yourself safe underwater. Once a diver has mastered themselves, the second step is learning to be aware of your surroundings, manipulate tools underwater, and handle new environments and stresses. The third level of training teaches divers how to be responsible for others, while the final level is learning to train new students (become a professional).

Let’s dive in — scuba certification levels, explained!

Level 1 – Keep Yourself Safe

diver at the surface making a ok sign

The purpose of introductory diving courses is simple — how do you stay alive underwater?! There are actually quite a few options for trying scuba diving without getting certified (like the discover scuba diving course through PADI / Scuba Discovery Course through SDI), but the safest option for your first voyage underwater is to take the full certification course through any agency.

Those interested in becoming scuba divers that have the knowledge and comfortability to dive without a professional should definitely take the first certification course and skip the “try it out” classes.

The name of the first certification course can differ depending on the agency, but should include coursework, pool work, and 4 ocean dives, resulting in an open water certification card.

While the end result of the course is the most important part, it can be confusing to understand which course to take when you don’t know the course names and what they mean. For reference, here are the course names and structures for the more common certification agencies:

Like mentioned earlier, there are also some courses available that people could take prior to the first certification course if they are nervous to try the sport or afraid they won’t like it — these courses are generally a one day experience (just a few hours), and are under close, direct supervision with an instructor or divemaster.

You generally go over two or three safety skills, and then are guided on an ocean dive to experience what the benefits of certification have to offer (the amazing underwater world)!

Level 2 – Learn to Respect the Environment and Utilize Tools

divers taking pictures of a wreck under water

Once you’ve learned the basic skills of scuba diving and are comfortable with your personal safety and buoyancy, it’s time to level up.

As beginners, divers inadvertently over-exaggerate their movements and end up kicking up sand, hitting rocks or coral reefs, and bumping into others.

This happens because of the awkwardness that comes with being underwater as a human that doesn’t belong there, the clumsiness of wearing a bunch of scuba gear, and the overwhelming feeling of trying to deal with those things while staying with your dive buddy, watching your air consumption, and staying alive.

When divers start to master their trim and buoyancy, it is because they are getting used to handling these tasks in the background of their minds instead of the forefront — essentially, getting in the habit of handling the basics.

As this happens, brainspace opens up for building skills underwater, which is where advanced training comes in!

The advanced open water course consists of 5 different specialty dives, so that students are able to try out 5 different categories of skill-building courses under the tutelage of an instructor.

Level 2 courses also include specialty certifications like nitrox, peak performance/perfect buoyancy, ice diving, underwater photography, navigation, and more…utilizing tools and becoming aware of surroundings on a dive will expand a diver’s universe in multiple ways, including opening up new dive adventure options like shipwrecks, deep caverns, and continental plates.

For the recreational diver, level 2 is where you can really start to expand on the variety of your skills, and hone in on bettering your comfortability and confidence underwater.

Level 3 – Keep Others Safe

scuba divers performing a rescue breathing exercise

As a diver gains confidence and knowledge, the natural next step is to include others in that knowledge.

At level 3, this is applied by learning how to rescue other divers in an emergency situation.

Search and rescue, first aid, and oxygen administration courses will ensure a diver is confident in their ability to assist a fellow diver in a wide range of emergency scenarios, including unsafe ascents, unconsciousness, and divers that aren’t breathing.

Instructors will take students through a variety of emergency scenarios to practice phrases, movements, and medical care administration so that divers will know how to approach these emergencies should they ever occur on a dive.

This stage may be scary at first, but once the skills are practiced, a diver’s confidence at handling any diving incident will make them feel like a rockstar.

Level 4 – Teach Others to Dive

scuba diving student and instructor

If a diver enjoys their path through the higher education courses of scuba diving, enjoys learning how to take care of other divers, and has the skills to be a leader, becoming a professional diver is the natural next step in the education ladder.

Being trained as a divemaster is a fully holistic approach to scuba diving, delving into the practical skills, theoretical knowledge, and scientific background of the sport.

Becoming a scuba diving instructor will compound this knowledge into a method for introducing others into the amazing world of scuba diving in a safe and skill-based environment.

Level 5 – Teach Professionals

scuba diving course in a swimming pool

Finally, if divers have a passion for teaching others and want to take their training even further, they can become instructor trainers and bring up the next generation of scuba instructors.

This level requires intense dedication and hundreds of hours committed to the sport, but opens up a fulfilling and immensely varied career track.


While many define the levels of scuba by the names of the certification courses, it is useful to view the certification courses in terms of skill level tiers.

The tiers start with the diver itself and circle out from there to include more and more layers — you, then your environment, then others, then instructing others.

This article is a simple introduction to this idea, but as you move further into the scuba sport you will learn to explore the nooks and crannies of all the training possibilities.

Scuba diving offers explorers an entire new world of knowledge and experiences.


Becoming a diver is literally one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I’ve been able to explore my passions inside and outside of the water, opening new doors and having access to so many opportunities along the way. When I first started diving, the PADI flowchart really hooked me in and I instantly needed to know more! So… there’s no secrets here, I’m going to guide you through the amazing levels of PADI certification!

The PADI flowchart

This flow chart shows all of the available levels of PADI certification… there’s sooooo many! Taking training is an awesome way to expand your diving, learn new skills and become the best diver you can possibly be. With so many different areas to focus on, there’s something that will interest you. You definitely won’t get bored!

Flowchart showing the levels of PADI certification

Recreational levels of PADI certification


Where to start? Aaaah yes… right at the beginning! Discovering scuba diving. This is where you get to test the water (pun totally intended) and see if scuba is for you. You’ll jump in with your instructor to take your first breaths underwater. You’ll learn some basic skills and have an absolute whale of a time!

To take a discover scuba diving session you must be at least 10 years old, but don’t worry if your kids are not quite 10 yet – they can do a Bubblemaker course or become a member of the Seal Team from the age of 8! Start ’em young, ey? Seal Team allows youngsters to develop their diving skills. They’ll test out scuba equipment for little ones (you should see our cute mini scuba kits for kids at The Fifth Point!) and meet like-minded individuals, not to mention having SO much fun, duh! If you’re interested in getting your kids into diving, get in touch!

After a discover scuba diving session, I guarantee you will have fallen in love with diving! The next step is Open Water. This is your beginners license and the skills you learn on your discover session can actually credit towards this course! You’re already well on your way to becoming fully certified!


Open water is the start of your diving journey. Here you will learn the core skills of scuba diving. For example, putting kit together, mask clearing, kit removal, snorkelling and so much more fun stuff!

You will be officially certified to dive to 18 metres with your buddy anywhere in the world, awesome right?! But the fun doesn’t stop there. a t The Fifth Point, we include extra courses in your Open Water package to set you up for success on your scuba diving journey.

Read Post  A Scuba Diver’s Impact On A Coral Reef

We are mad keen on protecting the ocean and during your training, you will realise that as a new scuba diver you have special powers. You can use your skills to help protect the ocean! You’ll complete the Project AWARE specialty course and we focus on diving with a purpose and protecting what we love!

We also keep your UK diving adventures going all year round by teaching you to dive in a drysuit. The PADI Drysuit Diver specialty course is perfect because it can get canny cold in the North Sea! Wearing an appropriate exposure suit is essential for safe and comfortable diving. Although we do have a few regulars who are pretty hardcore and dive wetsuit regardless of the water temperature!

It should be noted that any certifications (Open Water/ Advanced Open Water) completed by under 15-year-olds is counted as a ‘junior’ cert. This just means that there will be some extra safety precautions such as depth limits and supervision requirements. In PADI’s eyes, they turn into an adult at 15 and these rules are lifted.


Advanced Open Water is the next step on the levels of PADI certification ladder. It builds on what you’ve learnt in your Open Water course. The common misconception is that you need to be advanced to take this course, perhaps with more experience and logged dives. This isn’t the case! The Advanced Course is designed to develop your skills as a diver and is actually perfect when done straight after the Open Water Course. You will gain more experience under the watchful eye of your instructor.

You’ll learn key new skills in navigation and you’ll also do your first deep dive. The really cool thing about this course is that you can customise it to fit your interests. If you want to learn more about fish, let’s do it! If you want to dive on a wreck, let’s go! If you want to experience what it’s like diving in the dark, we’ll organise a night dive!

Once qualified you can dive down to 30 metres and you’ll have another 5 dives in your logbook.

Remember I said that as a diver you have superpowers? During your Advanced Course at The Fifth Point, you’ll become a citizen scientist too! You’ll take the PADI Dive Against Debris speciality so that you can directly tackle the messy problem of marine debris by removing rubbish from the water. Once you’ve collected it, you’ll create data by submitting surveys to Project AWARE. Every dive we do at The Fifth Point is a Dive Against Debris survey dive. We make every dive count towards protecting the ocean.

Reaching rescue level of PADI certification


The Rescue Diver course is often referred to as most divers favourite. However, it is a little different to the ones you’ve experienced before. Instead of focussing on your own skills, you’ll be learning how to tackle situations involving other divers – your buddies or others in the water. The chances of needing to rescue someone are slim, but when you learn how to respond to emergencies your confidence as a diver grows plus everyone will want you as their buddy!

The prerequisites for this course include Advanced Open Water and an up to date First Aid certification. But don’t worry if you need some first aid training – we’ve got you covered! You’ll learn everything you need to know from our friends at Life Saving Training. Helena and Ian are experts in outdoor first aid. They’re Mountain Rescue volunteers and avid Rescue Divers themselves – their first aid courses are epic!


This is the highest of the levels of PADI certification that can be achieved before you turn pro. Earning this means you have major bragging rights, as you should because you’ve worked hard to get here! It’s essentially the black belt of scuba diving.

The MSD rating makes you stand out from the crowd because fewer than 2% of divers achieve this status. You gain this rating through a significant amount of experience and scuba training that you have accumulated over your diving lifetime.

The prerequisites for this certification are Open water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue, 5 specialities and 50 dives. You can see how the accumulated dive experience makes you such an awesome diver! We’ve actually written a whole blog just on the Master Scuba Diver rating that you can check out!

Pro levels of PADI certification


YAY, you’re considering making your passion into your job. Let me tell you, you won’t look back. If you’re on the fence… do it, do it, do it! Ask any of us at The Fifth Point and we will tell you how mint it is! A DM is the life and soul of the party. It’s your job to make sure that divers and students are having an awesome time! You’ll guide dives and assist instructors during courses. and get paid for it!

During your Divemaster Program, you will have an absolute blast. You’ll take part in hands-on workshops, learn how the PADI System of Education works and develop your dive skills to a god-like level.

To become a PADI Divemaster, you must be 18. You must also have your Rescue Diver certification, 40 logged dives and an up to date first aid qualification. By the time you finish the program, you need to have at least 60 logged dive.

If you’re under 18 and chomping at the bit… we got you! PADI have just released a junior DM course which is so exciting! It’s open to 15-17 year old rescue divers with a minimum of 20 logged dives. After completing your course, you will be able to assist in skill demos, help set up and manage dives, offer surface support, conduct dive briefings and get involved with promotional activities. Epic right?! This is an awesome subset to the DM course which you can upgrade to at 18 and will allow you to gain valuable and essential skills to be the best DM that you can possibly be.

Rising through the levels of PADI certification


‘I can’t imagine going back to a ‘proper’ job now. who wants to sit in an office instead of playing in the ocean all day?!’ Now that’s a quote to sum up this incredible lifestyle if I had ever heard one! Co-founder and Course Director Nic here at The Fifth Point just loves that she decided to make her passion her full-time job and we are SO buzzed that you’re thinking about it too. It’s going to be so fun. As an Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) you can teach every single one of the levels of PADI certification that I wrote about above. and get paid for it. Teaching diving every day can become your full-time job and it’s AWESOME.

To live this dream, you’ll take the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC). You’ll be one of a really small group (we only ever work with a maximum of 4 candidates at a time) and over 16 days you will develop into an incredible PADI Instructor ready to inspire the next generation of scuba divers. As well as the PADI curriculum of workshops, you’ll also learn how to teach in an environmentally conscious way and use the latest modern diving techniques like teaching neutrally buoyant in wing and long hose.

Prerequisites include being at least 18 years of age, having 60 logged dives which needs to be at 100 by the time of the IE (Instructor Exam), a current first aid certification .


The Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) rating really sets you apart from other instructors and shows your commitment to teaching. A little word to the wise – having the MSDT rating on your CV will help you get that position you’re after. You can offer more to the dive centre because you can teach a wider variety of courses compared to a bog-standard OWSI. This works in your favour too as you can avoid burn out from teaching the same courses every day – mix it up with specialty courses that you’re really passionate about!

To become a PADI MSDT you must have certified at least 25 PADI Divers and have earned at least five PADI Specialty Instructor certifications. If you’ve got what it takes, any PADI instructor can take the leap!

Starting the levels of PADI certification


Staff Instructors assist during IDCs. Ask any Course Director (including Nic!) and they’ll tell you that the most important team members are their Staff Instructors. You’re the real star of the show as you work with aspiring Instructor candidates to develop their skills whether that be in the classroom or in the water.

You’ll find that taking this training makes you a better instructor when you’re working with your own students. It makes you think about how you teach and deliver information because after this course you’ll be qualified to teach other instructors how to teach! So much teaching! But it’s right what they say, if you can teach someone else what you know then you’ve truly mastered the subject.


Master Instructors are recognised as elite dive leaders who through a huge abundance of experience and certifications have proven themselves as the best of the best. To become a Master Instructor you must have been a qualified PADI Instructor for at least 2 years, have issued a minimum of 150 diving certifications at various levels, issued 10 emergency first response course completion cards and have attended 3 PADI seminars.

Reaching Advanced level of PADI certification


That’s it, you’ve reached the top of the levels of PADI certification! Course Directors are among the most qualified and highly respected members of the diving industry. Your job is to teach the next generation of scuba diving instructors. The Fith Point’s co-founder Nic is our resident CD so if you’re coming to us it will be Nic and her gang of Staff Instructors as your mentors.

To become a Course Director, I’m not gonna lie… you need some serious training, experience and cash. You must be a Master Scuba Instructor, have assisted on several IDCs, be an EFR Instructor Trainer, have a minimum of 250 logged dives and have direct PADI work experience. If you start asking Nic how much time and money she’s invested in herself rising through the levels of PADI certification, you’ll definitely make her squirm. The Course Director Training Course alone is a whopping USD$ 10k. But, ask her if she’d change a thing? You’ll get a big fat no!

Wanna get started on your next level of PADI certification?

Get in touch to discuss all of your course dreams. We are really looking forward to hearing from you and hope to see you when we’re next discovering under the waves!

Read Post  How Often Should You Equalize When Scuba Diving?

What is the best scuba diving certification? We compare all them here

The short answer is that there is no best diving certification, just the one that best suits your personal needs and preferences.

Scuba diving certifications

As a PADI diving center, we would like to add that this organization is the one that has certified the most divers worldwide and is active in the largest number of countries.

This is why PADI certifications have reached the highest level of popularity around the world. PADI has trained around 70% of all scuba divers on the planet.

PADI confined water dives requirements

Almost all dive organizations issue worldwide, lifelong certifications and teach much the same knowledge. In this article we will explain some of the differences between the organizations, so that you can make a more informed decision and thus be able to decide which diving certification best suits your needs.

Table of Contents

What you will find in this article?

In this article we will talk about diving certifications, as well as the the different organizations that issue them. We will explain what a diving certification is, how they originated, and what you can do with them.

We will discuss the differences and similarities between the leading organizations.

If you are thinking of becoming a certified diver and you are not sure which organization to choose, you’re in the right place! You will undoubtedly find useful information in this article that will help you make the best decision.

What is a diving certification?

A diving certification is a document or file created in the database of an accredited diving organization. In this file the instructors record the evidence of the training received by their students.

To make things easier, after completing the course, the student is given a card similar to a driver’s license with which they can easily prove that they have been educated and what their level of knowledge is.

Four divers at open water course inside the pool

With the advancement of technology, many people do not use the cards but save their certifications digitally. It is also possible for most dive centers to directly consult the database of the certifying organization.

Diving licenses or certifications are similar to driver’s licenses in some ways. Obtaining a diving license is very important if you have decided that you want to explore the underwater world.

In the same way a driver’s license is necessary to undertake a trip by driving a vehicle.

Later we will compare some of the benefits and differences of obtaining your certification and explore the 5 most recognized diving organizations worldwide.

Importance of diving certifications

The practice of diving is relatively recent since it had its beginnings during the 1940s thanks to the contribution of enthusiasts, explorers and scientists. In the beginning, diving was created for military and scientific purposes.

Diver with a turtle in Costa Rica

Thanks to the contributions from pioneers like the renowned Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnanse, scuba diving became a recreational activity, and for safety reasons had to be regulated.

For this reason recreational diving organizations were created and consequently the certifications.

Every day thousands of people are certified as divers.

Even though diving is a very safe activity, it requires proper training to be able to do it safely. Certifications establish a diver’s level of training and allows dive centers and other divers to know in advance the capabilities and limitations of their fellow divers.

Obtaining a license or certification also allows a diver to rent equipment and refill tanks at authorized dive centers.

Can I dive without a dive certification?

Yes and No. As we will explain later, the different diving organizations have created a test level in which a person without certification can participate in dives accompanied by a qualified instructor.

However, scuba diving on your own without a dive certification is dangerous.

What are the main diving organizations and what are the certification levels?

As we mentioned before, diving certifications are issued by diving organizations. There are several dive organizations that have developed educational programs to safely certify students. In this article we will talk about 5 of the most recognized:

Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the World Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS), the International Diving School (SSI). Scuba Diving International(SDI) and the National Association of Diving Instructors (NAUI).

Scuba Diving Organizations

If you want to learn more about diving organizations you can look at our article: Top 7 diving organizations and certification programs in 2022

For a better understanding we have divided the most common diving certifications into five levels: Test level, Basic level, Advanced level, Rescue level and Divemaster level.

Comparative Table of Diving Certifications

Each organization has a structure of courses and certifications to teach diving to those who want to learn. Although there are some differences, most certifications have equivalencies between organizations.

This is positive. Let’s say for example that you have obtained an Open Water license with CMAS and later you want to get the Advanced Open Water certification in PADI, you can apply without problem.

Below is a cross table with basic diving certifications. This comparative chart shows the main Diving Organizations and their certification programs.

Types of diving certifications

When we talk about diving certifications, we can find four main levels:

  • Recreational Diving Certifications – for recreational divers
  • Professional Diving Certifications – for those working in the diving industry.
  • Technical Diving Certifications – for divers exceeding recreational limits
  • Commercial Diving Certifications – to perform work underwater, such as repair or welding.

This without considering other certifications such as free-diving, which also has various courses and levels.

In this article we will focus on recreational certifications and the first professional level.

Divers at Surface during scuba course

There are several types of diving certifications. Most of the content and activities of each certification have differences.

However, most certifications have a similar structure. All of them require a number of hours of theoretical training, either face-to-face or virtual, and a certain number of supervised activities in the water. That are carried out partly in a swimming pool, where there is a more controlled environment, and partly in the ocean or a lake.

These activities allow an instructor to teach and test the knowledge and skills necessary to dive safely.

Recreational Diving Certifications – For Recreational Divers

Test Level – Recreational Diving Certifications

Most organizations have a trial level. These courses in fact do not issue a certification but rather an introduction to diving that allows the student to experience breathing underwater without having to invest a lot of time or money.

In this way, a space is created so that the person can decide if they want to take the next step or if diving is not what they expected.

Scuba divers testing diving

Logically, the vast majority of people after completing this experience are willing to continue the process towards certification.

This option is also ideal for those people who during their vacations do not have enough time to take a complete course and want experience scuba diving for few hours under the supervision of a certified instructor.

Normally, the student must take a brief theoretical course, followed by approximately 3 hours of training in a pool. That allows them to scuba dive in shallow waters accompanied by a qualified instructor immediately.

It is important to note that as they are not certification courses, the student does not obtain a license and in most cases must repeat the theoretical and pool part every time they want to dive.

You will also not be able to dive on your own or rent diving equipment.

Test Level Certifications Comparison and Requirements

PADI Test Level

With PADI, the name of this experience is Discover Scuba Diving.

It requires a minimum age of 10 years and participants can go up to 12 meters deep in the company of their instructor.

SSI Test Level

SSI offers the Try Scuba program which requires a minimum age of 8 years and allows reaching a maximum depth of 5 meters.

SDI Test Level

SDI has a program called Scuba Discovery which requires a minimum age of 10 years.

This course is a little more demanding since it covers topics such as equipment assembly and the use of a dive computer, which is not common at this level.

CMAS Test Level

CMAS has created the Discover Scuba program for which it has set a minimum age of 8 years and recommends doing two open water dives instead of one.

NAUI Test Level

NAUI has divided the content of this course into two parts: the Try Scuba, which includes only the pool part and for which the minimum age is 8 years, and the Passport Scuba, which includes the open water part and requires a minimum age of 10 years.

Unlike other organizations, NAUI recognizes this course for a period of 12 months and allows the student to continue doing dives under the direct supervision of a certified instructor without having to repeat the theoretical part.

First Level – Recreational Diving Certifications

This level is very important as it is the gateway to the world of recreational diving.

After completing this training, the student will be able to plan dives and conduct them safely on their own. This level will lay the foundations for training as a diver and will open up a range of possibilities for the future.

The student can happily remain at this level for the rest of his life, or he can continue his training in different directions: As an advanced, rescue, technical, scientific or even commercial diver.

Something that all divers share is the basic and essential knowledge obtained during this training. This is where the diver learns the fundamentals of physics and physiology that will accompany you throughout your journey. Assemble and disassemble the equipment, safety procedures before, during and after each dive. In short, the knowledge that will allow you to perform as a diver.

Certifications at this level are usually lifelong and will also allow the diver to rent equipment from most dive centers around the world.

Two students at First Level Dive Certification

First Level Certifications Comparison and Requirements

PADI First Level

The PADI organization has designed the Open Water Diver course in which a theoretical section is carried out. This portion of the course is available online.

In addition, five pool sessions and four open water dives are required.

The minimum age is 10 years. Although at that age the degree obtained is “Junior” Open Water Diver and when they reach 14 years of age the status of the license automatically changes to PADI Open Water Diver.

The maximum depth to which the diver can go when obtaining this certification is 18 meters. The duration of this course is 4 to 6 days.

Read Post  Dishonorable Discharge: Everything You Need to Know

SSI First Level

SSI offers the Open Water Diver course in which the minimum age is also 10 years old, 6 theoretical sessions, 6 pool sessions and 4 open water dives are carried out. The organization suggests a time investment of 36 hours.

SDI First Level

SDI has created the Open Water Scuba Diver which is very similar to the PADI courses. With a minimum age of 15 years you can reach a maximum depth of 18 meters.
Also, SDI has a Junion Open Water Scuba Course with the requirement of 10 – 14 years old with parental consent.

CMAS First Level

CMAS offers the One Star Diver certification with which you can reach a maximum depth of 20 meters and in some countries up to 25 meters.

The organization requires at least 5 open water dives to complete the course. This course includes some rescue and CPR skills that are not needed in other organizations at this level.

NAUI First Level

NAUI with its Scuba Diver course requires a theoretical part, a pool part and at least 5 open water sessions.

Advanced Level – Recreational Diving Certifications

This is the second of the certified diving levels.

This level is very important since it allows Open Water divers to expand their knowledge on specific topics of great importance, allowing them to enjoy other areas of diving that were previously unattainable.

PADI Open Waters Advanced

Even though some of the topics to be studied are mandatory due to their importance, others can be chosen by the students depending on their tastes and their geographical location.

This gives each person the opportunity to develop a little more on the topics of interest to them.

One of the most important achievements when obtaining this certification is the ability to dive deeper than 18 meters and up to 30 meters deep.

Wreck Diving Certification

Specialty dives Comparison and Requirements

PADI Advanced Level

For this level of certification, PADI has created adventure dives, also known as specialty dives. These are dives preceded by a small theoretical portion in which the aim is to obtain knowledge and develop a specific skill. The most common PADI adventure dives are:

  • Deep Diver (Deep Diving),
  • Peak Performance Buoyancy (Maximum Buoyancy Performance)
  • Search and Recovery
  • Digital Underwater Photography
  • Dive Against Debris (Ecological Diving)
  • Fish Identification
  • Night Dive (night dive)
  • Search and Recovery
  • Underwater Naturalist
  • Underwater Navigation
  • Wreck Diver

To become certified as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver the student must complete 5 of these dives. Two are mandatory and three are optional.

Two are mandatory and three are optional. The required dives are Underwater Navigation and Deep Diver while the other three dives can be chosen from the list. It is possible to do these dives independently.

Another option is to obtain a specialty by completing the same adventure dive several times.

The number of dives required varies depending on the specialty that you want to obtain, but they are usually between three and five.

SSI Advanced Level

SSI has created the Advanced Adventurer program. To achieve this certification, the student must complete 5 different programs called Adventurer Programs or Specialty Programs, which are listed below:

  • Boat Diving
  • Deep Diving
  • Dry Suit Diving -Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN)
  • Navigation
  • Night & LimitedVisibility
  • Perfect Buoyancy -Photo & Video -Scooter/DPV Diving
  • Search & Recovery
  • Waves, Tides & Currents
  • Wreck Diving

SDI Advanced Level

SDI has called their course Advanced Adventure Diver and it also requires you to take five specialty dives. Some of them are:

  • Advanced Buoyancy Control
  • Altitude Diver
  • Boat Diver
  • Computer Nitrox Diver
  • Drift Diver
  • Marine Ecosystem Awareness

CMAS Advanced Level

In the case of CMAS there are no specialty dives since their rating is based on stars and skills are developed in a different way. During the CMAS two Star course the student develops comparable skills and knowledge which allow him, for example, to reach a depth of up to 30 meters.

NAUI Advanced Level

NAUI, for its part, requires 6 dives to achieve the Advanced SCUBA DIVER certification. Three of these dives are required: navigation, low visibility and deep diving. The remaining three can be chosen from the following list:

  • Search and recovery
  • Boat diving
  • Light salvage
  • Hunting and collecting
  • Exploration and underwater mapping
  • Wreck diving (non-penetration)
  • Observation and data collecting
  • Diving in surf or currents
  • Altitude diving
  • Salt Water diving (in areas where most diving is in fresh water)
  • Fresh water diving (in areas where most diving is in salt water) -Shore diving
  • Diving for photos and videos
  • Using dive computers

Rescue Level – Recreational Diving Certifications

Despite being one of the most demanding levels, it is one of the most exciting. At this level the diver stops thinking about himself and begins to pay attention to the safety of others.

PADI Rescue diver. Scuba diving lessons in Costa Rica

One of the objectives of this level of certification is to teach divers to act in risk or emergency situations and to rescue divers in trouble. At this level, it is also taught how to apply emergency oxygen in the different situations that warrant it. This always within the legal limits of each country.

Rescue Level Certifications Comparison and Requirements

PADI Rescue Level

PADI offers the Rescue Diver course. One of the requirements to participate in this course is to have training in Primary and Secondary Care (CPR and First Aid) in the last 24 months.

This is a course also offered by PADI although under a different brand name known as Emergency First Response.

To obtain this certification, two pool sessions and 4 open water dives are required.

SSI Rescue Level

The SSI organization teaches the Stress and Rescue course for which the minimum age is 12 years.

It requires at least six theory sessions, three pool sessions and three open water sessions.

This course is estimated to last 15 hours. The theory for this course is also available online.

SDI Rescue Level

SDI has developed the Rescue Diver course which has as a particular requirement to have at least 40 dives and a minimum age of 15 years.

CMAS Rescue Level

CMAS incorporates the knowledge gained within this level into its star system so there is no one specific course that can be equated.

NAUI Rescue Level

NAUI has created the Scuba Rescue Diver course. For this course it is essential to have previous training in CPR.

Something that is interesting is that you can take this course as an Open Water Diver, so the advanced level is not a requirement.

Professional Diving Certifications – for those working in the diving industry.

Divemaster Level

This is the first level in professional diving, which implies that you will be able to develop your leadership and take charge of different activities.

On the other hand, working in the diving industry will allow you to recover some or all of the money you have invested in your education and even turn it into your main income.

Few things are as satisfying as getting paid to do something you truly love while helping others fulfill their dreams.

The knowledge obtained during this course is one of the most advanced in the world of recreational diving.

Some of the most interesting topics learned during this level are the physiology involved in diving, physics, taking care of equipment from a more technical perspective, and caring for and guiding other divers.

Due to the responsibility of being in charge of these activities, the minimum age in most organizations for this level is 18 years.

Divemaster level diving certifications comparison and Requirements

PADI Divemaster Level

PADI offers the DIVEMASTER course for which it is required to have at least 40 dives at the beginning of the course and 60 at the end.

It is also necessary to be a rescue diver and have a CPR certification issued no more than two years ago.

SSI Divemaster Level

SSI is Divemaster certified. It also requires a minimum of 40 dives although some professional training centers require 50.

SSI offers the option of obtaining a certification known as a Dive guide which is a step before the Divemaster but at the same time counts as part of your curriculum.

To obtain the Dive Guide it is only necessary to have the Stress and Rescue certification, complete five academic sessions, four confined water sessions and five open water sessions.

SDI Divemaster Level

SDI teaches the Divemaster course. This course is very similar to the one created by PADI and requires that you be a rescue diver and have completed 40 dives.

CMAS Divemaster Level

In the CMAS organization, in order to be able to guide, the Three Star Diver certification is necessary with which you can also dive up to 40 meters deep.

With this certification you can guide other divers.Of those mentioned in this article, this is the only organization that allows minors to become guides when they are only 16 years old.

Yes, with the consent of your parent or guardian. Requires a minimum of 15 dives after having obtained the CMAS Two Star certification of which at least 10 must be done at depths greater than 30 meters.

NAUI Divemaster Level

NAUI offers the Divemaster certification which requires, among other things, having completed 50 dives.

Their requirements are very similar to those described by PADI and SSI and SDI.


In summary, with the exception of CMAS, the similarities between the diving organizations that we have talked about and their certifications are many.

Their differences in terms of requirements are few. So it is up to the student to decide which organization they want to choose since they all have with the same validity.

It’s important to note that not all organizations are available in all areas. Our advice is that when choosing who will give you your diving education, look for a professional training center where the facilities, boats and equipment are in optimal conditions. That is always a good sign.

Look for a professional who makes you feel comfortable and who you feel you can trust not only because of their appearance but also because of their background and experience.

And if you are passing through the South Pacific area of Costa Rica it will be our pleasure to certify you as a PADI diver at all levels in our Costa Rica Dive and Surf training facility.

If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us and we will reply to you shortly.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *