So you’ve decided that you want to learn to scuba dive. Or maybe you want to upgrade your current scuba diving certification.
But after a little research, you’ve discovered that there are several different training agencies. And now you have no idea which scuba diving certification to pick.
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ll also be taking a look at NAUI, another major scuba diving certification agency in the US. Plus our top tips on how you can choose the best scuba diving certification for you.
So let’s get started…
what Does PADI, SSI, and NAUI mean?
- PADI stands for the ‘Professional Association of Diving Instructors’
- SSI is ‘Scuba Schools International’.
- And NAUI means the ‘National Association of Underwater Instructors.’
They’re all international scuba diving certification agencies. Meaning they can help you to become a qualified recreational scuba diver, so you can travel the globe and explore the underwater world.
PADI and SSI are the big ones. Then there are loads of smaller agencies, like NAUI, which are still international but found in fewer locations around the world.
The myths about learning how to scuba dive
1. When you learn to dive you do your ‘PADI’.
This is like people calling vacuum cleaners ‘hoovers’, sticky tape ‘sellotape’, or sticky tack ‘blue-tack. The concept is known by the most famous brand.
When you learn to dive, you can do an Open Water Course with PADI, or SSI, or NAUI, or any number of international certifications for scuba diving. There’s also SDI, BSAC, and CMAS, to name a few!x
PADI and SSI have both been around for years, and offer high-quality teaching materials and standards. The main difference is in their marketing departments.
2. PADI is more recognized than any other certification agency.
All internationally recognized certifications meet the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) Open Water Diver Standards. Many major training agencies have also adopted the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards. So all agencies recognize each others’.
PADI has more globally certified divers than any other organization, so it’s better known, but not necessarily recognized.
3. The Open Water Courses at each agency are very different.
Well, not exactly.
All international scuba diving certification agencies have to meet the same standards. Some agencies include more skills as part of their training, though. There are differences in the names of the certifications, courses, and skills. But ultimately, all agencies give you the same base level of training.
With learning how to scuba dive, it’s as important to select the dive centre and instructor that suits you. They’re the things that will impact your experience the most.
The differences in training become more prominent as you move up through the ranks to Divemaster and Instructor level. For a PADI Instructor, it’s easy to do a crossover course to become an SSI instructor for example. But it’s not as simple for an SSI instructor to become a PADI instructor. It’s harder to find the tuition to make that possible as PADI is quite particular.
If you’re only thinking about learning the basics of scuba diving, the agency you choose matters much less than if you’re considering going pro one day.
All scuba diving agencies give you similar theoretical learning and practical application. All Open Water certifications let you dive to the same depth and to dive with any shop. Your card and qualification are the same at the end. Most importantly, consider the dive shop, instructor, location, and price.
All agencies certify capable scuba divers all around the world. And everyone who learns scuba diving thinks that their dive shop and training agency is the best! That’s because most people who learn how to scuba dive have a wicked time, wherever they go, and wherever they learn.
FAQs for future scuba divers
How much does it cost to learn to scuba dive?
Most scuba diving agencies charge pretty similar prices for their Open Water Courses.
One of the main differences in cost can be down to whether you do the theoretical part of the course online. Most agencies offer e-learning which is cheaper than in-person private tuition. SSI is known to be the cheaper option – you can start their e-learning program for free! SSI and PADI give you access to e-learning materials ‘for life’.
When assessing costs, check whether they include course materials and certification fees. Some courses look cheap because they exclude them. The extra fees can tack up to a lot more than it first seems!
Always contact the dive centre you want to learn to scuba dive with before you start so you can confirm prices and availability.
How do I choose between PADI, SSI, NAUI, and others?
It’s a matter of personal preference. Where do you want to dive? What dive centre do you like the vibe of? What kind of instructor do you want?
The most important thing is the willingness of your instructor and the professionalism of the dive centre you’re learning with. These are independent of the scuba diving certification agency.
It’s worth doing your research and reading reviews on TripAdvisor. A good quality instructor and dive centres can be the reason you have a ton of fun and learn to dive safely. Versus an instructor who cuts corners and leaves you in the dark with your scuba diving knowledge and competence.
Another thing that’s important to consider is location. PADI is famously the dominant agency globally and in the Americas. SSI is more prominent across Asia. NAUI is taught in fewer places around the world, with a few locations in Asia.
Some dive centres offer both PADI and SSI courses. Whatever part of the world you’re in, there are usually options to learn with many certification agencies.
Are all the course names the same?
Not exactly. Open Water means the same thing at all the agencies, but beyond that, the course names can mean different things. For example, the SSI Advanced Open Water isn’t the same as PADI’s. PADI Advanced Open Water is most like the SSI Advanced Adventurer certification.
Always check what you’re signing up for before you commit and pay!
If I’m certified with SSI can I dive with a PADI dive centre?
For sure! If you’re certified with NAUI, or BSAC or any internationally recognised certification agency, you can dive at most scuba diving centres around the world.
All you need is proof of your certification which can be given via your physical card or your agency’s app. PADI and SSI centers can also look you up on their databases using your name and date of birth on their databases.
The apps are handy to have as they also offer checklists for equipment, dive planning, and hand signal charts etc! If you’re new to scuba diving, they’re a helpful tool to help you get into the swing of things.
One thing worth noting is the difference in the price of proving your certification from various agencies. The first card or e-card is always free, but PADI charges you if you need a replacement, whereas SSI provides this service for free.
PADI has the advantage of personalised physical cards though, and the option to donate to Project AWARE, their partners focussing on ocean conservation. For a small donation which goes towards saving marine life, you can get a gorgeous manta ray or hammerhead card to show what scuba certs you have!
Can I do an SSI course if I did my Open Water with PADI?
Yup! Recreational divers can cross over. If you want to do your Open Water with PADI then do an advanced course with SSI, that’s no problem. Always double-check with the dive centre you’re going to ahead of time, but in theory, it’s a-okay!
Are you ready to learn to scuba dive?
Are you buzzing to get in the water and learn how to scuba dive?
The ocean covers over two-thirds of the world’s surface! What better way to explore the planet than getting scuba diving certified. Then you can traverse the underwater world next time you’re travelling or on holiday.
The best way to be good at scuba diving is to spend time underwater! Hang out with fish, relax with rays and get used to your self contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA)!
Tash is a Divemaster, marine conservationist and digital marketer. She loves animals, adventures, the ocean, and chasing an endless summer! She was born in Canada, grew up in the UK, and is currently living in Aussie where the waters are (sometimes!) warmer.