Scuba diving is something that appeals to so many different people. If you have been intrigued by the idea of scuba diving for a long time, then you might be finally thinking about giving it a try. It isn't quite as simple as just buying some scuba gear and going underwater, though. You need to get yourself certified before you can think about scuba diving for real. The problem is that most people don't actually know what it takes to get certified.
Today, I am going to be taking a look at what goes into getting your certification. This is a pretty complex topic and there is a lot to consider. You'll want to read through all of the information so that you can be fully prepared for this exciting journey.
Scuba diving is a great pastime and it's something that can really help you to experience the wonders of the world. It's worth your time as long as you're brave enough and interested enough to go through the process. As long as you follow the information below, you're going to be able to get your scuba diving certification so that you can start having some fun.
Below you will find many different questions that are frequently asked about scuba diving. You can learn all of the necessary information so that you can understand what needs to be done to get certified. There is a lot to consider and many of these questions will give you a deeper knowledge of how scuba diving works.
What Is the Difference Between Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?
Scuba diving is distinct from snorkeling because snorkeling doesn't involve using compressed air to breathe. When you go snorkeling, you're going to be using a simple tube that gives you access to the air from the surface. You're just going to be swimming around the surface of the water and getting a good look at what is below when you can.
Snorkeling enthusiasts can have a lot of fun, but it isn't nearly as in-depth as scuba diving. Snorkelers can hold their breath and dive down a bit to see some interesting stuff underneath the water. They're just never going to be able to go very deep, limiting the adventures that they'll be able to go on.
Scuba diving is completely different as it requires getting certification to learn how to do things safely. Scuba diving gives you the chance to go on underwater adventures. You can see what the world is like underwater to gain a new appreciation for the beauty of nature.
These two activities have some minor similarities, but they're completely different when you dig into the details. Scuba diving involves maintaining complex pieces of equipment and is going to take time to learn how to do. Snorkeling is better for people who just want to casually gaze at some underwater sights without going too deep.
How Hard Is Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving isn't so hard that an average person won't be able to do it. This is something that you can learn how to do as long as you get the proper training. I'm going to go over the training a bit below and I'll also talk about where you can get certified.
Before you make your decision on whether or not this is for you, it's important to know that scuba diving does take time to learn. This isn't so hard that it will frustrate you, but it's much more complex than just putting a snorkel on and having some fun.
You need to maintain your equipment and you have to understand how to dive safely. Resurfacing safely is also crucial to avoid complications such as decompression sickness. There is a lot to consider and some people might consider scuba diving to be hard.
I think it would be better to say that scuba diving can be challenging, but it is a challenge worth taking. If you have an adventurous spirit and are willing to take the time to learn how to scuba dive safely, then this is a great opportunity for you. Consider signing up for scuba diving training so that you can learn more.
What Does the Training Entail?
Scuba diving training is going to involve a lot of different "stuff". You're going to be learning how to properly use your scuba diving equipment. You'll learn safety procedures such as how you're supposed to dive and resurface.
The best scuba diving training schools will teach you by using a book and classroom setting first first. There will be certain exercises and things that you need to do in the book to move forward. There will also typically be pool sessions in controlled bodies of water to help you gain the necessary practical skills.
Eventually, you will be put through certain types of open-water diving experiences. Most scuba diving schools require that you go on a certain number of supervised dives before being given your certification. This is to ensure that you can adequately perform all the needed skills to be safe and skilled diver. The exact training details might differ depending on which school you decide to go to, though.
Where Can I Get Certified?
There are actually a number of different respected agencies that offer scuba diving certification. If you want to have the best results, then it's going to be important to take the time to go to one of the established agencies to get your certification (C-card).
Depending on where you live, there may or may not be a scuba diving certification business near you. Some people have to travel to places where scuba diving is popular to receive instruction. For instance, a small town in the midwest may not have a lot of scuba diving certification options. But at the same time, you may be surprised at the options near you as scuba diving occurs in many places beyond tropical settings. My first open water dive was in a flooded rock quarry in Western Pennsylvania. Not exactly a tropical paradise!
Of course, many of the most popular dive shops are going to be located near places that are well known for their beaches. It isn't uncommon for people to travel to places such as Florida, California, or Hawaii to receive scuba diving instruction. The best advice that I can give you is to look up some information about whether or not your hometown has a scuba diving location nearby.
Doing a little bit of research on a search engine should give you all of the information that you need to know. It's impossible to be more specific than that without knowing where you live. Thankfully, it won't be hard to get the information that you want to know.
In all likelihood, you're going to want to reach out to one of the many popular scuba diving certification agencies. These agencies should have many locations peppered throughout the country, but they will be located primarily in places where scuba diving is practical and more popular. As long as you keep this in mind, you should be able to move forward without having any problems.
Different Scuba Certifying Agencies
One thing to understand about scuba diving is that there isn't one single entity or agency that regulates everything. You're going to be dealing with one of many scuba organizations of diving schools. I am going to take a look at some of the most well-known agencies that provide scuba certification below.
You should be able to get everything that you need taken care of at one of these agencies. Generally speaking, you're going to need to enroll in one of these scuba agencies' diving schools to receive certification from them. These agencies have their own in-house instructors that will teach you the ropes before you'll be able to earn that certification.
I'd also like to point out that which of these agencies you decide to choose might not make a huge difference if you're a beginner. For the most part, the training is going to be the same no matter what. All of these main scuba diving agencies are going to be teaching you the basics so that you can earn your certification and keep yourself safe while you're diving. They also recognize each others certifications which allows you take ongoing training from various agencies. For example, my initial open water training was with NAUI, but I have since gone through numerous additional courses through PADI without any problems.
National Association of Underwater Instructors
One of the most popular and well-known scuba diving agencies is the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). NAUI was actually formed way back in 1959 and it has the distinction of being the oldest scuba diving agency in the United States of America. As the second largest scuba diving agency in the world, this is a great agency to turn to when you need to take scuba diving courses.
This scuba diving agency is famous for a reason and they have been helping people to learn how to scuba dive for a long time. Even some celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Tiger Woods have been certified by the NAUI. They offer a large number of different scuba diving certifications as well.
You'll just be worried about the normal scuba diver certification when you're just starting out, but they offer many other certifications. If you want to take more courses after earning your initial scuba diving certification, then the option will be available to you. You can get certified in deep diving, tandem scuba diving, rescue scuba diving, first aid providing, night diving, and much more.
Professional Association of Diving Instructors
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is the one agency that is larger than the NAUI. This is another agency that has been operating for a long period of time. They were established back in 1966 and have turned into the most prevalent scuba diving agency in the entire world.
PADI offers many different performance-based scuba diving programs and is also a great source of instruction for beginners. At the beginner level, you will be learning about safety, underwater motor skills, and other types of practical knowledge. You'll also learn other important things such as diving physics and other fundamentals that will keep you safe underwater.
You should be able to find a PADI diving school at just about any major diving location. If you happen to live near a popular diving spot, then this will be a fantastically convenient option for you. Many would-be divers receive their scuba diving certifications at a PADI school each year.
Of course, PADI offers other courses for more advanced divers. You can learn about rescue diving, open water diving, adventure diving, and much more. After mastering the basics of scuba diving, PADI is a great school for those who are interested in continuing to learn more.
British Sub Aqua Club
If you find yourself in the United Kingdom, then you will be able to seek out scuba diving certification from the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). This scuba diving agency has been operating since 1953. This is actually the largest diving club in the world and it has more than 50,000 recognized members.
BSAC has more than 400 diving schools around the world. Many of their schools are based in the UK, but you'll find them elsewhere quite often, too. One interesting difference to note about BSAC is that they put a big focus on rescue training during their diving courses.
One of the reasons for this is that the waters that surround the UK are well known for being quite frigid. The visibility isn't always the best either, so divers need to know the basics of rescue to protect themselves and others in their diving party. BSAC offers a great training experience and will also teach some advanced courses, such as ocean diving or ice diving.
Scuba Diving International
Scuba Diving International (SDI) was established in 1998 and offers prospective divers a great training experience. This agency is not nearly as prevalent as the ones mentioned above. Even so, they offer their trainees a thorough program that will teach them all of the essential skills that a beginning diver needs to succeed.
This diving agency is a great place to turn to when you want advanced training after learning the basics. All of the instructors are highly trained and will be ready to impart their knowledge in easy to understand ways. This is a very good way to learn to dive with full confidence.
You can find SDI diving schools in many different locations. They have diving instructors placed at many different locations in the world, allowing you to take advantage of their innovative instruction methods quite easily. This is another great option for receiving your scuba diving certification.
Scuba Schools International
Scuba Schools International (SSI) is another option that you'll want to consider. This is a scuba agency that has been serving those interested in scuba diving since the 1970s. The agency has many authorized locations and has diving businesses at many major resorts.
One way that SSI stands out from the crowd is that they offer some forms of online training. It's possible to learn about many fundamental diving theories through online courses that take place ahead of the actual diving sessions. This could wind up being very convenient for people who like to learn a bit about what to expect before they have to plunge into the water.
The school will give their trainees all of the proper knowledge in a safe environment. There are monitored training sessions in confined pools or bodies of water. After learning all of the basics and going on four open water adventures, you will have earned your scuba diving certification.
Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques / The World Underwater Federation (CMAS)
CMAS is a diving agency that was originally formed in France back in 1958. This is a good diving agency to turn to when you want to receive thorough diving training. Originally, this diving agency was formed by people with professional and military backgrounds, meaning that the training is going to be very complete.
This school is less about profit and more about ensuring that each diving student learns everything properly. This diving agency aims to completely prepare their diving students for what it takes to be a scuba diver. This means that great attention is paid to safety procedures and other important facets of scuba diving.
People can receive many different types of scuba training at CMAS after earning their initial scuba certification. This agency teaches divers about night diving, cave diving, rescue diving, wreck diving, and much more. This is another great option to consider and CMAS has many courses being taught worldwide.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Scuba Certified?
Determining the exact cost of scuba diving certification is not going to be easy. I'm going to do my best to give you a ballpark idea of what you can expect. Keep in mind that things will differ depending on what scuba diving agency you're attending for your certification, as well as various other factors.
That being said, most people will likely be charged between $250.00 and $350.00. This can also depend on what type of certification you're going for. I assume you're just going to want basic scuba diving certification, but some schools are going to teach other scuba diving courses along with the beginner courses.
You might wind up learning about other types of diving at certain schools. Don't worry too much about that and just know that your basic scuba certification should cost at least $250.00 and may cost as much as $350.00 at some locations. This isn't an extreme price variation, so you should be able to plan things out ahead of time and stick to a budget.
It's also important to know that some scuba diving schools might charge other fees. There could be equipment rental fees at some locations, assuming you don't have your own gear. They may also request that you buy a book of some type that contains important scuba diving information and exercises that you need to complete.
The book is a fee that you aren't going to be able to avoid at most dive shops. Most scuba diving courses work the book into the curriculum and you're going to have to complete the bookwork to move to the next step of scuba training. The book costs money and you're going to have to budget that in so that you can know what to expect.
When all is said and done, your scuba diving certification could cost you as much as $600.00 or so if you wind up having to pay fees or buy a book. Some scuba agencies such as PADI offer very affordable pricing options and allow you to get information on their website. If you can find a scuba school that will let you use an online version of the book to do the necessary work, then that might save you some cash.
If you're concerned about the cost of scuba diving certification, then it's a good idea to consider shopping around first. You might find that the prices are going to differ from place to place. Sometimes, it might even be a more economical choice to travel to a certain location to pursue scuba certifications.
Don't be afraid to compare and contrast prices if you want to get a good deal. All of the scuba diving agencies that I mentioned earlier are quite good. They're going to be teaching you the same type of stuff for beginner courses too, so if one has a better price than another, you might want to simply go with that.
Does it Require a Lot of Gear?
Scuba diving definitely does require a lot of gear. If you're going to be scuba diving as a hobby and want to own your own gear, then it's going to be a significant investment. You'll likely want to buy your own scuba mask, fins, and a snorkel just to start out.
If you decide to take up the sport, it's likely you'll want to purchase a set of high-quality gear as soon as you can. Some scuba diving schools might have rental gear that you can use, so you may not need to buy everything right away. Regardless, you're going to eventually want your own gear if you're going to be doing this regularly or in a group outside of a scuba dive shop or tour company.
So, you'll need to have access to a diving mask, scuba fins, wetsuit, scuba tank, scuba gloves, a regulator, a depth gauge, a submersible pressure gauge, a dive knife or other cutting tool, a compass, a dive computer, a buoyancy compensator, a dive light, and a snorkel. If that seems like an overwhelming list of gear, then try not to fret too much. It is a lot of stuff to purchase, but you will be able to really enjoy your scuba diving experience once you manage to get everything that you need. But if you're just going to dive occasionally on vacation, you can stick to renting equipment from a reputable dive shop which is a huge cost savings for a casual diver.
You might also want to get some optional stuff such as a really nice underwater camera. Being able to take pictures of the amazing things that you're seeing will allow you to relive those scuba diving moments while you're standing on solid ground. Some people also like to purchase accessories such as save a dive kits, dive bags, defog, and first aid kits. Though personally, I consider these items to be necessities.
It's easy to see that there is a lot to consider when it comes to buying your scuba diving equipment. If you need help picking things out, your scuba instructor will likely be more than happy to provide assistance. They can point you to the essentials and will also recommend certain products to you so that you can feel confident in their quality.
You might wind up spending a ton of money on scuba gear if you aren't careful. Don't feel like you need to buy everything all at once. You can get the essentials first and then keep adding to your available gear after that.
Just know that you should expect to spend well over $1,000.00 on a full set of scuba gear. If this is too rich for your blood, then it might be best to reconsider your scuba diving aspirations. It isn't an inexpensive hobby and you will need to spend some money to make all of this happen.
How Old Do You Need to Be?
How old someone needs to be to scuba dive can depend on certain factors. In some countries, the standards might wind up being different. In terms of what is allowed at the major scuba diving agencies that I have listed above, you should expect 10 years old to be the youngest that they will allow.
Scuba diving agencies such as PADI will allow those who are at least 10 years old to participate in open water diving courses. There are some restrictions, though. Parents are going to need to accompany any children that are between the ages of 10 and 12 while they're taking the course.
During the actual diving portions of the course, the children will need to be accompanied by their parent or a licensed PADI diver at all times. Many of the other agencies have similar rules and some agencies may choose not to teach children at all. It really is up to the discretion of the agency due to there not being one universally recognized agency or standard in the scuba diving world.
Judging by the way that PADI does things, your child will receive a junior certification when they complete the course while under the age of 15. After they have reached the age of 15, it will be possible to upgrade that certification to full open-water certification. If you have a teenager who is 15 or older, then you won't have much to worry about so long as they're responsible enough to take the diving course seriously.
I would very much recommend that you think about whether or not your child is ready for scuba diving before proceeding. This is definitely a fun hobby and it might be something that your child would really enjoy. Even so, this is also quite dangerous and not all kids are going to be ready for this at only 10 years old.
As long as you keep this in mind, you should be able to make the right decision for your family. There are many children that have had a lot of fun going on supervised dives with professionals and their parents. It's just important to put some thought into things before proceeding.
How Long Does It Take?
Figuring out how long it takes to get your scuba certification isn't easy. There isn't a set period of time where you will be finished with the work due to certain factors. For instance, you need to buy a book and complete the work in the book to move to the next step of the training program.
After you have finished that, you're going to need to complete the pool section of the training. Then you'll go through actual open water dives and you will need to go on several dives to receive your certification. You also have to keep in mind that the training methods and standards will differ from school to school.
With that out of the way, it's going to be possible for some people to receive scuba certification in one weekend. Getting certified in one weekend is not going to be incredibly easy, but it is possible at some scuba agencies. You can go through a very thorough training course and do all of the necessary work to get things finished by the time the weekend is over.
This is not going to be the best option for most average people, though. It's easier for most people to take things at a leisurely pace and allow the knowledge to soak in. Some people might go through a six-week scuba diving course to learn all of the fundamentals and really go over everything in great detail.
The best answer that I can give you to this question is that scuba certification can take anywhere from three days to six weeks. It just depends on which route you decide to take and what type of a learner you are. Either way, you'll be learning the same skills.
Does Your Certification Expire?
You'll be happy to hear that your scuba certification is not going to expire. You won't have to go back to scuba school every five or ten years just to maintain your certification status. That's a very good thing, too, when you consider that it costs a fair bit of money just to get the certification.
Regardless, there are going to be some people that will benefit from going back to the scuba agencies for more instruction. There are many people who have large gaps of time where they will not scuba dive. If it has been many years since you have even participated in a dive, then a refresher course at one of the reputable scuba diving agencies might be a good idea.
This isn't something that you absolutely have to do, but it might prove to be beneficial. Simply keep this in mind as an option and know that your certification isn't going to expire. As long as you feel confident, you'll be able to go on a dive 10 years after receiving your certification, even if it has been almost 10 years since your last time.
Are You Fit Enough to Dive? Who Should (Probably) Not Go Scuba Diving
Many people worry about whether or not they are in good enough shape to go scuba diving. It is true that diving can be somewhat strenuous, so you might not want to give it a go if you're in very bad shape. It isn't like you have to be in peak condition just to go on a normal scuba diving trip, though.
You don't need to have rippling muscles, six-pack abs, a lean body, or anything else impressive to go scuba diving. Most average people will be able to handle scuba diving and will wind up having a great time. There are people who should think twice about going scuba diving before moving forward, and I'm going to talk about that a little bit before moving on.
If you have severe problems with your stamina or difficulties breathing, then you probably shouldn't go scuba diving. You don't want to get exhausted underwater after going halfway and wind up needing to be rescued. People who aren't fit enough to go on long walks or those who get winded easily by walking up stairs might need to avoid scuba diving.
Even people who are currently in bad shape can work on their fitness levels over time. You might not be in great shape now, but it won't take too long to get into good enough shape to go scuba diving. Consider starting an exercise regimen that will work on your cardiovascular conditioning.
After spending some time working on your fitness, you should be ready to move forward with scuba diving. If you have a respiratory condition or if you're taking certain medications, you may want to consult with your doctor before going scuba diving. It's always a good idea to get medical advice just to be on the safe side, so mention your plans to your doctor if you have any concerns about your physical health.
How Safe Is it? What Dangers Should You Expect?
Scuba diving is seen as a very risky hobby by some people, but it actually isn't too dangerous. As long as you're prepared and have the proper equipment, you should be able to go scuba diving without having to worry too much. In terms of raw statistics, there is usually only one fatality for every several hundred-thousand dives.
Now that you know this, you should feel much safer about the prospect of going scuba diving. This doesn't mean that there are no risks involved. This is a very adventurous activity and there are going to be encounters with wildlife, as well as safety protocols, that need to be adhered to.
Humans can't breathe underwater and you need to be careful about maintaining your equipment. It's also imperative that you dive in the proper way to avoid issues with pressure. Knowing how to resurface really matters to keep yourself safe.
You can avoid problems such as decompression sickness when you know how to do things right. Dangerous encounters with wildlife are also much rarer than you might think. There are risks, but they aren't as crazy as you might be thinking in your head.
Don't hesitate to go scuba diving due to being afraid of sharks or large fish. Problems with wildlife are not likely going to be a huge concern and you can even stick to diving areas that are known to be safe. As long as you follow the necessary safety protocols, scuba diving is going to remain statistically safer than driving your car.
If you want to learn more about the potential risks of Scuba Diving, check out our article: How Dangerous is Scuba Diving?
Where Can You Go Scuba Diving?
There are many different scuba diving locations all over the world. Obviously, this is mostly going to be popular in places that have large bodies of water for divers to explore. Many people travel to interesting locations around the world to experience awe-inspiring scuba diving adventures.
A good example of a popular scuba diving destination in the United States of America is Hawaii. If you travel to Hawaii, you will find many different scuba diving opportunities. There are many places where you can go on guided scuba diving tours and there are also a large number of scuba diving schools on the Hawaiian islands.
People love to go scuba diving in Thailand due to all of the amazing dive sites that are located there. There are a large number of different scuba diving locations around the world that are worth your time. This is too broad of a question to answer completely, but the best thing that I can tell you is that there are so many places to go scuba diving.
If you're looking for a domestic location that is easy to get to, then there are many scuba diving opportunities in Florida. You'll be able to find a perfect place to start your scuba diving adventures as long as you do a little bit of research. Take the time to find a scuba diving destination that fits your budget and your interests today.
Still Need More Information?
Do you still need more information about getting certified to scuba diving? Then I'd encourge you to check out the following links. The're all filled with great information about diving and what it takes to get certified. Additionally, it's always a good idea to visit your local dive shops. You'll likely find it filled with divers who will happily share their experiences both before, during, and after their training.
- DAN: Divers Alert Network
- PADI: Scuba Certification FAQ
- PADI: Local Dive Shop Finder
- NAUI: Diving Course Catalog
Now that you've read all about scuba diving, it's time to go sign up for your open water training course. If you're ready to move forward, then I wish you luck on your scuba diving adventures. Scuba diving really is a lot of fun and you can experience the world in a whole new way.
This scuba diving experience is going to be exhilarating and fun for you. It might take some time to learn what you need to know, but it will pay off in the end. I hope that this scuba diving certification guide was helpful to you and that you wind up having many fun hours experiencing scuba diving for yourself. From personal experience, I can tell you that getting certified was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.