How To Get Scuba Certified: The Complete Guide

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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 will need to get certified before you can actually undertake  actually scuba diving l. The difficulty that presents itself is that most people don't understand what it takes to become scuba ​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 understand and be prepared for this exciting journey.

Scuba diving is a great pastime and it's a water sport  that can allow you to experience the wonders of a unique and amazing  world. It's worth your time as long as you're motivated and interested enough to go through the process. You can use the information we provide below as a guide to getting your scuba diving certification and begin enjoying a special experience. 

In the information that follows we will respond to a variety of  questions that are frequently asked about scuba diving. Hopefully this  information will provide you with an understanding of what needs to be accomplished  to get certified. There is a lot to consider and many of these questions will give you a deeper understanding  the intricacies involved with scuba diving.

What Is the Difference Between Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Scuba diving, at its basics, is distinctly different from snorkeling due to the fact that   it requires the use of a tank of ​compressed air to breathe as you submerge to significant depths in the water. When you go snorkeling, individuals use a  tube (snorkel) that gives you access to the air from the surface as you float/swim with you face submerged in the water. Snorkeling involves swimming along the surface of the water and providing yourself the opportunity to view  the marine life that lies under the surface of the water. 

Snorkeling enthusiasts have a lot of fun and it will require some basic training, but it does not require the  in-depth training and experience that is necessary to scuba dive. Snorkelers can hold their breath and dive down several feet  to see some interesting marine life and structures underneath the water. They're just able to go to great depths, limiting the adventures that they'll be able to go on.

Scuba diving involves more complex knowledge and skills  which is the reason why it requires getting certified . Scuba diving affords the unique and amazing experiences found on your  underwater adventures.

These two activities have similarities, but you will quickly come to understand the unique differences  when you dig into the details. Scuba diving involves maintaining complex pieces of equipment and will take time to learn how to do. Snorkeling is a better choice for individuals  who want to take a more leisurely approach to viewing underwater sights at shallower depths.

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How Hard Is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving isn't so difficult  that the average person isn’t able to do it. With the  proper training most individuals can successfully learn to scuba dive. This article will go over the necessary training and where to go to get certified. 

Before you make your decision on whether or not scuba diving  is for you, it's important to know that scuba diving does take time and commitment to learn. The training isn’t so difficult that you  will be frustrated, but it's much more complex than just putting a snorkel on and venturing out.

You will need to maintain your equipment and you have to learn  how to dive safely. Resurfacing safely is also crucial to avoid complications such as decompression sickness. There is a lot to comprehend  and it will present challenges along the way .

If you have an adventurous spirit and are willing to take the time to learn how to scuba dive safely, then I’m confident you will find this water sport to be a great opportunity for you. Consider signing up for scuba diving training so that you can learn more.

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What Does the Training Entail​?

Scuba diving training involves a significant learning curve . You're going to be educated on  how to properly use your scuba diving equipment. You'll learn safety procedures such as how to dive and resurface safely.

Scuba diving training schools employ a classroom setting as your first steps to learning. There will be certain exercises and activities  that you need to do in the classroom setting There is also typically pool sessions in a controlled body of water to help you acquire 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 attaining  your certification. This is done to ensure that you ​can adequately perform all the needed skills to be a safe and skilled diver. The exact training approach will differ from school to school but will cover the same essential knowledge and skills required.

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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!

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 and bodies of water. It isn't uncommon for people to travel to places such as Florida, California, or Hawaii to receive scuba diving instruction. Begin your search looking locally for scuba dive training center; you may be surprised to find training relatively close to home 

Doing a little bit of research using the Internet  should give you a good start with the information that you need to get started.

As part of your search you should  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

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One thing to understand about scuba diving is that there isn't one single entity or agency that regulates everything..In the following information are  some of the most well-known agencies that provide scuba certification.

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 and assist you towards  earning your certification.

If you are a beginner, which agency you choose will not be as critical as if you are an advanced diver looking for specialized training  For the most part, the training is going to be the same no matter which organization you choose . All of the 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 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 well known  for a reason: they have been helping people to learn how to scuba dive for over 60 years . 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.

Initially you will be focused on obtaining the basic scuba diver certification, however they do offer a variety of 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 diving , night diving, and more.

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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 time. They were established 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 basic  practical knowledge. You'll also learn other content like diving physics and diving fundamentals that will keep you safe during your dives .

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 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.

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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. A majority  of their schools are based in the UK. One distinguishing difference to note about BSAC is that they emphasize  rescue training during their diving courses.

The reasoning for this  is that the waters that surround the UK are well known for being quite frigid. The water visibility is relatively poor, 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 a variety of  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.

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Scuba Schools International

Scuba Schools International (SSI) is another consideration. This is a scuba agency that has been serving scuba divers since the 1970s. The agency has many authorized locations and has diving businesses at many major resorts.

One way that SSI stands out is that they offer 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 proves to be a  very convenient means for people who may not have easy access and like to learn the basics before advancing further in their training. .

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 successfully learning all of the basics and going on four open water adventures, you will earn your scuba diving certification.

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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, ensuring  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. 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. The agency trains  divers on 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?

scuba diver smiling

Determining the exact cost of scuba diving certification varies . The information provided is 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, along with a variety of  other factors. That being said, most people will likely be charged between $250.00 and $350.00. The cost will vary based on the type(s) of certification you are seeking.

Additional  types of diving may be included as part of basic training at certain schools. 

It's also important to know that some scuba diving schools might charge additional  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 educational materials that  contain 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 m​ost dive shops. Most scuba diving courses have a defined  curriculum and you're going to have to complete the bookwork to move to the next step of scuba training. The cost of training materials will need to be factored into the cost of your training . 

When all is said and done, your scuba diving certification could cost as much as $600.00. 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 information  for beginner courses, so if one has a better price than another, you might want to simply go with that.

Does it Require a Lot of Gear?

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Scuba diving requires specialized  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 snorkel to start out. ​

If you decide to seriously pursue the  sport, you'll probably want to purchase high-quality gear. Some scuba diving schools might have rental gear that you can use, so you may have the option to not have 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.

You'll need to have access to a diving mask, scuba fins (and possibly dive booties), wetsuit, scuba tank, scuba gloves, a regulator, a depth gauge, submersible pressure gauge, a dive knife or other cutting tool, a compass, a dive computer, a buoyancy compensator device (BCD), a dive light, and a snorkel. If that seems like an overwhelming list of gear, try not to fret too much. The equipment is essential to ensure your safety and enjoyment while diving  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 equipment  such as a quality underwater camera. Being able to take pictures of the amazing marine life you’ll  see 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 kit, dive bags, defog, and first aid kits. Personally, I consider these items to be necessities. I've also found that having a waterproof backpack or duffel in addition to my dive bag is a big help when I'm on dive boats.

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 in the neighborhood of  $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. There are costs associated  with this sport and you will need to spend money to make it happen.

How Old Do You Need to Be?

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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 standard in the scuba diving world.

PADI will provide  your child with 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, there are dangers involved  and not all kids are going to be ready for the demands and expectations.

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?

a class learning to scuba dive

Figuring out how long it takes to get your scuba certification varies. There isn't a set period of time where you will be finished with the work due to certain factors. For instance, you will need to independently complete the course materials  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  easy, but 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 people. We would recommend covering the training at a pace that  allows you to sufficiently comprehend and absorb the learning experiences. 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 learner you are. Either way, you'll be learning the same skills.

What are the Types of Scuba Diving?

The types of scuba diving, and the type of diving you’ll be doing, both depend upon your diver qualification and experience. From beginner diving, to advanced diving from a kayak, or deep night dives to explore new flora and fauna, diving is an ocean sport that can be enjoyed by many. 

After time spent getting the hang of scuba diving, you may consider gaining more experience through qualifying to dive deeper. This provides an opportunity to explore sea life not often seen at other depths. Additionally, you can progress into cave diving, free diving, and more! 

Here’s a ​few of the many types of diving available:

  • Drift Diving : Drift diving uses the water movement for transportation, such as ocean current or tide. 
  • Open Water Diving : Open water diving is the entry-level certification for recreational scuba diving. 
  • Deep Diving : Deep diving accesses underwater depths beyond the normal depth explored by the community. 
  • Free Diving : Free diving is for experienced divers who rely on breath-holding until resurfacing, rather than using a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. 
Remember that diving safety, and boat or kayaking safety, are crucial for a successful day on the water. Always prepare ahead of time, and practice proper safety precautions to keep yourself and others safe, and to create an experience you’ll never forget! 

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.

You'll be happy to hear that your scuba certification is not going to expire!

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 physically strenuous As with any  sport you should understand the demands of the activity and any physical limitations you may have that would impact your ability to successfully participate. 

You don't need to have rippling muscles, six-pack abs, a lean body, or an impressive physique to go scuba diving. The  average individual will be able to handle scuba diving and will have a positive experience. 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 should seek the advice of a physician before  scuba diving.

Always consult with your doctor or health professional before beginning your scuba diving training.

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.

scuba diving with rays

How Safe Is it? What Dangers Should You Expect?

Scuba diving is seen as a very risky hobby by some people, but with a certain level of caution most dangers can be avoided. 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 marine life , 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 properly is critical to ensure your safety.

You can avoid problems such as decompression sickness when you know how to do things right. Dangerous encounters with marine life  are also rare. There are risks, but can be minimized if you understand the hazards and how to avoid them. 

Don't hesitate to go scuba diving due to being afraid of sharks or large fish. Problems with this type of encounter  is not likely going to be a huge concern and you can even stick to diving areas that are known to be safer. 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?

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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. There are a vast number of exciting and amazing dive locations. With a little research you can find numerous experiences to satisfy any diver. 

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.

​Still Need More Information?

​​Do you still need more information about getting certified to go scuba diving? Then I'd encourage you to check out the following links. They'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.

​Final Thoughts

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 in 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.

Has this article inspired you dive into your next adventure? I invite you to share your thoughts or questions in the comment section below. I’d love to start a conversation about the wonderful world of scuba diving!