Going on a family holiday with the kids? I bet you feel bad leaving the kids in the hotel room while you explore the underwater world. Or perhaps you want to become a certified scuba diver and dive as a family.
Either way, the minimum age restrictions for younger divers vary according to the different training agencies.
Most agencies that offer “try diving” type courses for children 8 years and up, or full scuba diving certification courses for 10 years and up.
Children as young as 8 can begin scuba diving lessons but will not be considered a certified diver.
The five biggest scuba diving certification agencies are PADI, SSI, NAUI, BSAC, and SDI, each with its own minimum age restrictions. Kinda confusing huh?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Whether young adults or children, here’s the skinny on the scuba diving age restrictions for the different agencies.
🏊🏻♂️ Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI)
PADI is the largest training agency, by far, with more than 6600 dive centers and resorts in 186 locations. The PADI course also ensures that you will be able to go scuba diving in most, if not all, scuba diving holiday destinations worldwide.
PADI Scuba Diving Age Restrictions
PADI offers several courses that can get kids scuba diving. Their Bubblemaker Program allows children as young as 8 years to go underwater, at least in very shallow water.
Children will be trained and allowed to dive to a maximum depth of 2 meters (6 feet), all while under the eagle-eye of their scuba diving instructor.
This is an excellent way to teach the young about scuba equipment and how to handle themselves in the underwater world, yet keep them near the surface and safe. They might not see much at 2 meters, but at least they’ll be breathing underwater!
PADI Seal Team
This cute little pool-only one-day course is available for kids 8 years old and up. It introduces kids to scuba gear, allows them to do some cool stuff in the pool, and complete exciting “Aquamissions” like breathing underwater, clear the mask, and identify marine life.
All while making new friends and having a blast with other kids in the pool under close supervision from scuba instructors. It is a pretty fun way to let your kid hang out in the pool, yet still receive an early education about scuba divers and environmental awareness.
PADI Junior Scuba Diving Certification
For children to obtain the PADI Junior Open Water Diver Certification, they have to be at least 10 years old.
Junior open water divers can dive to a maximum depth of 12 meters / 40 feet. A junior diver that is 10 or 11 can only dive with a certified dive professional, parent, or legal guardian.
A 12 to 14-year-old diver can dive with certified divers of legal age.
After Junior Open Water Divers reach the age of 15, their certification is automatically upgraded to the PADI Open Water Diver certification, allowing them to dive deeper – up to 18 meters/60 feet.
All aspiring PADI Junior Open Water Diver students will need parental consent to register for the course.
🏬 Scuba Schools International (SSI)
A similar training agency and a distant second to PADI’s dominant position is SSI. The SSI and PADI requirements are very similar.
SSI offers a course called Try Scuba for which the minimum age requirement is only 8 years old. This scuba diving course allows for dives no deeper than 5 meters/ 16 feet.
Similar to PADI, SSI offers 10 to 14-year-olds the Junior Open Water Diver Certification, which can be converted to Open Water Diver upon the age of 15.
For a Junior diver to get upgraded, he or she will have to complete the SSI Scuba Skills Update Program consisting of one classroom session and one session in the swimming pool.
A key difference is, an SSI Junior Diver gets to go to 15 meters, while a PADI-kid gets to go to only 12 meters.
As with PADI, the age limit to start the scuba diving certification course is 10 years old.
Once certified, SSI-kids can dive in most shallow reefs around the world and with any certified adult.
🤿 National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI)
NAUI is the oldest diving association and has been in operation and offering recreational diving certifications since 1959.
The association was founded in Los Angeles, USA, but they now offer their scuba diving courses worldwide.
They have a stellar reputation as being one of the best diving associations in the world. This diving association is well-known for being the largest non-profit organization in existence.
Scuba diving age restriction is 15 years for Scuba Diver certification, but like the others, junior certification for ages 10 –14 years is allowed.
This is their most basic scuba diving course and will allow for a young diver to be able to dive in waters up to 18 meters/ 60 feet.
🤽🏻♂️ British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC)
The BSAC offers two courses to get kids scuba diving. The first one is the BSAC Discovery Diver designed to get children from 10 to 12 years old to start scuba diving. The max depth is 12 meters / 40 feet and these children have to be accompanied by a certified dive professional at all times.
The second course that the BSAC has developed for beginner divers is the BSAC Ocean Diver qualification.
To complete this scuba certification, you will need to be at least 12 years old. When you complete your certification, you will be able to explore waters up to 20 meters/ 66 feet deep.
Similar to some of the other associations that have been discussed the BSAC also offers an eLearning program and young students can complete all of their scuba diving theory requirements online.
This allows students to learn at their own speed and complete the certification process at their own pace.
🥽 Scuba Diving International (SDI)
SDI, the recreational diving offshoot of tech diving agency TDI, is similar to most of the other diving schools. SDI has two courses for kids.
The first way kids can scuba dive is through their cutesy little “Future Buddies” program, where kids as young as 8 can experience the underwater world up to a depth of 6 meters (20 feet). The maximum ratio of instructors to students is 1:2.
SDI Certified Scuba Diver
However, to get certified to scuba dive, kids need the Junior Open Water Diver certification.
This certification can be done by divers from the age of 10. Any aspiring young divers up to 14 years will need parental consent.
They will also need parental supervision during the entire course. These junior divers, upon completion of the course, will then only be allowed to dive with supervision from a certified adult.
For a young diver to be able to dive to depths of up to 20 meters/ 66 feet they will have to pass the SDI Open Water Scuba Diver certification exam.
This certification is open to students from the age of 15 years old. They will however need parental consent up to the age of 18 years old. Again, all academic requirements for this course can be completed through SDI’s eLearning Program.
This makes it much more convenient to obtain the certification as it can truly be done at your own pace and on your own schedule.
Also, if you’re intending to get you or your kids certified on a dive vacation, it’ll significantly reduce the time that you’ll spend reading a book or watching an instructional video.
📝 Things To Consider Before Allowing Children To Scuba Dive
Before rushing out to the nearest dive shop and looking for the first open water scuba instructor you find, here are a few things to consider before starting the dive education of a child.
- Does the child actually want to learn to dive? Seems obvious, but we see plenty of kids that are clearly uncomfortable and not all children seem to enjoy themselves.
- Is the child comfortable in the water? A scared, panicked child will never go diving again!
- Are the child’s reading skills sufficient? Scuba lessons consist of significant dive theory in the knowledge development part.
- If the kid has a short attention span, finding a dedicated instructor for private lessons might be preferable. Some things cannot be skipped.
- Does the dive shop have kid-sized gear? A full aluminum tank weighs between 31 and 35 pounds. All fine and dandy for us adult divers that weigh several times that, but for a child to be able to stand and walk with that strapped on the back?
- Look for resorts with little tanks affectionately called baby tanks. They have way less air capacity but your child won’t need it. Children have small lungs and require very little air.
- Is the child medically fit to dive? Although most sizable resorts have kid-sized gear that might be lighter, diving involves exercise with loads of gear and finning around.
- Will the child feel comfortable telling the professional instructor any problems or fears? Open and honest communication is key to diving safety.
🌊 More Scuba Content Below:
📑 Final Thoughts On Junior Certification
All of the mentioned diving associations have stellar reputations in the world of scuba diving, so there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to your choice of dive agency.
They all have very similar requirements for their kiddy entry-level programs and Junior certifications with slight differences in the requirements.
That’s great news! Now you can get to planning your dive vacation and start diving as a family.
Share your love for the oceans with your kids and they can start appreciating and enjoying the marine environment from a young age.
Good luck and have fun diving with the little ones!