How to Get Scuba Certified

Thinking about learning to scuba dive? Two words. DO IT!

Diving is one of the coolest activities on the planet. Imagine floating weightlessly alongside fish in a beautiful coral reef or exploring sunken ships.

In addition, diving is a wonderful way to explore the underwater world. After all, 70% of our plant is made up of water. Why limit yourself to 30%?

Don’t miss out on one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Even diving instructors and other trained professionals remember their very first dive.

But how do you go about getting scuba certified? This article will walk you through the process. Keep reading to learn more!

🀿 1. What Is Recreational Scuba Diving

Recreational diving is diving for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment when using various pieces of scuba equipment that make up the scuba system.

What Is SCUBA?

SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. To drastically oversimplify things, you strap a scuba tank to your back, stick the regulator in your mouth, and off you go!

This is in stark contrast to technical diving, a more demanding type of diving that requires far greater training, experience, and equipment.

Different training agencies have different limits, but as a general rule, divers are allowed up to 18m depth after certification in the open water diver course, and 30m to 40m after the advanced open water diver course.

Related: What is the deepest scuba diving depth for beginners?

Scuba diver jumping down in the ocean

❓ 2. Do I Need Scuba Diving Certification?

While you do not need to be scuba certified to go diving, a certification is definitely a good idea. You’ll be able to dive independently with another certified diver without the need for a dive guide.

In comparison, other courses like a Discover Scuba Diving course will only allow you to dive with a certified instructor. Also, trial courses such as these usually have much lower depth limits, limiting your movements.

To fully enjoy the beautiful sport of scuba diving, a thorough certification course will give you confidence and help you get comfortable underwater, allowing you to focus on truly enjoying the aquatic world.

Types of Scuba Certification

The first type of certification is the Open Water Diver certification. This is the most basic level of certification and is perfect for those who want to get started in diving. With this certification, you will be able to dive into open water areas with a dive buddy which also has to be a certified diver.

The next level of certification is the Advanced Open Water Diver certification. This level allows you do more advanced diving such as diving in currents or wreck diving.

It also allows you to dive in open water deeper than 18meters.

There are many more training courses after the advanced course but let’s just stick to the basics for now.

❓ 3. Can I Dive Without Scuba Certification?

Yes, you can. Many training agencies offer “try scuba diving” types of courses that allow you to go diving to shallow depths with a certified professional.

However, as mentioned previously, it will teach you the very basics of scuba diving and you might not feel fully comfortable underwater to fully enjoy the dive. In addition, these “try scuba diving” types of courses like PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving or NAUI’s “Try Scuba” course limits depths to only 12 meters or even 6 meters.

You’re going to be missing out on a lot of cool marine life!

❓ 4. Is It Illegal To Dive Without Scuba Certification?

While it is not technically illegal to dive without a scuba certification, it can be very dangerous to dive without formal education.

No reputable dive center or dive shop will allow an uncertified diver to dive with them. Dive centers that do so should be treated with extreme caution.

βš™οΈ 5. What Is A Scuba Diving Course?

A scuba diving certification is a qualification earned by a scuba diver after completing a training course that teaches the necessary skills to safely dive in open water. The courses are available from a number of different organizations and vary in price and duration.

A basic certification can be earned by completing the open water diver course.

Group of scuba divers

🌊 6. What Is The Open Water Diver Course?

An open water course typically has three components.

Knowledge Development

This is the theory part of the course. You’ll learn safety procedures and other valuable information to help introduce you to scuba diving. At the end of each chapter, a series of short quizzes will help your instructor identify if there are any knowledge gaps.

At the end of this part of the course, there will be a final exam that you’ll have to pass to complete your certification course.

In addition to books, videos will be used to illustrate what you are reading about. You’ll be able to preview the set of scuba diving skills and prepare for your confined water dives.

Confined Water Dives

Once you’ve learned the theory about how things are supposed to work from your book and videos, now it’s time to put all that newfound knowledge into action in pool training in a series of confined dives!

Your dive instructor will direct you to a swimming pool, or none are available, a body of water similar to a pool like environment like a protected bay with calm waters.

Now, you’ll get to practice setting up your gear, do some basic skills, and learn more about safety procedures.

You will drill fundamental skills with your dive instructor until you are comfortable and relax, then it is on to the next, exciting step – the open water dive.

Pool training with an instructor

Open Water Dives

After successfully completing the confined water training, you will head to open water, where you will make four dives over two or more days under close supervision of your instructor. This is where the underwater world magically opens up to you!

You’ll practice the same skills you’ve learned through the knowledge development part of the course and practiced in the swimming pool, only now, it’s in the ocean!

How Deep Will You Go?

Your first two dives are likely to be to shallower depths like 12 meters, while your final two dives can go to 18 meters. By then, you would have mastered most of the skills and feel comfortable underwater enough to enjoy your dive fully without anxiety or fear.

How Long Will The Dive Be?

The duration of the dive depends greatly on the air consumption of the group. You’ll learn more of this in your open water course, but generally, the moment one of the group gets low on air, the entire group has to surface together.

New divers tend to breathe a lot underwater and consume a fair amount of air, especially for folks that have large frames (and large lungs!).

Count on an approximately 45-minute dive and if you get longer, you’re lucky!

❓ 7. Is It Hard To Get Scuba Certified?

Students rarely fail or drop out of a course. The only ones we have seen give up are those with severe fears like claustrophobia or aquaphobia who signed up for the course thinking they could surmount them but gave up.

Getting your scuba certification can be a great experience, but it is not hard to do. There are many different places where you can get certified, and the process is not difficult.

All you need to do is complete the necessary training and pass the certification exam.

Don’t worry, the exam is extremely difficult to fail and if you do, you will be given a chance to retake the questions after some remedial study with your instructor.

⏳ 8. How Long Does It Take To Get Scuba Certified

An entry-level certification course is designed to be flexible and based on an individual’s rate of progression. However, courses are often held in groups of four and you might find it stressful to keep up with others.

Your dive center can tailor a schedule based on your comfort level, so don’t worry about getting left behind!

The typical duration of an open water course is three or four days but can vary depending on the training agency. In addition, some training agencies like PADI offer eLearning to complete the knowledge development section of the course, enabling you to further cut down the time spent on your vacation in a classroom setting.

Related: How long does scuba certification last?

PADI online learning
Source: Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

πŸ“‹ 9. What Are The Requirements To Start Scuba Lessons

While diving is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone, there are still a few requirements that you must meet in order to start your open water course.

Minimum Age

While it differs across training agencies, the minimum age to start diving is 10 years in most areas.

Younger divers will earn become junior-level certified divers that may have shallower depth limits. These junior certifications automatically get upgraded when they come of age.

Medical History

In addition, divers should be in relatively good health.

All students must complete a medical questionnaire that highlights any medical conditions that might prove problematic while scuba diving.

Any preexisting medical conditions that might prevent you from safely diving must be declared and cleared by a medical professional.

Diving is an intense sport and the effects of pressure on the body are no joke, so as tempting as it might be, don’t lie!

Water Skills

You don’t have to be Michael Phelps, but you need to demonstrate basic water skills and show your instructor that you are comfortable in the water and can handle yourself.

Your instructor must make you:

  • Make you swim 200 meters unaided, or 300 meters with a mask, fins, and a snorkel without stopping.
  • Float and tread water for 10 minutes
Basic swimming skills

πŸ’° 10. How Much Does Scuba Certification Cost?

This greatly depends on where you are located and where you are intending to get trained. Courses in Europe and the US are typically more expensive, while the tropical waters of Asia are known to play home to thousands of new divers each year.

Courses in the US and Europe can range from US$400 to $600 while in Asia, it can be as little as half that. No wonder come winter, dive centers all over the region are flooded with student divers looking at escaping the winter cold to explore the underwater paradise!

🀿 11. Do I Need Scuba Gear For My Diving Course?

It is purely a personal preference but we wouldn’t recommend shelling out for expensive scuba equipment prior to becoming a certified diver.

However, some basic scuba gear might be comfortable for you to have, especially if you do a lot of snorkeling.

A mask, pair of fins, and a snorkel is a good place to start. Having your own mask is just much easier than learning with multiple types that might not always fit.

Also, you might need a wetsuit if you are diving in colder temperatures.

However, owning your own scuba diving equipment is completely unnecessary. Dive centers stock loads of scuba gear for their students and any other certified diver that wants to go fun diving.

Most dive shops offer “rental gear included” type courses so check with your local dive shops and ask for recommendations.

Basic scuba gear

🏒 12. How Do I Pick A Training Agency?

To get your scuba certification, you will need to complete a training program with a certified agency. There are many agencies to choose from, so how do you pick the right one for you?

PADI Open Water Diver Certification

PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is the biggest and most widespread course recognized in over 165 countries worldwide.

With over 190,000 members, PADI has been training scuba divers since 1966 and is widely recognized as a leader in dive training.

However, PADI isn’t the only option out there.

Other Agencies

Many other agencies also provide top quality dive education, like

  • SDI
  • SSI
  • NAUI
  • CMAS
  • BSAC

Take a look at the different training programs each agency offers. Many agencies offer multiple levels of certification, so you can find one that matches your experience and diving goals.

Finally, consider the cost of the training program and the availability of classes in your area. The best agency for you is one that fits your budget and schedule.

🏒 13. How Do I Pick A Dive Center?

There are a plethora of dive centers out there and picking one can be confusing. First, check with local divers and see if anyone has recommendations on where to get scuba certified. Scuba divers are a friendly bunch and will happily share information.

You can also look online for reviews and more insights about the reputations of your shortlisted dive operators.

Pick a dive center based on:

  • The location of the dive center
  • The quality of the instruction
  • The size of the dive center
  • Group sizes. These are typically 4 to 1 but some busy dive centers can go up to 8 to 1 with to use of an assistant.
  • The quality of the equipment
  • How much the scuba diving certification will cost
  • Are dive materials included? Check whether there are any other costs associated with purchasing dive materials like books

❔ 14. Where Do I Learn To Scuba Dive?

There are plenty of dive centers worldwide that will be happy to take you on your first breaths. Where you choose take your open water diver course depends on where you live.

Diving in cold water with low visibility might not be the most ideal conditions when learning to scuba dive. Warm, clear waters with relatively calm seas are best for the beginner diver.

However, you might not want to spend a holiday to a tropical paradise in a classroom setting or in a swimming pool constantly drilling diving skills.

In addition, when choosing dive locations, consider what dive sites are nearby as you will not want to travel too far from your training sites.

Also, if there is a particular type of dive site that interests you, you will want to make sure that it is within a reasonable distance from your training site.

Ultimately, it is up to you where to get scuba certified. Check with friends and other experienced divers on the best course of action for you to take your open water course.

Registering in a scuba diving school

πŸ€” 15. Final Thoughts On Getting Scuba Certified

If you’re still on the fence about getting your scuba diving certification, hopefully, we’ve given you a few good reasons to take the plunge. We look forward to welcoming you into the diving community!

As always, we love hearing from our readers, so please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Are there any other benefits of getting scuba certified that we missed? Aren’t you glad you started scuba diving? Let us know!

Watch Our Video On How To Get Scuba Certified 🀿🌊🐠

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