One of the largest SCUBA Diving training agencies in the world is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, more commonly known as PADI. Scuba diving requires specialist training to do correctly and safely but you can be a certified scuba diver in just a few days. If you do choose to continue and become a more qualified scuba diver then there is a skill tree course structure that allows you to learn about the different aspects of scuba diving in a safe way with a qualified Instructor.
There are also plenty of other regional and global training agencies who have similar course structures so be sure to look around and choose the training agency that best suits your ambition because crossing over to another agency can see you drop down a level before you train on your desired course.
Recreational courses have a Junior curriculum for children under the age of 15 with shallower maximum depths
Beyond a simple Try Dive, where you don’t earn a qualification, Scuba Diver is your very first certificate and is included in the Open Water Diver cert below so most divers skip over this one. Scuba Diver allows you to dive to a depth of 12m but only under the direct supervision of a Professional Level Diver that limits you where and when you can go diving so most divers just complete the extra dives so they can go diving with anybody and complete the Open Water Diver Course.
This is most diver’s first qualification and allows you to dive anywhere in the world down to a depth of 18m (depending on your age). Once you’ve passed this course you are now a qualified diver who can go diving with any other qualified scuba diver all around the world.
The Advanced Open Water course teaches you about the wider world of scuba diving and the specialities you can branch into as well as increasing your maximum depth to 30m. The Advanced Open Water Diver course is where many scuba divers stop their training. They have learnt about diving in deeper waters and about a selection of specialities too. The 30m depth rating open up most recreational dive site to you so this is one of the most popular certs scuba divers reach and stay at.
The Rescue course teaches you how to be a safer diver and how to rescue other divers who may be in trouble. The Rescue course is the first step to focus on other scuba divers around you and think about their wellbeing, not just you own. During the Rescue course you will be taught effective methods of dealing with panicking divers underwater and on the surface as well as what to do with unresponsive divers so you can get them to safety and give them the best chances of recovery and maybe save a life.
Specialities are stand-alone courses that focus on one type of diving or a particular skill such as diving in a drysuit or using different gas mixes on a dive. Each Speciality is different but they are only required in key situations so you won’t be able to dive on Nitrox if you don’t have your Nitrox Speciality cert card for example. Other specialities are more for your skills, such as Fish ID where you learn to identify types and species of fish so you can better enjoy the underwater world.
Master Diver is the highest non-professional qualification when you have completed your Rescue Diver course along with five Specialities you will be recognised as a Master Diver.
Around this level you have two branches you can choose to go down depending if you want to dive recreationally or become a professional level diver who teaches other divers how to dive. If you do have what it takes to teach then your first step is the PADI Divemaster course. If teaching isn’t for you but you want to take your diving further then Specialities and Technical Diving are your next focus.
Similar in name to the Master Diver, a PADI Divemaster is the first step as a professional scuba diver where you are now qualified to assist an Instructor to teach scuba diving courses. Divemasters can start earning money diving by leading dives and helping with courses.
One step up from a Divemaster Assistant Instructors have more autonomy but are still limited to which courses and skills they can teach. Included in your Instructor Development Course or IDC, most aspiring Instructors skip over the Assistant Instructor level and progress straight onto Open Water Scuba Instructor or OWSI.
At this level, you can now teach all of the core courses up to Divemaster. OWSIs can qualify students and go through a rigorous Instructor Development Course so they have the skills and the training to make new divers and even teach new Divemasters. Each Speciality course, however, requires it’s own Speciality Instructor course that must be completed before teaching each Speciality.
Much like the Master Diver, Master Scuba Diver Trainers or MSDTs are Instructors who can teach the core courses as well as five or more specialities. Most Instructors reach this tier and stay here to teach new divers.
More commonly known as Staff Instructors, at this level, you can help develop Instructor Candidates as they learn to become a new Instructor. Staff Instructors teach Divemasters how to be Instructors but the candidates are primarily taught by their Course Director.
The top tier of Professional PADI Divers is the Course Director who qualifies Instructor candidates and focuses their training more towards the professional level candidates instead of the fundamental recreational divers. Course Directors teach Instructor level students how to teach and have spent their career teaching most aspects of scuba diving.
Few reach the level of Course Director as IDC courses usually take weeks to complete and they don’t
Heading down the technical route in Deep Diver you will learn how to dive deeper than ever before. This incremental course is split into stages so you gradually work deeper, learning about gas mixes and switching gases as you dive below 40m on Open Circuit.
Tec diving requires a level head and a competency in the water, along with technical diving equipment which you will learn during your course with your Instructor. You and your Instructor will spend time looking at how your gear fits and how you hold yourself in the water to make you a better diver.
Closed Circuit Rebreathers recirculate your gas and are an alternative to Open Circuit that allows you to dive deeper and longer. Tec CCR has a similar structure to Tec Deep with part one taking you down to 40m, followed by 60m and finally the 100m course where you’ll learn about hypoxic trimix and heliox gas mixes to go where only the most elite divers have ever been.
Planning your dives thoroughly and learning about multi-bailout diving, if you progress to the Tec 100 you will become a member of the most elite 100m club. At this level of diving, you have to be serious, disciplined and most importantly experienced so go above and beyond the prerequisites before enrolling on these courses.
* Max depth may vary based on age and other factors
** Additional prerequisites may apply. Students under 15 years old will be enrolled in a Junior version with a tailored curriculum.