There are many reasons to get scuba certified. In this article, we will explain how to get scuba certified, what you may expect when you start your scuba lessons including the theory and practical parts.
Do you love the ocean, like being in the water and whenever you are on holiday by the sea, you cannot wait to get in the water with your mask and snorkel for a look at what lies beneath the oceans glittering surface?
Or are you interested in coral reefs and the beautiful marine life that inhabits them? Or maybe you like history and cannot wait to explore couple of sunken shipwrecks, which make the history of many historical events like the atrocities of WW2 come vividly alive?
If the answer is yes to any or all of these, you should look into getting your diving certification and book some SCUBA lessons. SCUBA diving goes beyond snorkeling, allowing you to spend more time underwater, taking in all the breathtaking sights beneath the surface of the waves.
Do you have to be scuba certified to dive?
Yes, you do! You should get scuba certified and yes you need a license to scuba dive and you should not attempt to do so without. It is just like driving a car. You should not take a car for a drive if you are not yet trained to use it properly. Scuba diving is a safe sport as long as you play by the rules. One of the most important rules is that you have to be certified to scuba dive! Period!!
When you have your dive license you get to dive in places where you will encounter sea life, reef systems, wrecks, and caverns that are beyond the reach of snorkelers. In other words, scuba diving allows you to discover a whole new world that many people never get the chance to experience.
In the examples throughout this article, we will use The PADI open water certification course as an example. The PADI open water diver course is the first diving certification course you can enroll to become a fully certified diver. Other training agencies like; SSI, NAUI, TDI, RAID and many more offer similar courses.
Who can take the PADI open water certification course?
Anyone 15 years of age and older can qualify for The PADI open water certification. There is even a Junior Open Water course that is suitable for children as young as 10 or 12 years of age, depending on the country offering the course.
Kids certified as junior open water divers are upgraded to the standard Open Water Diver level when they reach the age of 15 and complete the other parts of the course required.
In general to enroll in the PADI open water scuba certification course the scuba diving certification requirements state that you should be in good health, without any major health issues that would impede you from being able to dive safely. In some cases, even being physically handicapped is no contraindication for scuba diving! Just consult your doctor beforehand and find a suitable dive center.
How to get scuba certified?
As soon as you decided that you would like to get scuba certified it would be a good idea to start with your scuba lessons, you need to make some choices. You should ask yourself the question, whether you would like to start and finish your scuba diving course at home with your local dive center or abroad during your holiday.
Keep reading as we will guide you through how you and why you should get scuba diving certified further down this article.
What does PADI open water certification course include?
To be able to make an informed decision about which of these options would be the right choice for you, let’s have a look at what a regular beginners course encompasses with most training agencies. The PADI open water certification course requires you to acquire knowledge and skills in different areas and consists of three parts of training.
How long does it take to get scuba certified
It should not take you too long to get scuba certified. You can do the full PADI open water diver course in 3 to 4 days. When you decide to do the theoretical part of the course via e-learning at your own pace you can do the practical part in 2,5 days. If you are getting scuba certified with your local dive center it might take a few weeks to get certified as the classes are often scheduled once or twice a week.
How much does a scuba certification cost?
The costs to get scuba certified will differ per location and country, but you should expect to pay anything between $350 and $500 USD per person to get scuba certified. This price should include all course materials and rental scuba gear.
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Part 1. The theory of scuba diving also called knowledge development
During this part of your PADI open water certification, you will learn the basic theoretical knowledge you will need to become a skilled diver. You will learn everything from what gear you will need, to how diving will affect your body, how to clear and equalize your ears, and more techniques and skills you will need to use in the water. You will learn about this new three-dimensional environment that you will be moving through during your practical training.
The theory of scuba diving is, of course, an integral part of becoming a scuba diver and should not be taken too lightly. Although it should be said, that most open water diving courses have been developed to be within the intellectual grasp of 10-year-olds, so please do not be too worried about this part of the course.
There are two options on how to do the theoretical part of your scuba certification:
- Classroom Sessions
- Online via E-learning
Classroom Sessions: All training agencies will provide you with a scuba diving manual as well as other support materials such as a video. These materials are available in many different languages. If you are doing the theory with your local dive center or your dive center during your holiday, you will probably have a couple of classroom sessions during which your scuba instructor will explain some of the most complex parts of the theory, such as the dive tables and how to plan your dives.
E-learning: you can choose to do the theoretical part of your scuba certification online via e-Learning as most of the big training agencies now offer to do the diving theory portion of your open water course online.
Doing this part of you scuba certification online has two significant advantages: first, you can do everything at your own pace and take as much time as you like.
Secondly, if you are planning to do your scuba course abroad, it saves you some precious time during your holiday, since you do not have to spend time in the classroom, or at least considerably less! Once you’re done with the theory, get ready for some action! Your next step is the practical training.
Part 2. Practical Scuba Diving Training
Your initial hands-on training will most likely take place in the pool or at least in "pool-like conditions" and confined water. This second step of your journey to becoming a certified scuba diver gets you into the water, where you will develop the skills you need to know as an Open Water Diver. You will start off in a swimming pool or a calm body of water, where your instructor will demonstrate and practice with you all the necessary skills.
Expect to have three to five pool / confined water sessions. As you progress, your instructor will take you into deeper waters, and you will learn more techniques and skills required.
The practical part of the skill development goes from the easier to the more complicated skills. You will learn how to recover your regulator, deal with water in your mask (simply get rid of it by blowing it out!) and what to do in an out of air situation, to name but a few.
Part 3. Open Water Dives
Finally, you are getting into the REAL thing. The third step of the course are the Open Water Dives. You will be doing most likely four to five of these, depending on the training agency and your performance.
These dives are the last section of the course toward certification, and this is when you get to dive for the first time. You will be in the ocean, exploring and you will demonstrate the skills you have learned during your Confined Water Dives.
With an instructor there to help you, you will learn to gain confidence and dive with ease. Usually, the instructor will take you out over several dives until you are ready to plan and carry out dives on your own with your buddy or in the guided group.
Getting PADI certified
Once you have completed and passed all three sections of the open water diver certification course and the final exam, which is in most cases a multiple-choice test, you are now officially PADI certified and you earned your diving certification.
The last administrative step in the diving certification process varies per training agency. PADI uses an actual or online PIC envelope that includes all relevant details and is sent to the PADI headquarters, who will then send you your certification card.
If you have done your course with SSI, you will probably be handed your card directly after completion of the course. This certification does not need to be renewed, and it will last your entire life.
Certification cards are now also available digitally and can be saved on the App of the individual training agencies, so you always have access to them on your phone, tablet, etc.
By the way: do not think you are done after your open water certification! This is, where the fun starts since you are now eligible to take more advanced courses. And there are many, and most of them are incredibly fun!
If you are planning a dive trip and you have not dived for a while, it is always a good idea to sign up for a refresher course. Maybe even check your local dive center for a refresher in your hometown pool or book it directly at your holiday destination.
The refresher will only take a couple of hours. An instructor or dive master will repeat the basic knowledge development with you and remind you of all the necessary skills during a training session in the pool. It can be essential to having a great first dive on your holiday!
What can you do with an Open Water Diver certification?
Once scuba certified, you will be certified to dive to 18 meters, or 60 feet, deep. You will need to be guided by a dive buddy of equivalent or higher certification. Junior Open Water Divers need to be chaperoned by a certified open water dives who is at least 18 years old, and they are only allowed to dive down to 12 meters, or 40 feet.
As soon as you’ve taken this first step, you also qualify for advanced courses or specialty courses. Depending on what you’re interested in, consider booking an underwater photography or videography course, whizz about with an underwater scooter, try deep and wreck diving, or even a sharks diver specialty.
Would you like to get your open water diver certification? contact us We have multiple partners that offer dive packages and scuba lessons.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.