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Scuba Diving, Simplified: What A Scuba Certification Is and How To Become a Diver

By Scuba Diving Editors | Authored On October 26, 2018
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Scuba Diving, Simplified: What A Scuba Certification Is and How To Become a Diver

You know what scuba diving is. You’ve seen it in that Ben Stiller movie. (Who can forget when the long-haired dive guide asks “are you for scuba?” and all of the sudden the honeymoon is over?) You’ve seen it on Shark Week ... (Well, maybe forget what you saw on Shark Week.) And you’ve definitely seen the amazing underwater photography that permeates all of the Instagram accounts you follow. (We’re not judging. #MermaidLife)

But don’t you have to travel to the Caribbean to get started? Don’t you need to live by the ocean to get scuba certified? You at least need to be traveling to Caribbean destinations to see cool things underwater, and who can afford that?

We hate to break it to you, but you don’t know anything about scuba diving. The good news? We have the answers to all of your scuba diving questions, and we want to help.

So why don’t we start with the basics: How do you even get started with scuba diving lessons?

open water certification

Everything you need to know about scuba diving lessons and open water certification.


Open Water Scuba Certification

What Is It: The course to take to get your scuba diver card from any certification agency. This is the first scuba certification you can get, and it doesn’t require any previous scuba diving experience or coursework. It includes coursework that you can complete at a dive shop or resort or online, as well as diving in a pool or shallow area (aka “confined water”) followed by a dive in the ocean, lake or a spring (aka “open water”).

What You’ll Learn: In a nutshell, you’ll learn everything you need to know to go on a guided scuba diving trip. Here is a more detailed list of what to expect during scuba certification. Most entry-level certifications never expire — including NAUI, PADI and SSI — but most dive shops require scuba experience within a year to skip the refresher course. For more information on scuba certification expiration and organizations, click here.

  • Scuba equipment names and what each piece of gear does

  • Training on hand signals, ear clearing, safety precautions, what to expect

  • How scuba divers can help protect the ocean

How Deep Is It: 60 feet

How Long Does It Take: Standard, Classroom learning: 3-4 days on average

eLearning: Coursework online is done at your own pace (if you commit you can finish in a weekend) then 2 days of pool/open-water diving.

Experience Needed: Basic swimming skills

Who Should Try It: People who are reasonably healthy (no serious heart conditions) and who love being in the water. Great for couples planning a tropical honeymoon, people who love snorkeling, people who want to hunt for lobster and aspiring underwater photographers.

Age Requirement: 12+

Where To Go: For most certification organizations, you can complete your coursework online and then finish your pool and open-water dives anywhere there is a dive shop.

For example: If you’re planning to take a vacation in the Bahamas and you want to get PADI certified, then complete PADI's eLearning and locate a PADI Dive Shop to complete your checkout dives once you get to the Bahamas.

Gear Needed: You will buy your own mask, fins and snorkel — everything else can be rented at a dive shop

Next Step: Advanced Open Water (Diving to 90 feet, added skills, etc.)