Scuba diving is an incredible way to explore the underwater world and an exciting activity worldwide. However, without proper training, it can also pose many hazards for new and inexperienced divers. The scuba certification system indicates how much education and experience a diver has, so they can dive safely.
What is Scuba Certification?
Scuba certification (also called diving certification or a C-card) is a personal identification card that proves the completion of scuba diving training. They are issued by dive schools or agencies when a diver successfully completes a dive course.
In addition, a diver needs to present their certification when booking a dive trip, renting scuba equipment, refilling cylinders, or engaging in other diving activities.
The advantage of the scuba certification system is that it ensures that all certified divers have the same specific knowledge and training level. This means that, when booking a dive trip on holiday, for example, a diver doesn’t have to repeat basic training with a new instructor.
As with any form of education, there are different levels of scuba certification. As diver’s skills grow, they can be certified for more advanced or specialized dives.
Note on Dive Logs
It is highly recommended that all divers keep dive logs. It’s a great way to remember your dives and record your progress. Logged dive hours are also often required for some advanced scuba certifications as proof of your diving experience.
If divers develop a logging habit from the beginning, it will be helpful as you progress as a diver.
Dive logs can be kept manually, but many divers find it tedious. A good dive computer and/or dive app will simplify dive logging and make it simple to share your data when it’s needed.
Diving Certification Standards
The scuba certification system helps to establish standards that are recognized around the world. In 2007, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved six diving certification standards equivalent to and recognized by the European standard and the US RSTC (Recreational Scuba Training Council).
Dive certifications in the US are usually denoted by the organization that certifies them, so a diver may receive certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), Scuba Schools International (SSI), the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), the Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS), the Professional Diving Instructors Corporation (PDIC), and more.
As a result, the same skill levels may be certified by a wide range of names. For example, a beginning diver certification may be called an ‘Autonomous Diver ISO 24801-2,’ a ‘PADI Open Water Diver,’ a ‘one-star CMAS,’ a ‘NAUI Scuba Diver,’ etc.
The difference is similar to getting the same college degree from different universities; the acquired skills and competencies are the same, but the teaching methods may vary slightly.
Different Types of Scuba Certifications
Just as there are many different types of scuba diving, there are many kinds of scuba certifications. Each one denotes specialized training and experience and may be required for different types of dives. Here are some examples of the most familiar scuba certifications.
Level One/Open Water/Supervised Diver
The diver knows how to use hand signals, read their pressure and depth gauges, understand their equipment, and perform supervised dives to shallow depths without decompression stops.
Level Two/Advanced/Autonomous Diver
The diver can dive more independently, has a better understanding of underwater navigation, and can dive to deeper levels.
Most recreational scuba divers should try to reach advanced certification because this level of experience allows the diver to focus more on the external underwater environment and less on their own safety and scuba gear.
Some additional types of certifications include:
- Enriched air diving
- Rescue diving
- Dive guide/dive leader
- Dive instructor
- Technical diving
- Cavern diving
- Cave diving
- Wreck diving
- Night diving
- Ice diving
In other words, for every new or advanced piece of necessary gear or equipment, or for every new and different underwater environment, certification is needed.
Advanced certifications typically require a combination of prerequisite certifications along with logged hours in specific underwater conditions. For example, cavern diving, ice diving, and night diving can all be essential certifications before pursuing cave diving.
There are also advanced courses for non-certified skills like underwater photography, marine species identification, and more.
If you want to scuba dive, even once, you need scuba certification. But don’t think of certification as a tedious obstacle to overcome; think of it as a way of demonstrating your skills and training and documenting your underwater experience.
In addition, certification allows you to take your diving skills around the world and explore a wide range of marine environments.