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The Beginner’s Guide to SSI Diving Certifications

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Ever wondered what it would be like to explore the ocean as a licensed scuba diver?

There are a few internationally recognized organizations that can train you, from SSI to PADI and NAUI.

Picking the right one for you will depend on what you want to get out of your certification.

Are you a casual diver, or do you want to pursue a career as a professional diver?

In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about SSI, one of the most popular diving certification providers on the planet.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about SSI’s courses and how you can get started on your journey to being a licensed scuba diver.

What Is SSI?

SSI is an internationally-recognized scuba instructional organization that teaches thousands of people every year how to dive.

Everyone from underwater maintenance professionals to holiday-seekers go to SSI dive centers to get their required certifications.

SSI also offers certifications in freediving in addition to recreational and technical diving certs using scuba tanks.

What Does SSI Stand For?

SSI stands for Scuba Schools International.

You can find an SSI-accredited dive center complete with instructors ready to teach you the basics of diving in 130 countries.

What Does SSI Diving Do?

SSI trains people to become certified divers.

Whether that be scuba divingfreediving, or snorkeling, SSI can teach you everything you need to know about diving to get you where you want to go.

What Is an SSI Qualification?

An SSI qualification is the tool that allows you to dive into a wide variety of locations around the world.

The qualification is the internationally recognized license that tells dive centers you know what you’re doing.

Without it, you won’t be able to go scuba diving more than 12 meters legally.

Types of SSI Programs

Not all SSI programs are the same.

Each one relates to a specific certification that trains you in different water activities.

Learn more about the specific types of SSI programs you can participate in below.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is the most popular program SSI offers, drawing thousands of students around the globe every year.

Learn underwater safety, how to operate a BCD and air tank, navigate dive sites, and more.

SSI’s diving program contains several courses.

If you’re a beginner, you can learn the basics of diving and achieve your base-level certification.

For those of you looking to go further, SSI offers bottom-up training programs that certify dive masters in a matter of months.


If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to explore underwater without an air tank, then this is the program for you.

SSI teaches freediving courses in addition to their basic scuba program.

Learn techniques that allow you to hold your breath and survive for extended periods underwater.

Very popular among underwater photography experts, spearfishers, and thrill-seekers alike.

Freediving can be dangerous, so it’s important you train at an accredited SSI dive center before heading out with your friends.

SSI’s freediving instructors are always committed to your safety above all else.


Snorkeling is a fantastic alternative for people nervous to try scuba or freediving.

Once you get more comfortable with a snorkel mask, you might want to try something a bit more intense!

SSI also offers an online snorkeling course that teaches you the basics of snorkel diving.

While snorkel diving might seem fairly straightforward, there are certain techniques that you might not be aware of.

Learn how to compensate for your natural buoyancy and dive deeper than the average snorkeler!


Finally, SSI provides a comprehensive swimming course that teaches you underwater techniques.

Learn how to perform specific skills that will keep you safe as you scuba dive, free dive, or snorkel in a variety of water conditions around the world.

With an SSI swimming certification, you can become a swim teacher for children and adults.

Without this type of authorization, either from SSI, PADI, or another organization, you won’t be able to earn money as a swim instructor.

Popular SSI Certification Levels

There are various types of scuba diving, but the most common is recreational – the market that SSI is geared towards.

While SSI provides a wide variety of certifications, the following two courses are the most popular.

Try Scuba

Try Scuba is the perfect entry point for anyone interested in scuba diving.

It’s a short course that teaches you the bare minimum you need to get into the ocean with an instructor.

You go to around 12-meters, meaning there’s no risk if you need to surface before the end of the course.

While the Try Scuba course doesn’t authorize you as a licensed scuba diver, the card you receive at the end of the course tells instructors that you’ve at least tried scuba diving before.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to get your full license after you finish!

Open Water Diver

Open Water Diver is the most popular dive certification course that SSI offers.

You start in a swimming pool, then move onto dive sites to complete the different course modules.

Upon completion, you’ll be licensed to dive up to 18 meters/60-feet with a guide.

Throughout the course, you’ll learn all the skills necessary to engage in scuba diving in a safe and fun way.

There are a ton of things to take in, so the course typically lasts two to three days in most cases.

What Is an SSI Specialty Course?

SSI specialty courses develop specific dive skills and authorize learners to dive in more advanced settings than the basic Open Water certification allows.

You receive your specialty diver certification card immediately upon completing each course.

Types of SSI Specialty Courses

The following are the most popular SSI specialty courses on offer today.

Deep Diving

Deep diving teaches you how to plan and execute intense dive expeditions up to 40-meters deep.

Learn how to navigate in deeper waters, safety planning, air consumption techniques, swimming techniques, and more.


The Nitrox course teaches you the differences between typical air tanks and enriched air nitrox tanks.

Nitrox allows you to stay deep for longer, but there are increased safety concerns as well.

Completing the Nitrox course allows you to dive with nitrox tanks in SSI dive centers around the world.

Nighttime and Limited Visibility

Night diving is a very different experience from daytime diving.

Learn how to use new tools, keep in contact with your buddy, and navigate in limited visibility with the Nighttime and Limited Visibility SSI certification.

Advanced Open Water Diver

Advanced Open Water Diver is the certification that allows you to dive up to 30-meters with all SSI and PADI accredited dive centers.

While you might enroll in a course known as Advanced Open Water, this is actually just four of the above specialty courses rolled into one.

Upon completing four specialty courses of your choosing, you’ll be certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver.

Master Diver

You receive certification from SSI as a Master Diver when you complete 50-logged dives, a First Aid course, and the Stress and Rescue Diver course.

Also, you’ll need to have completed your four Advanced Open Water courses as well.

The Master Diver rating doesn’t authorize you to teach or guide other divers.

It is primarily for a sense of personal achievement.

Dive Master

Divemasters can work as guides for certified divers in SSI-accredited dive centers.

You can also assist SSI instructors as a divemaster, but you’re not allowed to teach students directly.

Divemaster courses involve a ton of dive theory and safety protocols.

You’ll also complete several skill examinations supervised by the SSI instructor throughout the course.

SSI Instructor

Becoming an SSI instructor is one of the most elite recognitions you can receive as a diver.

With the Open Water Instructor certification, you’ll be able to teach all the popular diving courses and more.

You can complete the Instructor Trainer course, which allows you to certify other dive instructors.

Instructor Trainers are considered one of the pinnacles of dive mastery.

How Long Is an SSI Course?

The duration of your course will depend on what type of certification you are going for.

Try Scuba may only last half a day, while the Open Water Diver certification takes two or three.

However, the E-learning portions are completely at your own pace.

How Difficult Is the SSI Diving Certificate?

The basic SSI Scuba Diving certification is the least difficult of all of SSI’s course offerings.

It encompasses the first half of the Open Water Diving certification course.

Upon completion, learners are certified to dive up to 12-meters.

However, most dive students don’t stop at the SSI Diving certificate.

With only two more open water dives, you’ll be certified as an Open Water Diver.

SSI Diving vs. PADI

PADI is another popular dive certification organization and actually has more dive centers than SSI globally.

All recreational diving centers recognize PADI and SSI certification.

While the two are similar, there are some key differences that might sway you towards SSI in the end.

Main Similarities Between SSI and PADI

  • Internationally recognized accreditation.
  • Mix of pool time, skill development, and e-learning.
  • Fun, friendly, and safe learning environments

Main Differences Between SSI and PADI

  • PADI has hidden certification costs that SSI does not.
  • PADI requires a strict learning curriculum, while SSI is more flexible.
  • PADI has more dive centers globally (180 countries).

How Long Is an SSI Certification Good For?

The most popular SSI certifications never expire, meaning you can use the same scuba license for the rest of your life.

That includes Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water, and Freediving, among others.

You can access your card at any time through the MySSI app.

However, dive centers might require you to perform a “checkout” or even take a refresher course if they notice you haven’t logged a dive in a long time. Better safe than sorry!

While basic licenses don’t expire, professional dive licenses do.

You may need to complete your advanced courses again after inactivity as an instructor or professional diver for two years.

Getting Certified Through SSI

The process to get certified through SSI will depend on what cert you’re going for.

SSI E-Learning Platform

All SSI courses feature at least some E-Learning component, whether that be theory, general knowledge, best practices, or fishy facts.

Completing various modules in the SSI E-Learning Platform grants you certain certifications that you can use towards your diving cert.

SSI Pros and Instructors

SSI Pros and Instructors have to go through a lengthy process to get certified.

Expect an advanced course load that will probably take several months to complete.

SSI Certification Cards

Unlike PADI, SSI offers free certification cards upon completion of Open Water Diver and upper-level courses.

You can also access your card at any time through the MySSI app.

How to Enroll in an SSI Diving Course

Enrolling in an SSI Diving Course takes just a few minutes.

Sign up over the phone, online, or in person at your nearest dive center.

You can complete the Try Scuba certification course at an SSI dive center in just one session.

However, if you want to go further with an Open Water Diver course or Specialty course, then you’ll have to visit your nearest open water dive center, which may be further away.

You can sign up online or over the phone, but you’ll need to go in person and complete some open water dives before getting certified.

Frequently Asked Questions

You might still have some questions about what it means to sign up for an SSI Diving certification.

We’ve tried to answer the most common ones for you below.

Is SSI Open Water Worth It?

Your SSI Open Water certification is one of the most worthwhile things you can purchase in your life.

For just a few hundred dollars, we think that’s pretty worth it!

With it, you can explore an entire world of possibility under the waves that most people can’t even imagine.

Can I Do Both PADI and SSI for Scuba Diving?

Both PADI and SSI provide scuba diving certifications.

You can complete courses in either to become a licensed scuba diver.

Can You Switch From SSI to PADI?

While you can switch from SSI to PADI or even just complete another course in PADI after your SSI, it’s not really worth it to do so.

All dive centers that recognize PADI also recognize SSI, meaning you can dive at nearly every dive center in the world with your SSI license.

How Deep Can You Dive with Open Water SSI?

With an Open Water SSI certification, you’ll be able to dive with licensed centers up to 18 meters deep.

That depth gives you access to a wide range of possible dive sites, ranging from coral reefs to drop-offs and cave entrances.

Advanced Open Water gives you access to 30-meters, the maximum for most non-professional licensed divers.

Wrapping Up

There you have it! Everything beginners need to know about SSI diving certifications.

Whether you’re looking to get your Open Water or become a licensed instructor, SSI provides all the tools you need to succeed.

Check out their website to start your E-Learning course for free today!

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