What is a Scuba Diving Certification?

If you’re fascinated by the underwater world and the amazing creatures who live there, a scuba diving certification is your passport to extraordinary experiences that support healthy oceans.

A scuba diving license identifies you as an underwater explorer and ambassador for the ocean. This article includes everything you need to know about scuba diving lessons, PADI certification, and answers to frequently asked questions about learning to scuba dive.

The Open Water Course

PADI’s Open Water Diver course is the world’s most popular and widely-recognised scuba diving certification. You can become a certified diver in as little as four days, or over the course of a year. Once certified you can:

  • Scuba dive with a partner (without supervision)
  • Rent or purchase scuba diving gear
  • Book excursions with dive boats and resorts
  • Get air fills at local dive shops
  • Call yourself a certified diver!

A scuba certification course is much more than just learning how to explore the underwater world safely (but that’s definitely covered). It’s a great way to reconnect with the natural world.

By the time you finish your PADI Open Water Diver course, you’ll understand our ocean planet in a new way. 

What’s in the PADI Open Water Course?

Part 1: Knowledge Development

You must be at least 10 years old, able to swim, and in good physical health to enroll in a scuba diving course. In some countries, you may be required to attend a medical with a physician (your PADI Dive Centre will advise you if this is the case). If you meet these qualifications, the first thing you’ll do is learn scuba diving fundamentals during phase one, ‘Knowledge Development’.

During knowledge development, you’ll learn all about scuba equipment, familiarize yourself with scuba terminology, and watch videos of diving skills. It is self-study, so you control the time it takes for you to comfortably go through the material. Most people pace themselves and complete their knowledge development over a few weeks but it can be completed in a matter of days.

The most popular choice for knowledge development is PADI eLearning®, an independent study option where you read, watch videos, and take quizzes using your computer or mobile device. Complete your scuba studies whenever, wherever it’s convenient. On average, the program requires eight hours to complete.

At the end of knowledge development, you’ll take a final exam to ensure you have a thorough understanding of scuba diving essentials. Your PADI Instructor will answer any questions you may have along the way.

Part 2: Confined Water Dives

During phase 2, you’ll take your first breath underwater in a calm environment such as a swimming pool or tranquil lagoon (known as “confined water”). You’ll practice basic diving skills such as clearing water from your mask, ascending and descending. Your instructor will demonstrate and review the skills with you until you’re comfortable performing them on your own. When you feel ready, you’ll move on to the final phase, open water diving!

Part 3: Open Water Dives

You’ll learn to dive by diving to a maximum depth of 18 metres/60 feet. The open water course includes four open water dives in total, usually done over two days. With your instructor by your side, you’ll practice the skills you learned in confined water, and explore the underwater world.

Most student divers complete their dives close to home, in the ocean, local lake, quarry, or other body of water. You can also complete your four “check out dives” on a tropical holiday; ask your PADI Instructor about an Open Water referral which allows you to take the knowledge development and confined water sessions in one place and your ocean dives in another!

After completing four open water dives and all course requirements, you become a certified diver – a title that will last a lifetime. Now you are free to explore the other two-thirds of our ocean planet!  As a PADI certified Open Water Diver, you’ll have access to many exciting PADI courses that help you reach your diving goals—whether they be exploration, ocean conservation, underwater photography, wreck diving, or your other favorite interest areas.

How Much Does a Scuba Certification Cost?

Scuba lessons cost about as much as a full day of surfing lessons, three hours of private golf lessons, or one amazing night out! Learning to scuba dive is a great value because you earn a certification that’s good for life.

If you see an advertised price that’s drastically lower than all the others, ask what it includes. Some dive shops include everything for one price, while others charge separately for in-water training, online course tuition, scuba equipment, etc. If you already own a mask, snorkel and/or fins, bring them to your instructor before your first pool session. Some snorkeling masks and fins are inadequate for scuba diving.

Tips from the Pros:

  • Fitting an Open Water Diver course into a short vacation can be a lot of pressure. If a relaxed, go-at-your-own-pace learning environment is important to you, choose online learning and start your in-water training with us before you go. It will prevent you from feeling time-pressured during your trip.
  • If trying something new in a large group makes you uncomfortable, consider a private or semi-private class.
  • Not sure if scuba diving is for you? you can book a Discover Scuba® Diving experience with us. You’ll get to try on scuba gear and test your comfort level in a pool or other calm, shallow water environment with a PADI Dive Pro.
Diving tips