Advanced Open Water Diver… PADI, SSI, CAMS, NAUI… Are you interested in getting yourself a scuba diving certification, but are wondering about the acronyms of all the dive associations, the differences and similarities between the organizations and their courses. Which one to choose? Which one is the best? Is there a “best” one? Can’t blame you if you are. Let me help you a bit to clarify the situation. Then you can get started with your new hobby and concentrate on the essential: scuba diving.
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world’s largest recreational dive association. PADI has split its education into several small courses, which makes it easy for anyone to start diving, and take one course after another, slowly increasing one’s competency and experience. PADI courses are taught especially in the popular beach holiday destinations as almost all of the courses can be completed in less than a week, which leaves time for other holiday activities, or just for enjoying the sun and the beach.
SSI stands for Scuba Schools international, and is the second largest organization for recreational diving in the world. Compared with PADI, SSI courses may have slightly lower a price, and the course content and structure are more flexible. The course durations, however, are the same. The possible difference in price is due to the learning material. With SSI course the material can be borrowed from the dive center, and you do not need to purchase it to yourself, unlike with PADI. Regarding the flexibility, with SSI for example different parts of the course can be done in a non-standardised order, and the instructor has better possibility to influence the course content, according to the needs and interests of the students.
CMAS is an abbreviation from Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, also known as The World Underwater Federation. CMAS represents the underwater activities in underwater sports and sciences, as well as recreational scuba diving and snorkeling. CMAS courses, structured from 1 Star(*) to 4 Stars(****), were originally developed for the needs of those who have scuba diving as a regular hobby. Therefore, the courses have longer classroom theory parts, and many dive clubs teach according to CMAS standards.
To mention a couple more organizations that one may come across with, there are SDI, TDI, NAUI and BSAC. SDI (Scuba Diving International) and TDI (Technical Diving International) are sister companies. They emphasize the instruction of practical skills, and are actually the only ones using dive computers with students. SDI and TDI provide their own learning materials. NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) is a reputable organization, started in the late 50’s, strong in North America and the Pacific. BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) is UK’s leading dive club and the National Governing Body of scuba diving. BSAC operates also internationally in Japan, Korea and Thailand, where new divers can get certified according to the BSAC’s own standards.
No matter which organization you end up choosing, two things are good to keep in mind:
1. You can go fun diving with any dive center, anywhere in the world, after you have passed the basic course of whichever organization. You can also cross between the organizations on the recreational course level. So even if you started for example with CMAS courses, you can continue to Advanced Open Water with PADI, or any other organization.
2. You will learn all the important things in order for you to dive safely, no matter under which organization’s standards you are being taught. PADI, SSI and SDI & TDI are members of the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC), which has set education standards that all its members must respect.
What it comes down to in the end, is what is available in the particular destination you want to do your course in, and which dive center gives you the best impression. How much, and how you learn, will mainly depend on your instructor and the dive center you do your course with, not forgetting your own motivation and interest. As you know, already those two can take you very far in anything!