Breaking it down: getting your scuba certification

I sat in my friend’s New Hampshire home, head in hands, certain I was going to spend too much money or die 18 meters under water before the summer even started. There is so much information on the web about scuba diving, and it’s difficult to know which way is up and which way will you get in the water.

For a full list of PADI Scuba Diving Certifications, visit

open water course

The first certification you can earn is The Open Water Certification. This will allow you to dive to 18 meters. There are three parts to this certification:

  1. Course work, which you can do online. It’s fairly easy–five videos followed by sectional exams and then one overview exam of all sections.
  2. Pool training lets you see and touch the equipment that will keep you alive underwater. Then you gear up and get in the water. My research indicated that you can do this separate from the open water dives, but I think I’d recommend against that. Do the pool work and the open water dives together. My biggest struggle was understanding what my instructor want from me when we were underwater (and unable to communicate verbally). Having the extra time in the pool with her to understand what she expected and how she communicated under water made a lot of difference with how comfortable I was scubaing. When you go to dive, already having completed your course work and the pool training, this is commonly referred to as “referral” online.
  3. Open water training includes 4 dives under the careful eye of a certified scuba instructor. You will be asked to take out and replace your regulator, to practice various emergency ascents and–I hated this one–take off and clear your mask while underwater.

For more about PADI Open Water Certification, visit

discovery dives

If you aren’t sure if you want to invest the time and money into getting your scuba certification–snorkeling is just as good and not death defying, right?–you can do a discovery dive. I’ve seen this done two ways–first getting into the pool and playing with the equipment before getting into open water or simply getting in the water. You are closely watched by the dive instructors; if you really struggle, they may even insist on holding your hand under water to help keep you buoyant.

No certification is needed nor earned for discovery dives.

advance diving course

If you really struggle with your Open Water Certification, you may need to go on a few other dives to affirm your skill and get more comfortable underwater. I’m told, though, that you can get your Advance Diving Certification right after your Open Water.

Advance Diving requires five dives including a ship wreck dive, a dive with current and a night dive. There is reading involved, but no exams.

For more about PADI Advance Diving Certification, visit


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