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Scuba Diving Certification: What You Need to Do Before You Go Looking For Nemo

Jun 25, 2008
So you are thinking about getting your scuba diving certification but aren't sure what it entails? We'll go through the details here.

Scuba diving is a wonderful sport and you will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. There's nothing like floating effortlessly underwater and seeing all the beautiful fish, coral, wrecks, etc. Certification will open up a whole new world for you.

First, let's start with the basics. What exactly is scuba diving certification?

In order to go scuba diving with any reputable dive shop, you must have a certification card (more commonly known as a c-card). You obtain this card by taking and passing a dive certification course. Once you pass this course, you receive your c-card and you are good to go.

The two main certification agencies are PADI and NAUI. Other agencies, such as YMCA and SSI, also offer scuba diving certification but NAUI and PADI are the most widely recognized.

The dive shop (or other entity) that you take your training from will be affiliated with one of these agencies. That is who you will receive your card from.

The most common scuba diving certification for recreational divers is the open water diver. Once you finish this course and pass the tests and dives, you receive your c-card. Once you receive your card, you are certified for life. There is no other mandatory training. There is other optional training you can do, but nothing more is required before you can start diving.

What are the requirements for taking a certification course?

As far as age goes, for PADI you must be 10 or older to take the course. Students younger than 15 will receive the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification. It can then be upgraded to PADI Open Water Diver certification upon reaching 15. For Naui, you must be 12 or older to take the course.

Basically you should be in good physical shape and be comfortable in the water. A clearance from your doctor would be a good idea if you have any doubts.

During the course you will have to be able to swim 200 yards. However, you can use any stroke and there is no time limit on how long it takes. You also have to tread water or float for 10 minutes. Again, you can use any methods you want.

The course itself can be broken into 4 major segments:

1. Book work

2. Exams

3. Pool training

4. Open water dives

The amount of time it takes to get our scuba diving certification depends on what avenue you take. There are intensive weekend courses where you can do all your book work and pool work in one weekend. This option usually involves advance reading. I think this could be a bit overwhelming if you have no prior experience but many people opt for this route.

At the opposite end are the options where you meet over the course of several weeks to do your book and pool work. This is the option I chose. The class met once a week for 6 weeks. The first part of the night involved the classroom (about 1 1/4 hours) followed by pool work (about 1 1/2 hours).

A recent introduction are the on-line certification courses which allows you to do the book portion of your scuba diving certification from anywhere.

You get a referral to do your open water dives after you successfully complete the book and pool work. Your open water dives are usually done in a lake, quarry or ocean. You typically do these dives over the course of 2 days. Certification usually requires 4 or 5 successful open water dives. You also have to do your open water dives within a certain amount of time of receiving your referral.

During your open water dives, you will perform the skills you learned in class for the instructor. This involves such skills as clearing your mask, buddy breathing, etc. Once you successfully pass the open water dives, you will receive your c-card.

As far as the cost of certification, prices for the course and pool work portion can range anywhere from around $150 to several hundred. I think $200-$250 is probably about average. If you take book portion online through PADI, the course currently costs $120 (you still have to pay for your in water training and open water dive portions).

Adding in the cost of your open water dives, the total cost of dive certification will probably be about $350-$450.

Hopefully I have answered most of your questions about getting certified. Give it a try, you won't regret it!
About the Author
Dianne Rein runs a scuba diving website at http://www.scuba-diving-smiles.com. You can find more information about scuba diving basics, necessary scuba gear, scuba diving tips and much more on her website.
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