All Diving Certifications Are Not Created Equal

I always believed that scuba certifications from the various mainline agencies were basically all the same, just depended on which agencies name you wanted on the card. That is, until today.

I just found out that the Master Scuba Diver certification from NAUI is nowhere near the same level of training and experience as the Master Scuba Diver certification from PADI.

To achieve the PADI certification you have to have Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, and 5 specialty diver certifications which take an additional 1 to 4 dives each to complete, and at least 50 logged dives.

For the NAUI Master Scuba Diver certification qualifications I looked it up on the NAUI website. Their course requirements are shown below, copied directly from their website:

“A minimum of eight open water dives is required. A maximum of three dives per day shall be applied toward course requirements. No more than one skin dive may count toward the eight dive minimum.

Required Dives

  • Emergency procedures and rescue
  • Deep/simulated decompression diving
  • Limited visibility or night diving
  • Underwater navigation
  • Search and recovery – light salvage

Elective Dives

  • Skin diving
  • Review of basic scuba skills
  • Environmental study or survey
  • Air consumption (practical application)
  • Boat diving
  • Shore diving
  • Hunting and collecting
  • Special interest

Prerequisites For Entering This Course

  • Age – Minimum is 15 years.
  • Diver Certification – NAUI advanced certification or the equivalent is required. The instructor is to ensure adequate student knowledge and capability before any open water training and shall use skill or other evaluations to do so.
  • Equipment – Students shall furnish and be responsible for the care and maintenance of their own diving equipment. The instructor shall initially assist the student in checking all student gear to insure it is adequate and in proper working order.”

So in other words, if a NAUI Advanced Open Water Diver wants the MSD rating, he can do it in just 3 days time with only 8 more dives? Thats less than ¼ as many total dives when you add up all the various specialty class dives required by PADI.

That is a HUGE difference in diving experience between NAUI and PADI certification requirements for the Master Scuba Diver rating. I thought the PADI MSD rating was quick to get, I should have just gone for the NAUI one, I could have had it months before I earned the PADI one.

This will make me take a good hard look at the qualifications for all of the other “mainline” certification agencies out there before I choose to dive with someone from another agency again. Apparently their Rescue Diver certification only takes one dive to complete instead of three days and multiple dives.

I clearly see that all certifications are definitely NOT the same.

20 responses

  1. Don’t let either quals., mislead you… Even the 50 for divemaster, if I remember it right, is a minimum in my opinion, especially depending on the conditions in which you dive. All dive location are not created equal. I’m what one might consider a “warm water wimp” but that does not mean diving in Hawaii is less challenging then elsewhere, depending on current, conditions, reef layout, etc., especially when you’re working as a DM, not MSD, and it’s your butt on the line with 10+ open water divers on a deep dive! 🙂

    1. Yea, when I was about to start my Divemaster Candidate program I noticed that I only needed a minimum of 40 logged dives to start it, and I also noticed that with 50 logged dives I would qualify for the MSD rating, so I put off starting the DMC for another week to get my last 10 dives in since I already had the specialty certifications that are required.

      Now Im not sure if I want to complete the DMC course or not. Im really having to think long and hard about completing it. Here in Hawaii DM’s only get paid in tips, not on the shops payroll like an instructor. So with paying out the yearly PADI dues and insurance I just can’t see that it would be worth it for me anymore because I have no interest in becoming an instructor.

      I’m also a “warm water wimp”, 100% of my diving has been done here on Oahu, but the majority of it on the Southeast side of the island where the stronger currents are. I wanted more experience dealing with the stronger currents to make me a better diver.

      1. Wow, that’s different I got paid per boat dive $50.00 min., + 10.00 add. Per diver over 5. But then again, I worked for a lot of boat captains and shops, and i did private shore dives for customers on the side. Tips were just that, and some shops paid for your insurance. Otherwise u would be right, that’s a lot out of pocket, no reason for it, just for fills. I did all my certs., and MSD before DM, and worked on a few more specialty certs, after. Always good to know an instructor! 🙂

        1. I don’t even use the dive shops for my fills anymore either since I installed my own compressor, lol.

          Island Divers Hawaii is the dive shop Ive done most of my training with after leaving Deep Ecology up on the North Shore. There a DM only splits the tips from the boat dives, if there is any. Instructors are the only ones they actually hire because a DM is limited as to what classes they can teach, and an Instructor offers more for the shop. It sucks that they run it like that, but from what I am hearing from other DM’s, thats the change that is taking place in Hawaii now.

          Ive got the specialty certs that I want from PADI that I can get here in Hawaii, now I have to travel to the mainland to get a few more that aren’t offered here.

          1. Guess things have really changed, that’s peanuts to work for. Who’s still running out of Keehi, and Waianae?

          2. Not sure about which ones are still here and which are gone, I just started diving at the end of January. Most of the boats are in Hawaii Kai and down by the old Fisherman’s Warf. I know there are a couple in Waianae, IDH has one of their boats out there.

          3. Was South Seas, and I think Brian’s boat the Arogonaut….in Hawaii Kai too.

    2. I think Im going to just knock out these last 10 dives next week so I can change logbooks. I keep 100 dives in each and I’ve been looking at this one for too long now, time for a new one.

  2. good to know this inforamtion as I was plannign to do my advanced diving certificate with SSI after my open water and it requires so many courses to do that and my friend did her advanced and open water in two days only with not many dives that made me a bit confused 🙂 What do u think about SSI and PADI..are they same?

    1. From what I have read about the qualifications of SSI for their various ratings, SSI is the closest to PADI, in fact SSI’s qualifications for Advanced Open Water Diver are a little above PADI’s qualifications.

      With SSI you have to complete 4 specialty certifications and have at least 24 logged dives, which is more experience than an equivalent PADI rating. Then to reach Master Scuba Diver you just need 1 more specialty and at least 50 logged dives, which is the same as PADI.

      From the research I have done on the various agencies I like SSI and PADI, and I plan on taking some of SSI’s specialty courses soon. I just have to fly to the Big Island to do it because they do not have a school here on Oahu.

      1. wow..good on you ..I am glad to know this ..thank you so much for taking time to reply me on this as having SSI certification I was a bit confused about PADI..I am planning to do speciliaty courses with SSI and get my advanced and as you said master would come easy then 🙂 good luck dear

        1. Good luck in your pursuits and happy diving.

          1. thank RC ..yes I love it and next time I might even try GoPro there 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend

  3. Thanks for the information. I had that question myself for some time. I guess I got lucky going down the PADI path. (I am not a MSD yet, still working on it). I recently obtained my Rescue Diver certification and in my opinion was lots of fun but not easy to get. Here is a little contribution I prepared on this particular adventure. Hope you like it.

    http://steincastillo.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/becoming-a-rescue-diver/

    1. Yea, Rescue Diver was one of the courses I liked the most, I learned a lot from it. It mainly depends on who is teaching it though.

  4. I am a really new diver with less than a year under my belt but I am going for my master thru padi I got my 5 special dives in from dry suit to altuided dives I just paid lots of money for wife to get her certs though the ssi shop at the house I went on a dive with her instructor brought my 3 tanks I went down for about 20 mins with two of there instructors and after that I didn’t waste another tank I don’t feel comfortable with them but she loves them so what is a man to do

    1. Yea, it was an eye opener to see the differences in training requirements between the agencies. I assumed they were all the same, but alas I was wrong. I guess I will have to stop telling all the PADI jokes (PADI = Put Another Dollar In or Patches And Decals Included).

      I feel a lot better about the training I received now, and my decision to be trained by PADI.

      Actually I was thinking of taking one specialty course with SSI, but now I’m not so sure I want to. SSI has a “Solo Diver” certification, where PADI calls theirs the “Self-Reliant Diver”, but no one here teaches it.

  5. I think there’s a slight misunderstanding in the way it is worded. A minimum of 8 open water dives are required for the Master SCUBA Diver Course. The prerequisites include Advanced SCUBA Diver and Rescue SCUBA Diver. No NAUI dive shop will let such an inexperienced person go for a Master Diver and the same goes for PADI. I’ve heard NAUI is more thorough and I’ve heard PADI is the diploma mill of the SCUBA world. Are they true? Probably, probably not.

    It really is a matter of opinion and reviews are subjective. I have a PADI certification myself and I am considering shelling out some money for a few NAUI courses to see how they differ. I’ve heard more than a few handful of people say it was tougher, so I find it worthwhile to check out.

    I bought the NAUI SCUBA Diver book and there are already a few differences in the way the material is presented. I’m very interested to see where the major difference are.

  6. I have both, NAUI and Padi, as a Padi instructor, I still use the NAUI Master Diver boook to train all the way up to Asst Instructor. Frankly when it comes down to instruction it comes down to this. I have seen good PADI instructors and complete shit PADI instructors. I have seen good NAUI instructors and complete shit NAUI instructors, instead of looking at the agency you need to look at the instructors, and that is a failure on the prospective students.

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