What are the PADI certification levels?
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
PADI has a great many courses and it can sometimes be quite confusing to understand what all the options are and the progression from one to the next. Here is a brief presentation of PADI's most popular recreational scuba diving training options.
Recreational diver courses in order of progression (if not otherwise explained)
PADI Discover Scuba Diving
As you might have gathered from the name, this experience gives you a taste for what diving is all about but it is not a certification. Over the course of one day you will learn the basics of the theory, skills and equipment of leisure diving to be able to do a dive in open water safely under the close supervision of a PADI professional. It can count towards your entry level course if you decide you love it and want to take the next step.
PADI Scuba Diver
This is is the very first entry course and can be usually completed in two days. It gives you enough training to be able to evolve freely up to 12 metres under the supervision of a dive professional. It can also count towards your PADI Open Water Course. This is also a good option for kids if they are not quite ready yet for their Open Water certification.
PADI Open Water Diver
This is PADI's most popular and widely followed beginner course. It will allow you to dive to 18m after you complete all the practical and theory training. On paper, you are then an autonomous diver (though experience and good knowledge of dive sites are a must before you venture out alone with a buddy of same experience level). The PADI Open Water Course usually takes 3 to 4 days and includes theory which can be completed with E-learning. This is the course that will make you a diver!
PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
The PADI Advanced course takes you a step further into diving and helps you explore different aspects of the sport. You must complete 5 adventure dives, 3 of which you can choose from a selection, and two that are mandatory: the navigation dive and the deep dive. Choices of other speciality dives follow your interests with possibilities as diverse as drift diving, wreck diving, enriched air (nitrox) diving, peak performance buoyancy, digital photography, to name but a few. Each dive has specific training and some light theory with knowledge reviews. These can count towards completing a full speciality course in the area of your choice.
PADI Speciality courses
Specialities vary widely in their level of technicality and the level of experience and mastery you need to complete them. Most 'specs' you can just dive (pun intended) right into as soon as you finish your (junior) Open Water course (Peak Performance Buoyancy or Nitrox for example), whilst for others you will need to be Advanced Open Water (Wreck diver, Deep diver, etc.). There are many many different courses(over 25), covering areas as different as underwater photographer, drift diving or dry suit diving.
PADI Rescue diver
This course takes you to another level of diving, when you start looking out for others and having the training to perform a rescue. There is a strong theory side to this course where you learn about how to handle various types of incidents in diving. You also learn to deal with different types of dive emergencies, even the most serious, by doing skills and real life incidents scenario practice. The course usually lasts three to four days. To complete it, you must have a First Aid certification that is less than 2 years old.
PADI Master Scuba diver
This is PADI's highest certification for a non-professional recreational diver. Only 2 percent of divers reach this level. It means you are a Rescue diver, have completed at least 50 dives and have 5 speciality diver certifications. You are now as far as you can go in recreational diving before becoming a pro....
And then what?
You really want to take it up a notch? Become a pro! Your options as a PADI pro start with the Divemaster course, the first step towards a professional dive job!
We will cover these in details in another post!