How To Get a Diving Certification (6 Steps Plus FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 16, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Diving instructors and marine biologists often explore underwater environments as part of their job. Before they dive to observe wildlife or instruct others, they usually earn a diving certification. Having this certification can help you perform your job duties while keeping yourself and others safe in the water. In this article, we discuss what a diving certification is and how to get one and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is a diving certification?

A diving certification is a document that authorizes an individual to go scuba diving anywhere in the world. Various organizations allow people to earn these certifications by completing a combination of classroom coursework and in-water training. The certification specifies how deep the individual can dive and whether they require the supervision of a professional diver.

Related: 18 Marine Animal Jobs Working in and Around the Water

Benefits of having a diving certification

Benefits of having a diving certification include:

  • It ensures everyone's safety: By learning how to use your equipment properly and dive with a buddy, you can help keep everyone safe in and around the water.

  • It lets you fill oxygen tanks: While anyone can buy scuba equipment, shops require you to present a diving certification to refill oxygen tanks.

  • You can dive in deeper waters: Depending on which diving certification you get, you can explore deeper waters to experience new underwater wildlife.

  • Serves as a professional qualification: Professionals like marine biologists and diving instructors often require these certifications to perform their duties and increase their earning potential.

Related: 10 Jobs That Can Involve Scuba Diving

How to get a diving certification

Here are some steps you can take to earn your diving certification:

1. Choose a reputable organization

Several organizations offer scuba diving certifications. By choosing a reputable one, you can ensure you learn the proper techniques and receive a certification that employers, tour guide companies and other organizations recognize. Three trustworthy organizations include:

  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

  • Scuba Schools International

  • National Association of Underwater Instructors

2. Choose the appropriate certification

Organizations offer certifications that vary based on what activities they permit you to do. Try evaluating your diving goals to choose the appropriate certification. You can also consider factors like how much time and money you can dedicate to training. For instance, if you're new to diving, you might become a PADI-certified diver. This certification allows you to dive a maximum of 40 feet under the supervision of a professional diver. A PADI Open Water Diver certification is more rigorous but allows you to dive a maximum depth of 60 feet with a certified diver friend.

Related: 11 Different Types of Scuba Certifications

3. Enroll in the program

Once you choose the appropriate certification, you can enroll in the organization's program. Most certifications are available to earn year-round, but consider checking the website to see when you can start. The sign-up process usually requires you to provide basic personal information and pay for the course. You may also fill out a medical questionnaire that evaluates your physical and mental health. If you have a condition that could interfere with a dive, you may have to get medical clearance from a physician before proceeding.

4. Complete the coursework

In most programs, the first part of earning your certification is completing the coursework. You can take classes in person with a professional instructor, and there are online programs that allow you to go through the textbook at your own pace. Students answer questions as they complete each chapter and take a final exam to demonstrate their knowledge. Main topics the coursework covers include:

  • Methods for planning dives

  • Diving techniques and terminology

  • Underwater hand signals

  • Safety procedures

  • Using scuba gear

  • Underwater navigation

Related: How To Become an Underwater Welder

5. Train in a pool

After passing your final exam, you can start training in a pool. Most professional instructors assess your basic swimming skills to ensure you can manage the scuba diving equipment. For instance, they might have you swim a specified distance or tread water for a certain amount of time. Once you demonstrate your competency, the instructor teaches you how to complete dives in a pool, and you practice setting up your scuba equipment and diving at various depths. Most programs require you to complete a certain number of dives in a pool before performing open-water dives.

6. Complete open-water dives

The final stage of most certification programs is open-water diving. Because the ocean has varying water clarity and currents, these dives allow you to show that you can safely dive in various environments. A professional instructor supervises you the entire time and helps you apply the skills you learned during your pool dives. Once you complete the required number of open-water dives, you can earn your certification.

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Get With a Marine Science Degree

FAQs about getting a diving certification

Here are some FAQs about getting a diving certification:

Do certification programs include rental gear?

Many certification programs include rental gear as part of the overall cost to take the course. They often provide you with tanks, wetsuits, snorkels and masks for pool and open-water dives. If the certification program doesn't include rental gear, most organizations allow you to rent equipment separately.

Where does your certification allow you to dive?

Most certifications allow you to dive in the waters found anywhere in the world. You can dive in most bodies of water including oceans, lakes, aquariums and pools. Note that your certification may limit how deep you can dive, even under professional supervision.

How long are diving certifications valid?

Most diving certifications are for life, meaning many programs don't have renewal requirements. Some organizations recommend you dive at least once a year to maintain your skills. If you go longer than that without diving, you can take a refresher course to review training and gain some practice time in the water.

How important is physical and mental fitness?

Good physical and mental fitness are important because they can help you remain safe and pass the training courses. Consider maintaining your cardiovascular health through endurance exercises like running and swimming. You can also do strength training to help you manage heavy oxygen tanks. As for mental fitness, you can practice relaxation techniques to remain calm and focused during your dives.

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