What is the basic Scuba Diving course and what can I do once I have got it

What is the basic Scuba Diving course and what can I do once I have got it

This is not as simple as it seems.  There are three “basic” scuba courses for people who want to learn to dive via PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors).  Each course is designed for a different purpose, and you need to be very careful with your choice and terminology.  It is not uncommon for people to book onto the wrong course with the end result that they do not get certified as divers and need to complete another course before being able to dive unsupervised.  The major downside of this is that the overall cost of two courses instead of one is usually much higher!

The three basic courses are:

  • PADI Scuba Diver
  • Open Water Referral
  • Open Water Diver

The only complete course is the PADI Open Water Diver course, as that licences you to dive with another qualified diver (recreational divers never dive alone) to a recommended maximum depth of 18m.

Let’s look at them in turn so that we can see the difference:

PADI Scuba Diver

This is generally not offered much in the UK though it is fairly popular in overseas resorts.  Sometimes people enroll on the full Open Water course but for a variety of reasons they don’t manage to finish.  Providing they meet the criteria for this reduced course they can be certified as a Scuba Diver.  What this means in practice is that they can dive, but to a limited depth of 12m and only under the direct supervision of a professional such as an Instructor or Divemaster.  This can be a problem as it usually means extra costs on the dive as you need to pay for a “one to one”.  The bigger problem is that people say that they are Scuba Divers which is technically correct but it doesn’t have the same meaning as saying “I am an Open Water Diver”.

Open Water Referral

This is a good course but sometimes schools are less than clear on their websites and literature as to what it actually means.  If you look at my earlier blog “What do I need to do to qualify as a diver?” you will know that the full Open Water Diver course consists of three parts:

  • Understanding dive theory – made up of home study and classroom work
  • Pool work (often called confined water) – a couple of afternoons or a few evenings in a pool learning the basic skills
  • Open water dives – usually done in the sea or if in the UK, a nearby lake.  In this section you effectively use the skills you learned in the pool but apply them in open water

For the Open Water Referral you complete the class and pool work with one school (usually here in the UK) and then “refer” on to complete the four open water dives somewhere else, usually overseas.  After completing this course you are not qualified to dive anywhere at all, it is merely a part of the full Open Water course.  There is nothing wrong in learning to dive in this way but it is not always clear from websites what you have got.  If the course seems very cheap or cheaper than others you have looked at, then clarify what certification you will get after the course.

PADI Open Water course

This is the standard entry level course for beginners.  After completion of this course, that is all the three elements – theory, pool (confined water) and open water dives, you are a qualified diver and can dive to a recommended maximum depth of 18m with any of the 6,000 PADI dive schools in the world.  The card will also be accepted by all other dive training agencies.

There are also two other basic introductory courses:

  • Discover Scuba Diving
  • Try Dives

Discover Scuba as a course is not really offered in its full form in the UK but is extremely popular overseas.  As the name implies it is a basic introduction involving two dives – pool and ocean and a few basic skills.  It is designed as a ”taster” course to allow people to enjoy diving without committing to a full course.  At the end of the course you are not a qualified diver though you can use the dives as exemptions from part of the Open Water course,  provided it is done within a year.

Try Dives are more limited and are basically a short experience in the pool.  Many people try this as a means of testing to see whether they like it before booking onto the full Open Water course.

So those are the introductory courses typically available.  Hopefully you will be able to make the correct choice of course for you.  All you need to do now is pick a good school – for assistance with that please review my previous blog post: Ten Questions to ask when booking a PADI Open Water Course.

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  1. Grace says:

    Interesting article that explains what the different courses are, thinking of taking the open water course this year so it has helped.

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