The vastness of our deep blue seas was once a complete mystery, but advances in dive technology have made it possible for man to go deeper and discover more at an unprecedented rate. However, the ability to dive only comes through education, training, and practice, so you must first obtain a certification. Once you are certified as an open water diver, your diving future can progress at your own pace, enabling you to gain experience and see the world as you wish. There are no less than 60 certification agencies to choose from worldwide, some of which offer more specific certifications than a basic open water course. If you already know a few divers, they will no doubt have plenty of advice and recommendations, but if you are flying blind, here’s a quick guide to the top 3 SCUBA certification agencies that you can find in the US and abroad.
All three agencies are based in the United States, but the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, or PADI, is the most well-known and reputable dive training organization in the world. PADI encourages very hands-on, performance-based training program to ensure students are completely immersed in their education. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors was started in 1969 and made a huge splash in the industry by offering a variety of dive education courses rather than just one uniform course. Courses offered by this diving certification agency can be found at the vast majority of dive destinations and they are a very popular agency for beginning divers.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors, or NAUI, is another a great choice for learning how to dive. Also based in the United States, NAUI began in 1959 with an emphasis on promoting dive safety, and remains the world’s largest non-profit dive education organization today. NAUI is the official certification agency of divers at Walt Disney World, US Navy SEAL teams, and NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts train for space missions. Courses offered by NAUI are very similar to the courses offered by PADI, but proponents of each organization will attest to its superiority.
SCUBA Schools International, or SSI, is another highly recommended agency for dive certification. Begun in 1970, SSI is now represented in more than 110 countries with over 2,400 locations worldwide, making it significantly smaller on the scale in comparison to PADI and NAUI. However, a certification procured through this agency is just as valid as the others, which means, for example, that if SSI is your only option for certification in a remote dive location, you can feel confident that your training will be thorough and your certification will be accepted elsewhere.