You may have heard people say, “I’m a scuba diver,” or “I’m a PADI® Diver,” but you may not have encountered the term Open Water Diver until you started searching for information about learning to scuba dive. Here’s what you need to know:

When people say they have a diving license or a scuba certification, they’re talking about an Open Water certification. An Open Water Diver certification card allows you to:

-Obtain air fills

-Rent dive equipment

-Dive on your own with a buddy

-Book boat dives

-Take additional classes such as underwater photography/videography

open water diver

If someone says “I’m a PADI Diver,” this means they’ve completed the PADI® Open Water Diver course. PADI Open Water is the most-recognized scuba certification in the world, and more than 900,000 divers choose PADI each year.

So what’s the PADI Scuba Diver course all about? The PADI Scuba Diver course is a subset of the PADI Open Water Diver course. Completing the PADI Scuba Diver course is a bit like obtaining a learner’s permit when learning to drive. It’s an intermediate step towards full scuba certification for people who:

-Don’t have time to complete the entire Open Water course

-Can’t finish their Open Water training

-Only want to dive with a PADI Professional

PADI Scuba Diver Vs. PADI Open Water Diver: Maximum Depth

Open Water Divers: can plan and execute dives with a certified buddy or dive professional to a maximum depth of 18 meters/60 feet.

Scuba Divers: may only dive under the direct supervision of a PADI Professional to a maximum depth of 12 metres/40 feet.

padi scuba diving

PADI Scuba Diver Vs. PADI Open Water Diver: Course Requirements

Open Water Diver (4-7 days)

1.) Learn fundamental concepts about scuba through PADI eLearning® or classroom instruction (knowledge development)

2.) Complete five confined water (pool) skill practice sessions

3.) Complete four open water (ocean/lake) dives

Scuba Diver (2-3 days)

1.) Learn fundamental concepts about scuba through PADI eLearning or classroom instruction

2.) Complete three of five confined water (pool) skill practice sessions

3.) Complete two of four open water dives

The PADI Scuba Diver course is (roughly) the first half of the PADI Open Water Diver course. It omits some of the more challenging skills and is a good choice for people who have limited time, or for young children.

bahamas learn to dive

Upgrading from PADI Scuba Diver to PADI Open Water Diver
PADI Scuba Divers may upgrade to an Open Water Diver certification by completing a surface swim, two additional knowledge development modules, a quiz and exam, two confined water sessions and two open water dives.

Have More Questions? Not Sure if Scuba Diving is for You?
Contact a PADI Dive Center or Resort
Try a Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD) experience

Learn about earning college credit by completing PADI courses.

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