Wreck Diver

Scuba Diving Certifications Explained

When you are new to scuba diving, it can be an overwhelming amount of information. The e-learning, the in-water lessons, the paperwork, the rules & the gear are all likely brand new to you. Once you become certified, it’s the beginning of a very deep hole (ha ha) that can often be confusing and leads to a lot of questions. We took this opportunity to write up a Scuba Diving Certifications “cheat sheet” which explains the different recreational diving certification levels.

This is a high level view of diver certifications levels. It’s important to note there are speciality courses which allow you exceed some certification parameters. Specialty certifications are solely focused on a single aspect of diving (deep, wreck, night, etc). You can learn more about the different advanced certifications on our scuba diving specialty certifications page.

The open water certification is the entry level of scuba diving education. This course takes you from being a land lover to being a fully certified scuba diver who can walk into almost any dive shop in the world to rent or buy gear, book a charter, go on a dive vacation or just go out with a buddy. Depending on WHERE you like to dive, this may be the only certification you need. This course generally takes 4 days of in-water activities (2 days in the pool, 2 days in open water) and can be done year round. Our most popular days for teaching this is on the weekends HOWEVER when do offer weekday/weeknight classes.

Prerequisites: Ability to swim, participant waiver & medical clearance

Depth limit: 60' (age dependent)
Minimum Age: 10

Requirements & process:

  • Completed Paperwork.
  • Successful e-learning (with instructor review of any questions or wrong answers).
  • 5 "pool dives" (done over 2 days in a pool).
  • 4 "open water dives" (done over 2 days in an open body of water.

Start your adventure

Once you have achieved your open water certification, the next level is "advanced" diver*. This certification level expands both your knowledge level of diving in general as well as increases your depth limit to a maximum of 100'. If you plan on diving off the North Carolina coast, this is the minimum certification level we recommend (most of our cool stuff is below 60'). While you do NOT have to go this route if you'd prefer to simply "dive" into specific advanced classes that interest you, some classes do require you to have your advanced certification.

This course can generally be done over 2 different days depending on the classes you'd like to take and dive logistics.

Prerequisites: Open Water Certification

Depth limit: 100' (age dependent)
Minimum Age: 12

Requirements & process:

Earn your Advanced Diver certification

There is a big point of confusion between what an "Advanced Certification" is versus a "Specialty certification". We talk more about it on the below linked pages however the explanation is fairly simple.

Your advanced certification is a new rating which, when earned, gives you a new depth limit. It's achieved by doing the 1st dive of 5 speciality certifications.

A speciality certification is the full course in that speciality and gives you the knowledge, skills & certification in a very specific area (wreck, navigation, nitrox, etc)

Prerequisites: Varies

Depth limit: Varies
Minimum Age: Varies

Requirements & process:

  • Each specialty certification will have it's own specific requirements, prerequisites & equipment needs.
  • Check each specialty page for more information.

Learn about speciality certifications

You came, you saw, you conquered. A master diver is the highest achievable rating in a recreational diver's journey. While there are several branches of dive education (TEC, PSD, etc), this is the highest rating achievable in the recreational realm. The great news about this is instead of it being a class or certification, it's a rating. Once you have completed the below requirements, you simply apply for the rating and upon confirmation you've completed the necessary requirements, you receive it.

Prerequisites: Open water, Rescue

Depth limit: 100' (age dependent) or 130' (with deep specialty certification)
Minimum Age: 15

Requirements & process:

  • 4 "specialty" diving certifications
  • Rescue course completion
  • 50 logged dives

Reach the pinnacle

Divemaster is often confused with Master Diver. Master Diver is the highest achievement for a recreational diver whereas divemaster is the entry level professional certification.

This certification takes weeks or months to achieve. As part of your training. you will observe & participate in live classes, work one on one with instructors to hone your ability to perform skills they teach students, swim tests, manage an unresponsive diver at the surface and much, much more.

A common misunderstanding is you will HAVE to be a professional once you complete this course. That is not true as a diver can select to become a non-active divemaster. So you can further your education and choose to not actively work as a divemaster.

Prerequisites: Open Water, Advanced Diver, CPR & First aid, Rescue

Depth limit: 100' (130' with deep diver certification).
Minimum Age: 18
Logged Dives: 40 to start, 60 to complete your divemaster certification.

Requirements & process:

  • Sit down for an interview with an instructor to plan your training.
  • Manage your training schedule.
  • Instructor signature for each element.
  • Score at least 82 points (1-5 rating system) on your 24 skills assessment with at least one skill receiving a 5.

Go Pro!