scuba certification levels

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 the below parameters but those are specialties which are solely focused on a single aspect of diving (deep, wreck, night, etc). You can learn more about the different advanced certifications on our specialties certifications page.





Open Water

Master Diver

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.

Prerequisites: Open Water

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

Requirements & process:

- 5 "overview" dives from 5 speciality diving certifications (Wreck, Buoyancy, Nitrox, etc).

- The student may pick those courses but they MUST include deep & navigation.

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 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 are wanting to dive, this may be all you need.

Prerequisites: Ability to swim & 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).

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 level for a "recreational diver". 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

Depth limit: 130' (age dependent)
Minimum Age: 12

Requirements & process:

- 4 "specialty" diving certifications

- Rescue course completion

- 50 logged dives