The PADI System of diver education is based on progressive training that builds your skills in an incremental fashion, ensuring that you have mastered basic skills before progressing on to more advanced ones and introducing safety-related information and local environmental knowledge in stages.
I did much of my training with Dive 90 and I can’t praise them highly enough. They’re located at GL51 9TA, just ten or so minutes from Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, and only a few hundred yards from the Junction 10 of the M5.
There are seven recreational diver qualifications in the PADI System:-
Discover Scuba Diving
A one-day PADI program that offers you the experience of scuba diving to a maximum depth of 12 metres. It does not result in a certification but can be credited towards your first open water certification (i.e. Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver). This is perfect for those who are interested in finding out what it is like to breathe underwater and experience what it is all about.
This is the entry level course. The Scuba Diver course can be completed within two days with some online eLearning. Once completed, you will be able to dive to a maximum depth of 12 metres with a PADI professional guide.
Open Water Diver
This is the first qualification which allows you to plan and execute a dive without a PADI professional accompanying you. The course can be completed in three to four days with online eLearning and can be structured in different ways, for example, one evening a week for four weeks, four consecutive half-days or evening, two weekends, and so on. Your local PADI centre will explain the various ways in which they can schedule and deliver the Open Water course. Once you complete the open water diver course, you will be able to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres with a qualified buddy or guide in similar conditions to those you learned in.
There are a variety of specialty diver courses designed for a specific diving activity i.e. digital underwater imaging, deep diver, underwater navigation, dry suit, search and recovery – to name but a few – and you will probably want to choose the one(s) which interest you the most or which are the most relevant to your diving plans or local environment. Most can be completed within one or two days. Visit https://www.padi.com/specialty-courses for details of all the specialty courses available.
Advanced Open Water Diver
The advanced open water diver course is a two-day course comprising five dives, each one covering a specific individual skill. Two of these are compulsory – a deep dive and an underwater navigation dive – and you can select the other three from a supplied list (subject to your PADI centres ability to deliver each one). There is some theory, but not as much as the Open Water course and you will need to complete a knowledge reviews for each of the five subject dives.
The rescue diver course is a two to three day course involving theory, a pool session and some open water dives. The course will give you skills for self rescue, recognising and managing stress in other divers, emergency management and equipment, rescuing panicked divers and rescuing unresponsive divers. In my opinion this is the minimum level of training all divers should aim for if they regard diving as a hobby rather than merely a useful qualification for the occasional overseas holiday, or if they ever dive in UK waters.
Master Scuba Diver
The Master Scuba Diver rating – not to be confused with Divemaster which is the first rung on the ladder of professional qualifications – places you in a very select group of divers in terms of experience and training. Fewer than 2% of recreational divers attain this rating and it’s the top of the ladder in the PADI universe of recreational diving. To reach this level you must be a Rescue Diver and have at least five PADI Specialty Diver certifications along with a minimum of 50 logged dives.
By the time you reach the level of Rescue Diver you will be fully aware of the difference between Master Scuba Diver and Divemaster, and you will probably also have made up your mind which of these qualifications you’re interested in going for next – although there’s no reason why you can’t do both.
The Dive Master qualification puts you on the road to becoming an Open Water Instructor, able to train, supervise and certify novice divers yourself. If you’re interested in becoming an OWI, speak to your PADI centre in the first instance, but I feel I ought to warn you now that this course, referred to as the IDC – Instructor Development Course – is usually fairly expensive. It cost around £1500 in the UK when I was looking at it nearly twenty years ago, and I think it’s more like £2000 now, although there are cheaper packages to be had in warm-water locations abroad. I ended up doing just the first part of the course which gave me Assistant Instructor rating.