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Open Water Certification

Your Questions Answered

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Diving training in a tropical turquoise island
Alberto Pomares/E+/Getty Images

If you're thinking about learning to dive or you want to know a bit more about what to expect in your certification course I've answered the most common questions here.

What is the Open Water course?

The Open Water course is the basic scuba diving certification course taught by all certification agencies. There are small differences in course content between agencies, but they all cover the same basic skills and knowledge you will need to know as an independent diver.

Who can enroll?

Children as young as 10 years old (12 years old in some countries) can enroll in the Junior Open Water course and those 15 years and older can enroll in the Open Water course. Junior Open Water certified divers are automatically upgraded to Open Water divers on their 15th birthday with no need for recertification.

You'll also need to be in good health with no major health problems.

What does the course qualify you to do?

When you're certified as an Open Water diver you'll be able to dive to 60 feet / 18 meters (40 feet / 12 meters for 10-12 year olds) whenever you're accompanied by a fellow of the same or higher certification level (the other diver must be 18 or older for Junior Open Water divers). You don't have to be accompanied by a Divemaster or Instructor, but can be if you'd prefer. You're also eligible to do the Advanced Open Water course and many specialties.

How long does the course take?

The course is usually taught over 3 to 5 days in dive vacation destinations, but can also be taught over weeks or even months if taken as a part-time course. The course content is the same but the daily workload is much greater, although still quite manageable, on the shorter course.

What do I have to do to complete the course?

  • Knowledge Development
    You will be given a text book and videos to watch and will either study independently in your own time, with the assistance of your instructor, or online with guided e-learning. You will learn the basics of diving techniques, how diving affects your body, diving safety, equipment selection and maintenance, dive planning, and preview the skills you'll learn in the water. There will be a test at the end but if you've studied your material you should have no problems passing.

  • Confined Water Training
    Your confined water training will be conducted in a swimming pool or swimming pool like environment, such as a calm beach. Beginning in water shallow enough to stand up in you'll learn all the basic skills you'll need to confidently and safely enjoy scuba diving. As you gain confidence you'll gradually move into deeper water and learn some more advanced skills and safety drills.

  • Open Water Training
    This is what it's all about - open water diving. Over four or more dives you'll practice all the skills you've already mastered in confined water out in open water, which means the open ocean or another large body of water that is used for diving. You'll practice the skills with your instructor until you're completely confident and can perform them with ease in a real diving situation. Of course you'll also get to check out everything the underwater world has to offer and hopefully develop a life-long love for diving.

Do I have to renew my certification?

The Open Water certification is forever and never needs to be renewed. However, it is recommended that if you haven't dived for a while (usually a year or more) or feel the need to brush up your skills to do a Scuba Review. This review is a short refresher course with a professional that can be integrated into your first regular dive.

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