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5 Courses to Advance Your Scuba Diving Certification

Take the Next Step After Entry Level Diving Certification

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You have completed an open water certification; you have been diving; and frankly, you're pretty good at it. Congratulations! You are ready to take the next step in your diving career. Dive organizations offer a variety of advanced, or second-level scuba diving certifications. Some advanced courses simply introduce divers to new underwater activities, while other courses are more rigorous and include a variety of rescue and guiding skills. Here is a guide to help certified divers advance their diving skills with five of the most popular scuba diving organizations: PADI, NAUI, SSI, CMAS and BSAC.

1. PADI Advanced Open Water Diver

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• PADI: The Professional Association of Dive Instructors

• Prerequisites: PADI Open Water Certification (or equivalent from another organization)

• Minimum age: 15 years old (12 years old for the Junior Advanced Open Water Diver)

• Number of dives: 5 dives over a minimum of 2 days

• Course philosophy: The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course introduces certified open water divers to different diving environments and activities beyond the open water level. This is designed as a fun course to keep divers interested in diving, and to help them explore different areas of specialization.

• Details: The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course requires a deep dive and a navigation practice dive. Student divers choose three more dives experiences from a list including night diving, wreck diving, peak performance buoyancy, diver propulsion vehicles, underwater photography, etc. Divers must purchase the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Manual for independent study, or enroll in the PADI E-Learning Advanced Open Water Diver Course online.

2. NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver

dive buddies photo
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• NAUI: The National Association of Underwater Instructors

• Prerequisites: NAUI Open Water Certification (or equivalent from another organization)

• Minimum age: 12 years old for the Junior Advanced Scuba Diver

• Number of dives: 6 dives

• Course philosophy: The NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver Course is designed to help students experience new dive sites and activities. Students explore different kinds of diving and learn what diving activities they enjoy. This is a good way for divers to get additional training, learn about local diving, or acquire a NAUI certification if their inital certification is from a different training organization.

• Details: The NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver Course includes three required training dives in night/low visibility, navigation, and deep diving. Students may choose the remaining three dives from other specialty areas such as search and recovery, hunting and collection, computer diving, and more.  

3. SSI Advanced Adventurer

shipwreck photo
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• SSI: Scuba Schools International

• Prerequisites: SSI Open Water Diver Certification (or equivalent from another organization)

• Minimum age: 15 years old (12 years old for Junior Advanced Adventurer)

• Number of dives: 5 dives

• Course philosophy: The SSI Advanced Adventurer philosophy is similar to that of the PADI and NAUI Advanced Open Water courses: divers sample different kinds of specialized diving under the supervision on an instructor. The idea is to introduce divers to new and exciting areas of diving, and to help them determine what kinds of diving activities interest them.

• Details: Divers choose five specialty areas they are interested in exploring and complete an introductory dive in each of the areas. SSI does not appear to demand dives in any specific area, while PADI and NAUI require deep, navigation and low visibility (NAUI only) dives.

4. CMAS Two Stars

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• CMAS: Confederation Mondiale Des Activites Subaquatiques (aka World Underwater Federation)

• Prerequisites: CMAS One Star rating plus 30 dives completed after CMAS 1 Star Certification. Completion of a first aid course including CPR within the last 2 years.

• Minimum age: 16 years old

• Number of dives: 4-6 dives over 2-3 days minimum

• Course philosophy: CMAS courses are generally longer, more in depth, and cover a wider range of information than PADI, SSI, and NAUI courses. PADI, SSI and NAUI cover similar information, but break it up into a series of shorter courses. The CMAS Two Star rating is the next step after the CMAS One Star, entry level certification. The CMAS Two Star rating is roughly equivalent to a PADI Rescue Diver Rating. The course is designed to evaluate a diver's skills and train him to handle critical situations both under water and on the surface.

• Details: Based on internet research, the CMAS Two Star course includes theory and in-water training, and requires 4-6 dives over a minimum of 2-3 days.

5. BSAC Sport Diver

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• BSAC: The British Sub-Aqua Club

• Prerequisites: BSAC Ocean Diver Qualification

• Minimum age: 12 years old, 14 years old to go deeper than 20 meters

• Number of dives: 5 dives in different specialty areas

• Course philosophy: The BSAC Sport Diver Course exposes divers to different areas of specialty diving, allowing them to gain experience with various dive environments and activities. In addition, the course includes work with surface marker buoys, rescue skills, and different breathing gases. Divers also get a taste of leadership skills as they learn how to support and assist a Dive Manager (the dive leader).

• Details: The course includes theory, confined water work, and open water dives.  

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