If you’ve always wanted to experience the world beneath the waves, a PADI® Open Water Diver certification is your passport to adventure. Here’s a primer on what getting certified is all about and what to expect in the PADI Open Water Diver course. A PADI Open Water Diver certification card, allows you to:

  • Scuba dive with a partner (without supervision)
  • Rent or purchase scuba diving gear
  • Book excursions with dive boats and resorts
  • Get air fills at local dive shops

PADI’s Open Water Diver course® is the world’s most popular and widely-recognized scuba course. The course includes three phases, and you have flexibility as to how and where you complete each phase. Read on, or watch the video below, to learn what to expect, every step of the way.

Phase 1: Knowledge Development

You must be at least 10 years old, able to swim, and in good physical health to enroll in a scuba diving course. If you meet these qualifications, the first thing you’ll do is learn scuba diving fundamentals during phase one, knowledge development.

During knowledge development, you’ll learn all about scuba equipment, familiarize yourself with scuba terminology, and watch videos of diving skills. Most people complete their knowledge development over a few weeks.  It is self-study, so you control the time it takes for you to comfortably go through the material. The most popular choice for knowledge development is PADI eLearning®, an independent study option where you read, watch videos, and take quizzes using your computer or mobile device. Complete your scuba studies whenever, wherever it’s convenient. On average, the program requires eight hours to complete, but you can take up to 12 months.

At the end of knowledge development, you’ll take a final exam to ensure you have a thorough understanding of scuba diving essentials. Your PADI Instructor will answer any questions you may have along the way.

Phase 2: Confined Water Dives

During phase 2, you’ll take your first breath underwater in a calm environment such as a swimming pool or tranquil lagoon (known as “confined water”). You’ll practice basic diving skills such as clearing water from your mask, ascending and descending. Your instructor will demonstrate and review the skills with you until you’re comfortable performing them on your own. When you feel ready, you’ll move on to the final phase, open water diving!

Phase 3: Open Water Dives

You’ll learn to dive by diving— to a maximum of 18 metres/60 feet. The open water course includes four total dives, usually done over two days. With your instructor by your side, you’ll practice the skills you learned in confined water, and explore the underwater world.

Most student divers complete their dives close to home, in the ocean, local lake, quarry, or other body of water. You can also finish your training while on holiday (known as a referral). Your PADI Instructor can provide you with the appropriate documentation.

After completing four open water dives and all course requirements, you become a certified diver – a title that will last a lifetime. Now you are free to explore the other two-thirds of our ocean planet!  As a PADI certified Open Water Diver, you’ll have access to many exciting PADI courses that help you reach your diving goals—whether they be exploration, ocean conservation, underwater photography, wreck diving, or your other favorite interest areas.

Tips from the Pros:

  • Sign up for your course in person so you can get fitted for your dive equipment. If you have snorkeling gear, bring it with you; some snorkel masks and fins are inadequate for scuba diving.
  • If you see a course price that seems too good to be true, ask what it includes. Some dive shops provide all the equipment you need, others charge additional fees in addition to the course tuition. Open water dives are often a separate cost, and depend on the dive site used.
  • Not sure if scuba diving is for you? Ask your local dive shop about a Discover Scuba® Diving experience. You’ll get to try on scuba gear and test your comfort level in a pool or other calm, shallow water environment with a PADI Dive Pro.

Want to know more? Contact a PADI Dive Center or Resort, or review our scuba certification FAQs.

Ready to dive in? Get started by signing up for PADI Open Water Diver online.

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