Scuba diving is one of the most rewarding activities. Between the calm feelings that the ocean brings and the magic of the creatures that live underwater, it’s hard not to fall in love with scuba diving. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to be an adult to learn how to scuba dive – you can complete the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification from just 10 years old. What’s more, kids’ natural curiosity and aptitude for learning make them some of the best scuba students.

So, what is a PADI Junior Open Water Diver course, and who can take it? Keep reading to find out more.

What is the Junior Open Water Diver Course?

Junior Open Water Diver is a scuba certification for divers who are at least 10 years old but younger than 15. The Junior Open Water Diver course covers the same material as the PADI Open Water Diver course, but it’s adapted for younger children. It’s perfect for eager aquanauts and for parents who can’t wait to get their future little buddies started young so that diving can become a family activity.

  • Please note: Children must be at least 10 years old to start scuba training. However, if your child is eight or nine, they can still participate in a scuba experience program.

A PADI Junior Open Water Diver student practicing in the pool who is 10 years old, the minimum Junior Open Water Diver age

What is the Difference Between Open Water Diver and Junior Open Water Diver?

The main differences between the Junior Open Water Diver and the standard Open Water Diver courses are smaller student-to-instructor ratios and shallower depth limits. Otherwise, the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification requirements are the same as for Open Water Diver.

Junior Open Water Diver Reduced Ratios

For children ages 10 to 11, in confined open water and open water, the student-to-instructor ratio may not exceed 4:1. In addition, there may not be more than two children aged 10 to 11 in the group.

How Deep Can a Junior Open Water Diver Go? 

  • Divers aged 10 and 11 must dive with a PADI Professional or a certified parent or guardian. Dives may not exceed 12 meters/40 feet.
  • Junior Open Water Divers who are at least 12 but under 15 years old may dive to a maximum depth of 18 meters/60 feet and may only dive with a certified adult. All Open Water Divers, including adults, should stay above 18 meters/60 feet until they have received additional training.
    • With additional training in the PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Diver course, divers aged 12 to 14 may explore down to 21 meters/70 feet.

What Else Can You Do as a Junior Open Water Diver?

Once certified as a Junior Open Water Diver, the fun doesn’t stop there. There’s a whole list of specialty and core courses kids can access, depending on their age. For instance, they could learn how to:

View the complete list of scuba programs for kids.

Three PADI certification cards on a sandy beach and which can be ordered as a means of how to upgrade Junior Open Water Diver

How to Upgrade From Junior Open Water Diver to Open Water Diver

Because the Junior Open Water Diver course carries the same requirements, there’s no need to re-take the Open Water Diver course once the diver turns 15. Here’s how to upgrade the Junior status.

Option 1: Order a Replacement Certification Card

The Junior Open Water Diver course covers the same information and skills as the Open Water Diver course. So, a Jr. Open Water Diver may upgrade to Open Water Diver by simply ordering a replacement card once they turn 15 years old.

There’s nothing special you need to do when you order a PADI card online or from a dive shop. The new card will automatically be printed without the “Junior” designation if the diver is at least 15 years old. You can choose from:

  1. An eCard – A digital certification card that’s available immediately after purchase. With access via or the PADI App™ on iOS or Android devices, an eCard is the perfect way to carry proof of your scuba certification everywhere you go.
  2. A physical card – A traditional card that’s made from 70% recycled materials. Being waterproof, it’s the ideal option if you don’t want to carry your phone on the boat. Plus, a physical card always works, even without internet access.
  3. Both – If you can’t decide between the two options above, why not enjoy the best of both? You’ll also get discounted pricing when you buy a certification card bundle.
A Limited Edition PADI certification card and eCard bundle which can be bought to upgrade Junior Open Water to Open Water

When you order a new PADI card to upgrade Junior Open Water Diver to Open Water Diver, you’ll get to choose from a range of Limited Edition designs featuring breathtaking marine life photography. There are also three exclusive eCard designs for PADI Club members. In addition, some replacement card designs include a USD $10 donation to PADI AWARE Foundation™, so you can show off your commitment to protecting our ocean planet alongside your diver status.

Two scuba divers jumping into the ocean from a dive boat using a stride entry as part of a PADI ReActivate scuba refresher

Option 2: Take Another Scuba Diving Course

There’s also another way to get a card that doesn’t say “Junior” on it – and it’s a lot more fun. Take another scuba course! Try out a PADI Specialty and learn how to take great underwater photos and videos or use an underwater scooter.

If you can’t decide what specialty course to take next, then the Advanced Open Water Diver course is for you. It’s the next rung on the diving ladder and is like a PADI Specialty sample platter. On this very practical course, you get to try five different types of diving. This includes navigation, deep diving, and three others of your choosing.

Finally, if it’s been a while since your last dive, then PADI ReActivate® will help refresh your scuba skills and knowledge. You’ll also get an updated “Reactivated” certification card that (as long as you’re at least 15 years old) won’t have the Junior designation.

A PADI Instructor helps a PADI Seal Team participant swim through an underwater hula hoop as part of a buoyancy AquaMission

Scuba Programs for Kids Aged 8 Years or Older

If your kids aren’t old enough to enroll in the Junior Open Water Diver course, they can still have fun blowing bubbles. Ask your dive shop about their Bubblemaker and PADI Seal Team programs.


During a PADI BubblemakerTM experience, children get to take their first breaths underwater. The unforgettable adventure takes place in a pool environment, and the depth cannot exceed 2 meters/6 feet. Bubblemaker participants are always under the direct care and supervision of a PADI Professional. It’s the perfect chance to start getting kids curious about diving or to throw a Bubblemaker birthday party that no one will ever forget.

PADI Seal Team 

Kids who are comfortable in the water can sign up for the PADI Seal Team program. They’ll make multiple dives in a pool while trying different scuba skills, like taking photos underwater, diving with a light, and hovering like an astronaut. No prior experience is necessary, but if you’re unsure whether your child is ready for scuba diving via PADI Seal Team, try a Bubblemaker experience first.

A family going scuba diving in the ocean whose certifications include PADI Junior Open Water Diver and Open Water Diver

Scuba Diving is a Fun and Rewarding Family Activity

Scuba diving is the perfect antidote to the always-on surface world. Underwater, there are no mobile devices to distract kids (or their parents). Everything around you is exactly as life is supposed to be – natural and unfiltered. Plus, scuba diving is a hobby that can be enjoyed as a family for many years, bringing a lifetime of experiences and stories to create together.

Moreover, when kids learn how to scuba dive as a Junior, they’ll see huge benefits to their physical and mental development, social skills, education, and even water safety.

Whether your family is looking for some technology detox time or simply needs a new adventure, contact a PADI dive shop to start your scuba certification today or to learn more about scuba programs for kids. You can even purchase the Open Water Diver eLearning for kids to begin their course at home today!

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