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How to Become a Certified Scuba Diver

Updated on October 7, 2014
Scuba diving open your eyes to a whole new world.
Scuba diving open your eyes to a whole new world. | Source

The Joy of Scuba Diving

Imagine floating weightlessly above a thousand year old wreck, through a fifty foot tall kelp forest, or along a reef wall that seemingly drops into oblivion.

Becoming a certified scuba diver allows you the privilege to see a whole new world that few people ever get to see. You will learn new skills, meet interesting people, gain confidence in your ability to problem solve, and experience the joy of interacting with aquatic life up close and personal. This is how you can become a certified scuba diver and begin discovering the incredible world that is under the sea.

Learning how to use the gear safely in a controlled environment, under the direction of a qualified instructor, is the best way to begin your scuba diving adventure.

Why Do I Need to Get Certified?

Although scuba diving is considered a fairly safe sport, without proper training, it can be very dangerous. Learning how to use the gear safely in a controlled environment, under the direction of a qualified instructor, is the best way to begin your scuba diving adventure.

In addition to safety concerns, all dive shops and boats require a certification card from a reputable certifying agency to fill your tank or allow you to dive with them. As long as you are not breaking a local law, it is not generally illegal to dive without a certification card, however, it is highly inadvisable to do so.

I'm so proud of the United States for going to great lengths to protect these majestic and gentle giants.
I'm so proud of the United States for going to great lengths to protect these majestic and gentle giants. | Source

International Scuba Certification Agencies

Profesional Association of Diving Instructors

Scuba Schools International

National Association of Underwater Instructors

Can Anyone Do It?


Across the board, each agency has a minimum health qualification in the form of a written medical history survey and a swimming test. Answer "yes" to any of the medical conditions that can be hazardous when mixed with the sport of scuba diving and you will need permission from your doctor to start the first pool session.

Basically, if you are in good health, can tread water for a couple of minutes, and swim several laps of a pool without stopping, then you will mostly likely pass the certification process.


You don't need any snorkeling or diving experience to get certified. If you have a fear of water or trouble submerging your face, those fears should be addressed before starting your certification class. If you've never snorkeled before, your instructor can help you learn the correct techniques. Everyone finds it awkward the first time they try it.


Each agency is different in terms of the minimum age required to participate, with additional restrictions put on minors. Most agencies have a minimum age requirement of 10 or 12, with pool only classes for younger divers. Regardless of the qualifications, it is up to each parent to decide if a child is mature enough to take on the sport of scuba diving. They will need to carry a substantial amount of gear, be able to understand basic physics, and react quickly in an emergency situation.


With a little ambition and the right instructor, most physical disabilities can be accommodated for. Divers who are knowledgeable of sign language have the incredible advantage of being able to communicate underwater. Deaf Diving offers classes using American Sign Language.

Using scuba diving to help wounded soldiers has become very popular. The weightless feeling can free wounded soldiers from the physical pain of war, as well as help them heal mentally. The quiet, serene experience of scuba diving has taken away headaches, depression, and post traumatic stress in many of our wounded veterans. Scuba Warriors is on a mission to help hurting veterans by teaching them the joy of learning to scuba dive.

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.

— Jacques Cousteau

What is the Cost to Get Certified?

The prices will vary depending upon which dive shop and certification agency you choose. The fee to the dive shop will usually cost $100-$300. Other costs to factor in are: Certification fee to the agency for the certification card, study materials, air fills, travel expenses to the dive site, gear rental fees, dive boat fee, and the purchase of non-rented gear.

The items that you may need to purchase are: boots, fins, gloves, a mask, a snorkel, weights, gear bag, a light, batteries, gear clips, a knife, and a log book.


What Gear do I Need?

Although some dive shops in resort towns rent everything, most assume you already own some personal gear. The items that you may need to purchase are: boots, fins, gloves, a mask, a snorkel, weights, gear bag, a light, batteries, gear clips, a knife, and a log book. Dive shops do not make very much money off of your certification fee and need to sell you gear to merely survive.

Depending upon which features and manufacturers you choose, plan on spending between $1000 and $3000 on a complete package of quality gear. The buoyancy compensator, regulator(s), and computer all connect together on the first stage of the regulator making it a good idea to purchase those items together. Tanks, wetsuits, and weights are items you can easily rent a la carte while accumulating your gear.

Buying Local

If you decide to purchase your own gear, there are several benefits to purchasing it at a local dive shop instead of online. Obtaining a valid warranty can be priceless when a piece of gear needs premature servicing or replacement. Unfortunately, most companies do not offer warranties, except through their Authorized Dealers. You can go to the individual company websites to see which shops qualify. I have come across a couple of manufacturers who do not authorize online dealers.

Another reason why purchasing your gear from a local dive shop is beneficial, is because of the relationship you build with the staff. They are certified to repair your gear, make alterations, fit you for a proper size, and recommend gear that is specific to the environment you will be diving in. If you do have an issue with your gear they can be a valuable liaison between you and the manufacturer.

Buying Online

Be very careful purchasing gear online, especially from used auctions. Your gear is your life support underwater so this is not the sport to be cheap with. If you decide to purchase used gear always have it serviced by a certified technician and try out the gear in a controlled environment before taking it on your first dive.

A statue I found in Laguna Beach, CA.
A statue I found in Laguna Beach, CA. | Source
There are some very odd creatures on this planet
There are some very odd creatures on this planet
Beware the finger snatchers!
Beware the finger snatchers! | Source

Time to Get Wet

Before scuba diving in Open Water, you will log several hours studying and practicing skills in a pool. For convenience, some agencies now allow the bulk of your instruction and testing to be done online.

Pool Time

The pool sessions are where all the real fun begins. You will learn how to safely set up your scuba gear,and buddy check that every piece of gear is working correctly, before entering the water. Your instructor will guide you to duck your head under the water, while standing or kneeling in the shallow end, to take your first breath from the regulator. It may seem awkward at first, but after a couple breaths you will learn to trust the gear and your instructor's direction.

When you are comfortable, your instructor will guide you into deeper confined water, usually the deep end of a pool, and begin practicing skills. You will learn how to clear a flooded mask, control your buoyancy, take on and off your gear underwater, breath from your dive buddy's primary or alternative regulator, make an emergency accent to the surface, and "find" a regulator that has been knocked out of your mouth.

This might sound intimidating, but one skill you will need to complete is the out of air exercise. This will simulate what it feels like to actually be out of air. Your instructor, never more than an arm's reach from you, will turn off your air. You will suck down the remaining air that is trapped in the regulator's hose, signal to your instructor that you are "out of air" and need to "buddy breath," then secure your instructor's alternate air source and continue breathing normally. Your instructor will turn your air back on before you return to breathing off of your own regulator. You will be more prepared for an out of air emergency after completing this critical skill.

The ocean is full of small surprises
The ocean is full of small surprises | Source

Open Water

To complete your certification, you will make several dives in 20-60 feet of water. The majority fo your time underwater will be practicing the skills you have already mastered in the pool sessions. You will also tour the dive site and look at cool stuff you've only seen in aquariums until now.

Diver's Playground

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef | Source

You're Certified, Now What?

Go dive your little heart out! Go ahead, join a dive club, take a beach vacation, or book a live aboard.

Beyond always diving with a buddy, it is recommended within the industry that you only dive in the same environments in which you were trained. For instance, if your training dives where at a calm lake, you may need further training in order to battle the waves of a rocky coastline. If you want to dive at night, wreck dive, cave dive, ice dive, or dive deeper than the recommended limit set forth by your certifying agency, then it is advised that you continue your diver education and take the appropriate classes. Each agency is different in terms of how you move up the certification ladder.

All certification and qualification particulars have purposly been left out due to the differences in each certification agency and their ability to change at their own discretion to fit the needs of the industry. Your experiece may differ from the above layout. Dive at your own risk!

Scuba Diving Can Make History Come Alive


So What's Stopping You?

What scares you the most about learning to scuba dive?

See results

What interests you most about diving?

The chance to....

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    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      5 years ago from California

      Thanks for the tip! It looks like you dove it on a bad viz day, but that the bay doesn't get the best viz the rest of the time. Looks like a nice easy, shallow dive. I wish I could dive full-time because there are so many amazing sites around the world.

      I have over a hundred California dives and the average viz has been about 20 feet, so the bay isn't too far from what I would expect.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 

      5 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      Jennifer, Regarding Morro Rock diving, may I suggest:

      Dive safely,


    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      5 years ago from California


      The East coast has tons of great diving and some of the best wrecks. You could spend a lifetime diving Florida. Just a quick plane flight away! Best of luck on your new adventure. You'll have to write a Hub about it.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Dallas, Texas through August 23, 2019.

      Jennifer, Fantastic hub about the very sport I am going to attempt next. I'm probably not in the prime location right now, Philadelphia, but I will be looking into it. I travel for my job nearly 100% of the time, so scuba diving would be a great skill to have. Thanks for all the great information.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 

      5 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      Life (and scuba) has been good to me. I lived in Orange County, CA, for 25+ years before we relocated to the Pacific Northwest, and I wouldn't doubt we've dived some of the same sites. Continue your writing and advocacy of scuba. I hope the year ahead provides you with great dive opportunities and material for more writing


    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      5 years ago from California

      Thank you Edward. It looks like you have some interesting Hubs and are quite the diver too.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 

      5 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      Interesting and useful! Great photo support. I hope to read more from you on this topic, and I wish you safe and frequent diving.

    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      6 years ago from California

      Alocsin, thanks for reading and voting. One thing I recommend is to do a "Discover Scuba" course. Most agencies offer it for free or a small fee. You will get an introduction and then get to try it in a pool or calm controlled environment. Some resorts offer it in their pools and/or a shallow dive. The best part is that scuba diving has become very mainstream and the cost of high quality gear is lowering because of manufacturer competition. Renting is a great choice until you decide that you love it and want to go every weekend. I hope you get to do it!

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Something I've always wanted to try -- the certification costs are reasonable and make me want to do it. But the cost of the gear is holding me back, especially since I won't be scuba diving a lot. I think renting is probably the best way to go. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • pramod cherakkara profile image

      PRAMOD C 

      6 years ago from WAYANAD

      U show me a new world .. Thanks

    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      6 years ago from California

      Thanks, it was a fun hub to write. Scuba diving is one of my favorite passions. I'm not sure it I've had the bends. I had good health insurance so I took a ride through the chamber just to be safe. I think I was just very tired and dehydrated. Thanks for reading!

    • Kasman profile image


      6 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Hi avail, I really enjoyed the hub because it is something I've been wanting to do for quite some time. I now know where to go for my information when the time comes! Quick question, have you ever gotten the bends? Voting this up and useful!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      It has been years since I explored with SCUBA and this Hub certainly brought back some fond memories of swimming through warm Panamanian waters. Maybe someday I'll venture back under the water and regain my certification. Cheers!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I don't live nearby anyplace where people go snorkeling or scuba diving so all of this is completely new to me. I have learned a lot. Voted up.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      6 years ago

      Wonderfully written hub! I hope to scuba dive someday... with many other people in an area known to lack the especially dangerous ^_^ voted a bunch!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A great summary of what it would take for me to become a scuba diver. But I'm afraid I'm a natural born coward and would be terrified to attempt it. It's too bad, because I'm missing out on a lot of beautiful underwater scenery.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Divers unite!! LOL congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination. Dive this way to read and vote

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      7 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      I've done a bit of scuba in my time, Jeddah, Barbados and the Grenadines, but alas, can't do it anymore due to health. Diving is simply out of this world I loved it. Also love this hub.

      Voting up

    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      7 years ago from California

      Rex, you are so lucky to have gone through military dive training. Thanks for reading.

    • rex michaels profile image

      rex michaels 

      7 years ago

      Excellent, I and everyone else I am sure appreciates the way you walk us through the process. Diving is one of the skills taught to me by the military, I encourage everyone to explore our underwater worlds, and you can start by reading this excellent article. Great writing, thanks.

      R. Michaels

    • Spread a smile profile image

      Spread a smile 

      7 years ago

      I have done some crazy things like flying a glider plane and rifle shooting.... but bungee jumping and Scuba diving are the two things that remain. Hope that i try scuba diving after reading this....


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