Thumbnail for Choosing the Appropriate Entry-Level Scuba Certification blog post. Illustration features Nicole Zelek in diving gear, with a thought bubble above her head that features a certification card.

Choosing the Appropriate Entry-Level Scuba Certification

information scuba May 18, 2022

It's currently customary in the dive industry to sell the Open Water Scuba Diver course as THE entry level to scuba diving. If you call up a dive school and ask to get certified, typically, this is the certification you'd start with. 

However, according to the WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council), this is actually the SECOND level on the ladder of Scuba Diver education. For some reason, Level One (the Scuba Diver course) is often overlooked by dive schools and beginner scuba divers. In another article link coming soon, I explain the reasons this tradition is hurting the dive industry by making scuba diving seem inaccessible. In this blog post, we'll explain the difference between the two courses and how to choose between them. 

The Scuba Diver Course is a subset of the Open Water Scuba Diver Course.

It's pretty simple, actually. The Scuba Diver course (from hereon referred to as Supervised Diver to avoid confusion) is pretty much half of the Open Water Scuba Diver Course (Autonomous Diver). The course requirements for Supervised Diver typically require a four-hour pool session and 2 open water dives*. The course requirements for Autonomous Diver are twice that: 2 four-hour pool sessions and 4 open water dives over the course of at least 2 days.

Both courses lead to internationally-recognized scuba certifications that do not expire.

No matter which course you complete, you will be issued a certification card that should be recognized internationally and that will last you a lifetime. Of course, it is always recommended to get a refresher after 6 months of diving inactivity. 

Entry level students can skip straight to Open Water Scuba Diver or break the process into two steps: Scuba Diver certification, then upgrade to Open Water Scuba Diver if/when ready. 

Many folks choose to start their scuba diving journey with the Open Water Scuba Diver certification, especially since this is the industry "norm". It is also equally appropriate to begin with the less-demanding course and progress if/when ready. Both are valid, lifetime certifications! 

However, at SuperDive NYC we make it a point to emphasize the most important difference between the two courses. The Open Water Scuba Diver certification is an Autonomous Certification - which implies that at the end of your training, you should be able to safely dive with a dive buddy without the assistance of a dive professional. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to (or even should!) start diving on your own... but it does mean you have to reach this level of independence, skill-wise, to earn certification. This of course requires a higher level of commitment and comfort from students.  

If you are not ready to take on this level of commitment, we recommend you start with a Scuba Diver level certification. 

The Scuba Diver level certification will allow you to dive to 40 feet, 12 meters under the supervision of a dive professional. This is preferable over the typical "Discover Scuba", "Intro to Scuba", or "Try Scuba" courses offered at many resort destinations because it's an actual lifetime certification. These other introductory programs do not result in certification and are less cost and training-time effective. 

Decide whether you'd like to complete your open water training locally or abroad.

Check out our Open Water Training Schedule to see when and where we're diving locally. Keep in mind that you'd need to add-on a Dry Suit Diver course to train in NYC-area waters typically from late November to early May. SuperDive NYC also conducts occasional trips abroad that can include training dives.

As much as we'd love for you to complete all your open water training with us, we understand if you have other plans! If you want to finish the open water component on your next vacation, we'll issue referral paperwork and even help you arrange your training abroad. 

 tldr; --- Recommended Courses:

  • Scuba Diver Course (aka. Supervised Diver, WRSTC Level One)
    • for those who want to start with a smaller commitment in terms of cost and training time
    • 1 pool session, 1 open water session (2 dives)
    • Results in lifetime certification up to 40ft/12m with a dive professional
  • Open Water Scuba Diver Course (aka, Autonomous Diver, WRSTC Level Two)
    • for those ready for a more rigorous course
    • 2 pool sessions, 2 open water sessions (4 dives)
    • for those who want to complete all training with SuperDive NYC**
  • Open Water Scuba Diver Course **WITH REFERRAL** 
    • 2 pool sessions
    • Open water training (4 dives over a minimum of 2 days) is conducted abroad with someone else
    • for those preparing to dive abroad - why waste vacation hours training in a pool when you could be enjoying the open waters?
  • Open Water Scuba Diver (Upgrade from Scuba Diver)
    • 1 pool session, 1 open water session (2 dives)
    • for those who are already Scuba Divers and are ready to complete additional training to become autonomous divers!

* course estimates given for SuperDive NYC; actual duration may vary by dive school.

** Open Water training can locally or abroad on trips organized by SuperDive NYC

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