Are you planning on learning to dive?

Like me, you might be wondering which one of these 2 scuba Training schools is the best,

or rather, which one is best for you.

Honestly, I believe neither is better or worse than the other.

I would then ask whether you plan to be a recreational diver or go pro, but that's a discussion for another day. So, let me clarify a few things beforehand. Both agencies follow the general structure and standards laid out by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council. (WRSTC) So, there is no significant difference between the two.

The WRSTC provide every diving agency with a minimum requirement for each course taught, and therefore, most training standards are pretty universal.

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Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI is the world’s largest scuba training agency. By choosing PADI you are choosing a strong brand, and probably the most well known scuba diving agency out there, but also the one that imposes the most constraints in terms of standards to be adhered to. If you are looking at becoming a professional scuba diver and possibly opening your own business, PADI Instructors can teach independently of a dive store which some may prefer.


Scuba Schools International. SSI is the world’s largest store based training agency and is being represented more and more the world over. They have a great system of e-learning and an interesting training approach that allows instructors to integrate their personal experiences into their teaching methodology. SSI professionals must however be affiliated with a dive centre.

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Flexibility in Teaching Methods

With regards to teaching methods, SSI seems to allow its instructors a lot more flexibility when it comes to how they teach their students, which can provide real world experience and a personalized touch.

SSI also allows their fledgling divers to learn at their own pace. Struggling with a skill? Move on and come back to it later when you feel ready, whether it is completed later that day or the next. As long as all skills are completed by the end of the course you will receive your certification.

PADI courses tend to be more rigid, adhere to a strict plan for each section of the course and don't allow for personal input that can lead to over teaching. This means that if you have difficulty with one skill, you can not progress until this skill is completed.This is not necessarily a bad thing. PADI standards have been tried and tested and produces great divers. So, don't try to fix what isn't broken right?

In my opinion this is probably the biggest difference between the two schools.

My thoughts on the matter, if they mean anything, is that different people learn differently. Some learn faster, some learn slower, some like more structure and some learn better with flexibility. Choosing the best fit for you can make all the difference to whether you fail and hate it or succeed and love it.

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Learning material costs and ease of use

Both agencies offer e-learning options as well as printed learning materials.

PADI requires that you purchase the materials – no matter whether you are traveling around the world or learning at home.You can choose to buy both the e-learning or printed material directly from PADI or through a PADI dive centre. PADI does not allow you to share a manual between two members of the same family or among friends and each manual or e-learning kit has a PIC (Personal Identification Certification) assigned to it, without which your instructor can not certify you at the end of your course.

The PADI eLearning prices are approximately: Open Water Diver 179 US$ | Advanced Open Water Diver 167 US$ | Enriched Air Nitrox 175 US$ | Scuba Review 65 US$. With printed material being slightly cheaper.

With SSI you can choose to either borrow or purchase your manuals.

In other words, you don’t have to buy the materials. Whether you purchase or borrow the manual you will get the digital kit as soon as you sign up for a course with an SSI dive centre, regardless. When signing up for your course with an SSI dive centre you can create an account free of charge, and the dive centre will send you the digital kit through the SSI online system.

The price for the digital kits vary depending on the courses, but most of them cost in the region of 50$ US. Most dive centres will include this in the cost of the course and send it to you via you SSI app.

Both agencies will send you a confirmation mail and deliver you a printed certification card to your chosen address once you have completed your course.

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PADI: Continue your Adventure

PADI philosophy dictates that students start with their Open Water Course, continuing with the Advanced Open Water Course, and then supplementing their diving education with Specialty courses, and ideally, carry on to do the o2 Provider and Rescue Diver Course.

Recreational divers can reach the level of Master Scuba Diver by completing the Rescue Course, 5 specialty courses, and have logged 50 dives or more.

Since 2017, the application fee for the Master Scuba Diver rating has been waived by PADI.

SSI Diver career path

The SSI path is slightly different. The focus after the Open Water course is more on gaining experience and learning new Specialty courses. SSI do offer an Advanced Adventurer course, which is very similar to the PADI Advanced Open Water course (5 dives, each one is the first dive of a Specialty course) but not to be confused with the SSI Advanced Open Water which is a recognition award received after completed 4 Specialty courses and have 24 logged dives. SSI have other awards that recognize training and experience, that are automatically given at no extra charge to those who meet these requirements. These include: Master Diver (4 Specialties + Diver Stress and Rescue + 50 dives), Century Diver (100 logged dives), Silver 300 Diver (300 logged dives), Gold 500 Diver (500 logged dives).

For non professional levels, PADI and SSI certification are equivalent and you can go from one to another easily. That means that you could do the SSI Open Water Course, then the Advanced PADI, then why not keep going with SSI for the React Right and Stress & Rescue Course. It's all up to you.

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Different agencies, different “out of air” scenarios

Not really important to your decision but an interesting fact nonetheless, when doing your course, SSI and PADI have a different approach to an “Out of Air” scenario.

While PADI teaches their students who run out of air to signal and then reach for their buddy’s alternate air source, SSI teaches them to go for the primary regulator of their buddy, yes, we are talking about the regulator that you are breathing from.

PADI’ approach is to reach for the less dangerous and easy to reach spare air source, not endangering or panicking your buddy. Whereas SSI’ approach is based on the fact that a panicked, out of air diver will reach instinctively for the next available air source, therefore every diver is prepared for the fact that he might have his air source yanked out of his mouth and how to react correctly in such a situation.

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Final thoughts

The differences between PADI and SSI are quite small, but at the end of the day, they both offer quality courses and produce capable divers.

knowledge and experience are a must, however, enthusiasm, personality and attitude play a huge role as well. After all, I believe it’s not the certification agency that determines the quality of the training, but the instructor who actually teaches you. Whichever school you decide to take your course with, it is important that you feel comfortable while doing it, and it’s crucial that you feel confident in your instructors teaching capabilities.

Good instructors are patient, have empathy, teach safe diving practices and instill confidence in their students. They shouldn't just hand out certifications, but teach vital skills and be aware of their importance.

Remember, passionate, dedicated instructors produce passionate, safe divers.

Happy diving!

If you have any questions on which could be the right choice for you, please do not hesitate to contact us for any information you might require.

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