PADI vs SSI certification for scuba diving: Which one to choose?

Have you been thinking about becoming a certified scuba diver? Like most beginners, you’re probably looking for the best place to learn diving under the guidance and attention of a highly trained, experienced professional. To help with your search, Professional Association of Diving Instructors (''PADI'') and Scuba Schools International (''SSI'') are two of the world's prestigious scuba diving agencies and your best options. Let’s compare the PADI vs SSI certification so you can choose the most suitable one for you.

What is PADI?

PADI is a recreational diver training organization founded in 1966 by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson. It is one of the greatest scuba diver training organizations in the world that offers programs and diving courses from entry-level to professional diving courses to start your diving career.

Being PADI certified means the individual has completed a diving which has been teached by a PADI instructor. After completing the scuba diving theory, an exam and practical exercises, they can safely participate in diving activities up to the level of the certification they hold.

What is SSI Certification?

SSI is also an organization that teaches the skills involved in scuba diving and supports dive businesses and resorts. One of the pioneers in scuba diving training, Robert Clark, started SSI in the United States in the year 1970. SSI was also the first organization to offer a full teaching curriculum, including the first full-motion video. The SSI organization is comparable with the PADI organization.

''I want to do my PADI Open Water''

Have you heard the phrase “I want to do my PADI Open Water”? Most new divers say this because “Open Water” is the introductory course of PADI certification and so the phrase became synonymous to “I want to learn diving”.

However, keep in mind that although PADI is an organization that teaches, among other things, scuba diving and it’s not the only one that does so. As mentioned, SSI is another well-known school around the world where you can learn diving. You can also choose the local organizations in your country, like the NOB in the Netherlands or the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) in the United Kingdom.

Differences between the PADI and SSI diving courses

PADI and SSI are both regulated and checked by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (''WRSTC''). The courses for PADI and SSI are more or less similar. The  biggest difference is the teaching methodology. In PADI, you need to complete a set order to meet their standards and pass the course while SSI allows slightly more flexibility for students to grow in confidence by completing other skills first.

Both agencies offer e-learning options as well as a printed manual. PADI requires that you purchase the materials while with SSI, you can choose to either borrow or buy your manual. The PADI e-learning course will cost you money whereas SSI offers the e-leaning course for free via the SSI app.

If you get PADI certified, your PADI diving instructor will process the results in the PADI system. After a while (in general this should take a month), you will receive your PADI certification by post to your home address. In the meantime, the PADI diving instructor/diving center will provide you with an temporary card. If you get certified by SSI, you will receive immediately your diving certificate in the SSI app.

In summary:

  • Content of the course: The SSI course is more flexible and can be aligned with the students' learning curve;
  • Costs: The costs for the SSI Padi Open Water course is, in general, lower compared with the PADI Open Water course;
  • Certification card: The digital card of SSI is immediately available for free and a physical card will be send to your home address. PADI sends you a physical certificate to your home address and in the meantime, a temporary card will be provided. The PADI eCard is also available via the PADI app, but that is only available for an additional fee.
  • eLearning: The SSI eLearning is available for free via the app while the PADI eLearning course is only available for a fee (as this is part of the course).

Equivalents of the PADI and SSI diving courses

Sometimes, we want to have more information of the equivalent course of the other diving organization. However, we often spend too much time in finding the equivalent course. If you are looking for the equivalent PADI or SSI course, be careful as some of the courses have similar names but they are not comparable. For example, the PADI Advanced Open Water course is not same course as SSI Advanced Open Water course).

Below, we have summarized the equivalents of the main PADI - and SSI courses.

  • PADI Open Water - SSI Open Water
  • PADI Advanced Open Water - SSI Advanced Adventurer
  • PADI Rescue Diver - SSI Diver Stress & Rescue
  • PADI Divemaster - SSI
  • PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (IDC) - SSI Open Water Instructor

Note that there are differences between the PADI and SSI instructor courses. A PADI OWSI can, for example, teach up to the level of the Divemaster course. Within SSI, there are multiple instructor levels such as Divemaster Instructor and Assistant Instructor Trainer.

GO PRO - Difference between PADI and SSI professionals

Practicing scuba diving enables you to share your love of the aquatic world with others. If you have plans of becoming a diving professional, the first step is your divemaster training.

Instructors for PADI can work independently which means that, If you have completed the instructor development course (IDC), you can teach anywhere. For SSI instructors, you have to be affiliated with an SSI center or dive shop to teach. This means that you cannot provide any SSI diving courses without being affiliated to a SSI diving center.

Another difference is that a crossover from a PADI instructor to a SSI instructor is quite easy. By following the SSI Instructor crossover course, you will be a SSI instructor in a few days. A crossover from PADI to SSI is more complex. As an SSI instructor, you must join the Instructor Development Course (IDC) and pass the PADI Instructor Exam (IE).

If you are thinking about starting your career in the diving industry and you are still at the beginning, we recommend to do your research about being a PADI instructor or SSI Instructor.

The PADI eLearning and SSI eLearning

Both certifications are accepted all over the world, and both have online eLearning programs and extensive training pathways. PADI has an eLearning program that allows you to begin your dive education at your convenience, using your desktop, laptop, or mobile device, and finishing your water training with a PADI Professional. 

Over the past few years, SSI has moved up its game about online certification and study. They have an app where students can log their dives, have course materials assigned by an instructor, and display the courses and qualifications. If you are sign-up with an SSI diving center, you can use certain online information for free.

Recommendations in choosing PADI vs SSI

To summarize: Both PADI and SSI offer world-class diving training around the world. They both maintain high standards of practice across the globe. SSI is generally cheaper, so if you are looking for a lower price, you can do your SSI Open Water. If you are backpacking/travelling without too much stuff, then we also recommend to use SSI. With SSI, you can borrow the study materials instead of buying them so you don't have to take the books with you. In addition, you will receive the online certificate in the SSI app so you don't need to travel back home to get your diving license.

The most important part is your personal preference. Your experiences with the diving professionals, diving center and the location of diving are by far more important than the differences between PADI and SSI as described above. For new divers, the diving instructor is the one who will give you an wonderful diving experience (or the worst) so choosing the right diving center and/or diving professional is the most important one.

We don't have a big preference for one of these diving organizations. They have both high standards and they aim to train their diving professionals in the best way. But if you are really asking for our opinion, we have a preference for PADI but that is just because instructors are operating independently and PADI is worldwide accepted. They are charging a higher fee for courses such as the PADI Open Water course, but remember: you only have to get your diving certificate once.

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