SCUBA Certification Agencies- PADI, NAUI, BSAC, CMAS and more

Scuba Diving FlagIn order to successfully complete any Scuba Diving training, a student receives what is called a C-Card or a Certification Card. This card acts like a license to dive and all dive shops are required to  ask to see this card before renting out any dive gear and equipment. As a sport recreational scuba diving doesn’t have any one centralized certifying or regulatory agency, but is mostly self regulated. There are, however, several large diving organizations that train and certify divers and dive instructors and have become recognized certification agencies of the sport the world over, which most dive outlets and dive shops consider proof of proper scuba training.

These agencies work by training and certifying instructors in their syllabus and teaching methods, and then allowing those instructors to certify individual divers. In addition to providing all levels of diver training, the agencies also regulate the sport as a whole and represent diving professionals such as dive masters, dive instructors and dive operators. They widely participate in researching dive medicine, promoting marine conservation as well as marketing diving as a sport.

At a beginner level, the certification agency doesn’t play too much of an importance as the courses they offer as more or less similar courses and any main agency will be recognized by dive operators anywhere in the world. Right up to the professional level training the agencies recognize each others qualifications for recreational diving. However, when it comes to diving professionally they may not recognize each others qualifications.

When you first start off diving, you need to consider the instructors experience and the dive center offering up the course rather than letting the agency dictate your choice.

Here are the most recognized Scuba Certification agencies around the world today. Of these, PADI and NAUI are the most prevalent in the United States.

PADI- Professional Association of Diving Instructors
PADI LogoBased in the United States and by far by the biggest and most recognized dive certification agency in the world, PADI was started in 1966 to improve the training into a variety of different courses rather than just the one single universal course. prevalent at the time. PADI courses are very performance based dive programs. The introductory level emphasizes practical knowledge, safety and motor skills along with the foundations of diving physics, physiology and chemistry.

PADI centers are the most widely spread out across the world and you can find one in almost any dive destination. More beginner divers are certified by PADI than all other agencies combined. It has certified approximately 70% of divers in the United States and approximately 55% of divers worldwide.They are very active in promoting the sport and also in marine conservation through their Project AWARE operation.

NAUI- National Association of Underwater Instructors
NAUIAgain a United States based agency, NAUI started in 1959 is the oldest recreational scuba certification agency. NAUI is a non-profit association which was started for the promotion of dive safety through education. Its diver courses are very similar to that conducted by PADI and SSI and it enjoys a status of being the second largest scuba certification agency after PADI.

NAUI boasts of a no. of celebrities and industry pioneers certified by them like Kevin Costner, Tiger Woods (NAUI divemaster member), Cameron Diaz, Jacques-Yves Cousteau (inventor of the aqualung) and many more. Many of whom have popularized the activity for NAUI. As of 1997 NAUI published standards for teaching technical diving as well.

BSAC- British Sub Aqua Club
BSACFounded in 1953 and based in the United Kingdom, BSAC is the largest dive club in the world. With over 50,000 members it has being recognized as the official governing body of recreational diving in the United Kingdom. BSAC operates through 1600 local independent dive clubs and over 400 diving schools world wide. Given that UK waters are relatively cold and have restricted visibility, BSAC training emphasis on rescue training very early in the programme.

CMAS- Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques/ The World Underwater Federation
CMAS is the international umbrella organization for diver training organizations. Founded in 1958, CMAS is based in France. The organization offers the international framework for diver and instructor qualifications and members of the CMAS Council are representatives of the other recognized dive agencies.

The training philosophy of CMAS members originates from professional or military diving backgrounds and tends to reflect the full range of European and world diving standards.The difference in the philosophy for diving between CMAS and US-originated dive education is very distinct as their ideology is entirely about quality education over profit, which accounts for its courses being taught worldwide in more dive schools than dive shops.

SSI- Scuba Schools International
SSI LogoWith 35 Regional Centers and Area Offices around the globe, the 1970 established SSI is based in the United States. It has well over 2,200 authorized dealers and supports Dive Businesses and Dive Resorts. A major difference between SSI and other diver education organizations like PADI, NAUI, CMAS and others is that SSI is a Retail based organization, intended to ensure the quality of training worldwide.

Other Agencies
IDEA– The International Diving Educators Association (
ACUC– The American Canadian Underwater Certifications (
PDIC– The Professional Diving Instructors Corporation (
SDI/TDI- The Scuba Divers International/Technical Divers International (

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  1. Alex Fisher says:

    certified NAUI lost my card how do i Get a replacement?

  2. NAUI Instrucftor says:

    I am a NAUI Instructor for 10 years. I've worked with PADI instructor & DM before and had no problem with PADI guys until I met with one newly certified PADI Instructor. I was on the midst of setting a dive club at our location and agree that OW between both agencies are the same so as not to confuse any prospect or newbies. However, to my surprise and not informing me earlier, she introduced 2 pool session and 2 open water trip to certify a scuba diver when for NAUI, I need at least 5 each. I thought she wants to "sell" herself as the more popular instructor more than me in the club. I've already explained about NAUI standard, and I really felt like being shortchanged.
    Fact was she is trying to use her PADI Scuba Diver course against my NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver course. She never explained to her student the difference and certainly not to me. She should use the PADI Open Water scuba diver course in the club, not trying to "cheat" me or hiding the info from the students. I also doubt it that she explains for PADI Scuba Diver, they must dive with a PADI instructor only until they get their OWSD
    Although on meeting her later, she agrees to make her training as 4 Open Water trips but she never want to admit the explanation above. Later, I disbanded the club due to out of principle and political issues (including her meddling !) and after that, she used all my contacts to get more students and totally "deceived" me about her view of training before. I summarized that episode as what always many people are saying that PADI is "greedy" and that instructor having no principle on such matters. Commercial gain is their priority. PADi is the really gaining much under their Scuba Diver course against Open Water course by other organization. Yes, no wonder they captured the dive market but out of having no principle or ethics , only money counts.

    • That's why I switched to SSI

    • Yioung Cheon Kang says:

      I am an ex-PADI Course Director, now teaching as a SSI Instructor Certifier. Personally I had gone through some business and ethical problems with PADI and switched to SSI.
      However, as of an Instructor having taught and knowing PADI courses, you are not dealing with PADI instructor’s (lady) way of teaching in the right way – I think.
      PADI has 5 Confined water sessions and 5 open water sessions.
      Sessions here does not necessarily imply Trips.
      Confined water sessions can be done even in 1 trip to confined water as long as both student and instructor can handle all that is to be taught and learned(and practiced).
      5 Open Water sessons that include 1 skin diving and 4 open water training dives has to be done in over 2 days (over a weekend in which case 1 trip can cover 2 days !!)

      I am not trying to cover PADI’s ass because I do not like them either.
      However, PADI’s system has nothing wrong with teaching SCUBA Diving.
      It is individual instructor who does not run the course as is written.

  3. you not so far from the truth!!!!!!!

  4. jim patera says:

    I can’t find my old certification card. It’s been many years and I have probably lost it.
    How do I get a copy or something so that I can get a refresher course without going through the whole certification process?
    The original card was issued about 1966 through a store in Berywn Illinois. Agency unknown at this time.
    Can you help me?

  5. im a NAUI diver.
    looking to do advanced divers course.
    still have my NAUI certified card with me.
    the dive shop is PADI accrdited though. will they allow me to do PADI advanced divers course if i present my NAUI open water scuba diver card?

  6. Retired u.s navy deep sea diver lost scuba cert card but have navy diver card why is navy card not good enough to rent gear? How do I get new scuba card?

  7. Charles Brown says:

    I did the Swat Diving course and I certified with ten dives in open water. An agency’s training for special forces that began more than eight years ago to conduct courses for the general public

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