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Scuba's alphabet soup

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New divers will quickly realize that there are many acronyms that stand for the various training agencies.  Some of the big ones in this area are PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), SSI (Scuba Schools International), NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors), SDI (Scuba Diving International), and IDEA (International Diving Educators Association).  You will notice the absence of YScuba which ended their program a little over a year ago.  Some of the leaders of the YScuba program began SEI (Scuba Educators International).

Many new divers and those considering diving find this alphabet soup very confusing.  One question they are always asking is "which agency is best?"  That is a very difficult question to answer, and if you search the web there is much debate.  The reality is that no agency is better than another.  If you find yourself amongst divers who were certified by different agencies you will learn that the skills learned were nearly the same.  Many agencies are members of the RSTC (Recreational Scuba Training Council) which sets minimum standards for the member agencies, and agencies that are not members generally follow the same minimum standards.

The most important aspect of choosing where to take your class is not which agency, but choosing the best instructor.  It is best to shop around and "interview" the instructor and find one you are confident about.  There are many different styles of teaching, and you want to find the instructor that uses the style that suits your needs.


  • Dave 5 years ago

    I like your idea of interviewing instructors to find the one that best suits your needs. You make it clear that the instructor makes the experience, not the acronym.

  • Dan 5 years ago

    There sure are a lot of agencies! I can see how that would get confusing trying to pick one.

  • Craig 5 years ago

    Thanks for the info! Do they all charge the same amount for training or is there a more affordable option on the north shore?

  • Mike 5 years ago

    Great stuff! I have a few questions, because I received my scuba certification over a decade ago. Do each of the organizations recognize certifications received through one another? Do PADI instructors accept SSI instructed scuba lessons?

  • Mike 5 years ago

    What should I look for in a instructor when "interviewing"? Is there away to verify the qualifications?

  • Amangi 5 years ago

    Big fan of the SEI

  • Megan 5 years ago

    wow there are more agencies then I thought !

  • SDM 5 years ago

    I would have thought that you would mention LA County Underwater Instructor Association, established in 1954...the first and the most prestigeous of all that followed. It begat NAUI in 1960, and PADI in 1969

    Yes it is very demanding and graduats only the best.

    Since you are a graduate student in history it is suggest that you do more research on the short history of diving instruction.

  • Mike 5 years ago

    SDM...I apologize if there was a misunderstanding with this article. This article is meant to introduce those unfamilar with scuba diving to the current agencies that are found locally. The beginning of the second sentence states "Some of the big ones in this area are..." The "area" that I am writing for is Boston. I will say here that for those reading the article this is not an exhaustive list. If you are interested in other agencies that are found throughout the country and the world try "list of diver training agencies" on Wikipedia. Here you will find a link to the LA County Underwater Instructors Association.
    I would like to extend my gratitude for all those reading. If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to e-mail me.

  • Jose 5 years ago

    I am new to diving and had no idea that there were that many agencies. I was certified by a local YMCA instructor right before they stopped their program. I am glad that the ideals of the YScuba program will continue as SEI. Mike, I appreciate you taking the time to answer SDM. There was clearly a misunderstanding. I understood the article to be dealing with what can be found locally. Again, I enjoy reading your articles and look forward to future ones.