Scuba diving is a great hobby if you love the idea of spending time in the water and exploring an entirely different world than what you’re used to. You get to move freely beneath the waves, which makes you feel like you’re one of the many creatures that share this beautiful environment. If you’re thinking about scuba diving yourself, however, you’ll be needing more than just the right equipment. You’ll also need to get a certification card, or a C-card.
Much like how you’ll need a driver’s license to drive a car, the certification card basically acts as your license to scuba dive, and depending on your skill level, acts as proof that shows you actually know what you’re doing. Certain establishments, like dive centers and scuba dive shops, will be looking at your certificate often. You’ll be needing certification in order to not only dive in certain areas, but also to buy or rent diving gear, without which you can’t dive at all.
Unlike a driver’s license, however, where you can get your certification from one centralized agency, there are numerous places where you can get you scuba dive training and certification. There are many diving certification agencies out there that offer dive training, but it’s more prudent to choose one that is universally recognized as a reputable agency.
Two of the major certification agencies are the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). Both these agencies are recognized by many scuba diving operators globally, and certification from one or the other can get you a long way. But having more than one certifying body can be a bit confusing, so to help you out, we’ll be enumerating the differences between NAUI vs PADI, and help you decide which one works best for you.
What Training and Certification Agencies Offer
Before we dive into the actual differences between NAUI vs PADI certifications, let’s explore what agencies like these actually offer. Dive certification agencies basically train people how to scuba dive, and to give them C-cards to show as proof that they’ve done their training. These certifications will give you a decent amount of autonomy on where you want to dive, and which establishments you can work with or get equipment from, depending on the level of your certificate, which is anywhere between beginner to professional. The best part is, unlike other certifications or licenses, scuba diving certifications do not expire, though you may need to keep yourself active to keep your diving logbook updated.
If you’re new to diving, or are just starting out, there’s very little difference between NAUI vs PADI in terms of basic training, and are basically identical in their approach. The difference between the two agencies become more apparent as you start delving into the professional levels, or if you’re considering training as a dive instructor yourself. Both organizations offer recreational and technical diving courses that are extensive in their own right.
Although your certification is recognized by many diving operators all over the world, some certifications aren’t recognized by one agency or the other, especially so for their respective professional classes. So if you do decide to switch between agencies halfway through, you may need to take a training program you’ve already done once before. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into if you’re choosing between NAUI vs PADI certifications, even before you actually enter one of their training centers.
Comparing NAUI vs PADI
Before making a comparison between NAUI vs PADI, do remember that neither is better than the other. Their courses and certification styles may differ, but at the end of each course, you will turn into a better diver than you once were, and instructors from both agencies work hard to ensure that you turn into the best diver you can be. That being said, let’s look into what makes NAUI vs PADI so different.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the biggest and one of the most well-known dive certification agencies in the world. The US-based agency was established in 1966 and has since been offering a huge variety of diving courses for freediving, technical diving, scuba, and many others. PADI has many facilities all over the world, so it’s almost a certainty that you’ll find one of their dive centers in any dive location. At least two-thirds of all the divers in the US, and at least half of the divers worldwide are certified by PADI.
PADI’s courses puts emphasis on providing their students with as much practice and real-world applications as possible. Aside from providing certifications to divers, PADI’s Project Aware also provides opportunity for divers to help protect the planet’s oceans. PADI is a for-profit organization that puts a significant amount of money into publicity and marketing, and gets most of its money from selling their products. Being the biggest and most well-known diving authority in the world helps greatly in this regard.
While the National Association of Underwater Divers is the second largest known certification agency in the world, it is certainly the oldest in the United States, having been established in 1959. NAUI is a non-profit association that offers very similar courses to PADI, though it prides itself primarily on its more educational approach to diving, with many organizations like NASA, the US Navy Seals and many others making use of NAUI for their training programs.
NAUI emphasizes safety above all else, and is famous for their high training standards, both for their recreational and technical dive courses. Many of NAUI’s training courses are aligned with numerous academic organizations, with many of its divers trained to have a deeper and more scientific understanding of technical diving. Many marine-related scientists consider NAUI as their agency of choice.
Differences Between Courses
Practically speaking, both training agencies provide theoretical and practical skills in their basic courses, with the only difference between NAUI vs PADI being their training philosophies. NAUI’s Scuba Diving Training course and PADI’s Open Water Diver course are their most basic, and for practical diving purposes, are considered to be equal in value. Securing either allows you to dive almost anywhere in the globe. Because of the similarities between these two courses, the skill of the instructor is actually more important that the actual agencies that facilitate the training. So whichever agency you choose, make sure to take the time to look into who will actually be teaching you.
The only real difference between the two basic courses of NAUI vs PADI is that part of NAUI’s basic training involves teaching their divers how to save an unconscious diver, while PADI doesn’t offer such training until much later, during the more advanced courses.
NAUI is known for a more flexible training structure than PADI has, where an instructor may decide on the spot to provide additional training that is more advanced than what was planned if they believe the student is competent enough. The organization is also known to provide fewer courses with each course having more to teach than the standard ones you’ll get from PADI. A huge complaint amongst most divers taking PADI courses is that there always seems to be a new course to pay for. That being said, however, PADI offers in-depth training in a very structured manner.
Another good way of looking into the differences between NAUI vs PADI is by looking at how they conduct their training, and choose the one that works best for you. PADI’s instructors are required to follow programs set by the organization, giving the teaching environment a more structured atmosphere. NAUI, on the other hand, encourages a more flexible teaching style, where instructors are encouraged to teach at their own individual pace, or that of their student’s. Either teaching style works well, and depending on which environment you prefer, each have their own merits.
You will also need to consider how you actually get certified after doing all the classes. With PADI’s case, you will receive certification immediately after passing each course, whilst NAUI will require the recommendation of its instructor on top of passing all the classes before you are given certification. This means that you’ll need to prove yourself in a more practical environment than in PADI. It’s possible to pass all the courses in NAUI, but still not get certified if an instructor thinks you’re too reckless or something along those lines. While most argue that this improves a diver’s chances at surviving the “real world”, and making sure that NAUI’s students are better equipped, some would argue that this needlessly prolongs the certification process. In the end, it all boils down to your own preference.
The choice between NAUI vs PADI can be a tricky thing to consider, but in the end, regardless of which agency you choose, the type of instructor you get stuck with is more important than the actual agency. You can be put in the best school in the world, but wouldn’t learn a thing if your instructor isn’t able to share their knowledge properly. So do your research, ask around, and most importantly, have fun.