Exploring the underwater world through scuba diving is an exciting adventure, but it's essential to obtain certification before venturing into the depths with a cylinder on your back. Scuba certification is specifically designed to equip aspiring divers with the necessary training and knowledge to engage in scuba diving safely and responsibly.
We have been asked a number of times about the differences between particularly PADI and the SSI diving training agencies, more so since a number of the Dive Rutland team members undertook a professional crossover to the SSI agency, so we thought we would write this blog to provide you with the information and reassure you that we are not discontinuing with any agency currently offered, just adding another one in.
What is a Diving Training Agency?
There are a number of diving training agencies available to certify with, these being SSI, PADI, and RAID, to name just three. They provide a training framework for dive professionals who have qualified as Divemasters and above within their agencies to teach and assist with diver training.
A framework that defines what a course should contain along with performance requirements. Performance requirements are how a skill is to be defined as being complete and able to be 'signed off'.
All agencies work to the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) training standards.
Mission Statement of the WRSTC
The World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) is dedicated to the worldwide safety of the recreational diving public. As such, one of the WRSTC’s primary goals is the development of worldwide minimum training standards. The establishment of globally recognised and implemented standards is a valuable asset in addressing local and national regulatory issues.
The WRSTC is the mechanism for worldwide cooperation in reaching international consistency in minimum course training standards. Member Councils of the World Recreational Scuba Training Council recognise and accept responsibility for the promotion of worldwide safety of the recreational diving public, international consistency of training standards and worldwide credibility of the WRSTC.
There are a number of ISO standards that apply to recreational diver training for agencies to follow:-
- Introductory training programs to scuba diving – ISO 11121
- Diver Level 1 – Supervised Diver ISO 24801-1
- Diver Level 2 – Autonomous Diver ISO 24801-2
- Diver Level 3 – Dive Leader ISO 24801-3
Training Agencies - PADI and SSI
Both PADI and SSI hold global recognition as diving qualifications, offering a structured path for recreational divers. The beauty is, regardless of whether you opt for PADI or SSI, your certification opens doors to dive centers worldwide, allowing you to explore the depths wherever your fins may take you.
As a recreational diver, the playing field remains level. The real nuances emerge when you contemplate taking the plunge into the realm of professional diving. That's when the SSI and PADI pathways start to diverge.
So, fear not! Whichever diving organisation you choose, rest assured that your certification is your ticket to underwater exploration globally. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the distinctive features of SSI and PADI for those contemplating a professional leap into the mesmerising world beneath the waves.
Whichever agency you choose to qualify under here at Dive Rutland, nothing changes - you will get the same high level of training, the same wonderful professional team members, and the same great high-quality dive equipment.
Examples of what the Training Frameworks does not cover
The quality of training provided by dive professionals is not controlled directly by any of the training agencies, this is down to the dive professional and for those working in a Dive Centre, this will be entirely down to the dive centre management.
Now if a dive professional does not abide by the Training agencies required course standards then this is when the training agency will investigate.
The quality of the equipment in use by a dive professional is again not covered by the training framework provided by the agency but what the professional is expected to carry is.
The agency does not dictate what the price of a course should be - they all tell us we should make a profit but do nothing to help with fees constantly increasing and elearning costs also raising for something that has no printing costs and is just rinse and repeat.
Difference between PADI and SSI?
- PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors
- SSI stands for Scuba Schools International
Both offer internationally recognised diving certifications, qualifications and licenses.
Essentially, there is no difference at all between PADI and SSI; both are just a “brand” of dive learning and certification which were developed to provide divers with a “standard” of learning and professionalism.
We have tried many analogies to explain and the closest we can come to is its like Coke and Pepsi are both cola soft drinks, with a slightly different taste, so is the case with PADI and SSI training agencies.
The course content for PADI and SSI is more or less identical. One thing that differs is the teaching methodology. PADI insists on skills being completed in a set order to meet their standards and pass the course.
SSI allows for slightly more flexibility. For example, if a student is having an issue with a skill, the dive professional can move on and come back to it. This allows the student to grow in confidence by completing other skills before going back to the one they were struggling with.
Both agencies have migrated to online elearning however, PADI have only moved really to this model within the last few years.
Where online elearning and apps are concerned SSI, in our opinion, is a better online platform both for you the diver and us the professionals. The SSI app is easy to navigate and what is really nice is you can see the materials for ALL courses prior to committing to completing a course. This allows you to investigate all the options and see what courses really interest you prior to handing over any monies!
With PADI all materials are purchased upfront.
Both apps allows you to record your dives AND your dive professional to counter sign electronically, however, SSI wins again from our perspective as it is easier to use 'out in the field'.
PADI has a categorisation of dive centres, levels such as:-
- PADI Dive Centre
- PADI Five Star Dive Centre
- PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centre
- PADI Career Development Centre
a full list can be found here
The higher you move up the Dive Centre business levels the more the dive centre pays, BUT it should also mean for you the consumer a higher level of service and quality - well it would if you went to a five star hotel over a two star would it not? But unfortunately in a lot of cases it does not, it just means that a Dive Centre can offer additional training such as PADI Instructor courses.
SSI has a categorisation of Dive Centres
- Blue Ocean Centre
- Diamond Dive Centre
- Instructor Development Centre
- Career Development Centre
These are automatically awarded as the Dive Centre achieves the requirements of the award, with no addition costs for the recognition. The centre works hard to achieve and then awarded as awards should be.
The Dive Centres such as ours are NOT franchises, we are independant businesses using the framework provided by our chosen training agency. The Dive Centre chooses which training agency it wants to be affiliated with and in all cases pays a yearly membership fee.
A Dive Centre puts into place ALL of the policies and procedures for the running of a business including working within the working regulations of the country in which they operate. The training agencies do not dictate those, enforce them or reprimand centres that violate them.
Dive professionals are affiliated with a training agency and pay a yearly membership fee, just like any professional would i.e. your accountant.
With PADI the professionals can operate a model where they do not work under / in a dive centre i.e. they can freelance, with SSI they have to be affiliated to a dive centre and all SSI Dive Centres have to have a nominated quality manager who is responsible for the quality of training delivered by that professional.
With SSI, the professionals are allocated 'pro points' for every SSI training course they deliver.
'Pro points' get credited towards the professional's annual renewal fees, so the busier they are the more credits they receive. Yes some would say a pyramid sale with the more you do, the more the reward but SSI ACTUALLY reward you by reducing the professionals annual fees.
It is important that professionals are rewarded as unfortunately the Dive industry in the UK still heavily relies on the dive professionals who give up their time free of charge. Yes you read that correct you pay the dive centre who then does not directly pay their professionals. This is not the Dive Rutland way, but it is for the majority of UK dive centres - maybe consider that when you look at cheap courses!
How do I choose who to certify or train with?
In our opinion, what is important more than the training agency is the Dive Centre and Instructor you will be training with… we strongly advocate you choose the instructor and / or dive centre first, agency second.
When it comes to scuba diving, selecting the right instructor is paramount for a safe and enjoyable experience. If you find yourself unable to choose your instructor, it becomes crucial to have confidence in the dive center's ability to assign you a fitting guide. After all, these instructors and guides play a pivotal role in ensuring your well-being underwater, making them the face of the diving club, especially for those who are less experienced.
Trust in Your Dive Centre
The first step in this journey is to place trust in the dive centre's selection process. Even if you don't have the liberty to choose your instructor directly, a reputable dive centre will match you with a qualified professional based on your skill level and needs. Their commitment to your safety and satisfaction is what sets the tone for a memorable diving experience.
We produced a blog on choosing a dive centre which is worth a read
Recommendations from friends and fellow divers are valuable, it's equally important to trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to explore other options. Your comfort and confidence in your instructor are essential for an enriching diving experience.
Why the Change?
Here at Dive Rutland we have been proud to be a PADI 5* Instructor Development Centre, but by making the choice to allow YOU to make a choose between agencies, we have had to let go of our 5* Instructor Development Centre rating (Jan 2024). I suppose the question you now ask is why? Well PADI does not allow a 5* Instructor Development Centre to deliever another agencies training even if they do not have the courses such as classified diver within their repertoire.
We have invested heavily into the PADI Training Agency and our dive professionals, but as a business we can not stand still, we have to grow and our mantra has always been to be inclusive (hence our Dive Club is open to any qualified diver regardless to agency) so expanding our offering to include SSI courses means for those divers who want to stay within the SSI framework they can now train with us here at Dive Rutland and take advantage of our great training and the Dive Rutland family.
It's not about taking divers from one agency to another and vice-versa, although that could happen! It is about allowing divers from another agency to take advantage of the great offerings we have here at Dive Rutland and opens up additional courses not provided by PADI to our current diver base as well as continuing to support our less-abled diver community.
Try Dives / Discover Scuba Diving why with SSI
New divers are the life blood of our sport, which is recognised by both agencies but SSI agency provide all of the Try Dive materials to us free of charge, which means our Try Scuba sessions will all moving forward, be under the SSI framework as it will allow us to hold our prices.
Just because you complete the Try Dive using SSI materials does not 'lock' you into completing the SSI Open Water certification as part of your debrief our dive professionals will talk you through the next steps - it is your choice which agency you complete your open water certification through with us.
Do I need to crossover my diving qualifications?
There's no need for a PADI to SSI crossover or vice versa. The Open Water course from both agencies align seamlessly.
Despite the differences in teaching methodologies between the two courses, the ultimate qualification remains identical. So, if you choose to embark on your SSI Open Water journey with us and later decide to pursue your Advanced course there's no need for an SSI to PADI crossover. You can smoothly transition and proceed with your Advanced course without any crossover hassles.
We believe in simplifying the dive experience for you. Your underwater adventures should be about exploration, not navigating complicated crossovers.
Here at Dive Rutland our motto is about producing better, safe, more confident and able divers who go out into the underwater world and have great and safe adventures.
Your journey is important to us, and with a variety of course options, we aspire to meet and exceed the expectations of all divers. Dive into your aspirations with Dive Rutland—we're here to make your diving experience exceptional!