Getting a scuba certification, or “c-card,” is your first step into the larger world of diving. Getting certified takes time, effort, and money, but the door that it opens is incredibly worth it. Learn more about who can get certified, and what it takes.
Do I Really Need a Scuba Diving Certification??
The short answer is yes. The long answer: The vast majority of dive shops and tours will require a certification before they let you rent gear or go on an excursion, and having one is a good idea.
Some certification agencies will have special sessions for those who want to explore the world of diving before committing to a certification. This can be a good way to begin discovering whether scuba diving is right for you. But these experiences are pretty limited, and even for these types of dives, the preparation that a certification gives should be invaluable.
Who Licenses Scuba Divers?
Your local dive shop should offer a basic certification for beginners. Getting a certification backed by an appropriate credentialing agency will qualify you to dive just about anywhere in the world.
Who Can Get Scuba Certified?
You can get certified by some institutions as around the age of 10. This will be a junior certification, and most organizations will require you to upgrade it when you reach your mid-teens. The requirements to take a scuba certification course vary by organization, but you may need to demonstrate that you can hit certain basic swimming proficiencies, such as swimming for 300 yards and floating unassisted for 10 minutes.
How to Become a Certified Scuba Diver
Most open-water certifications consist of three parts. The first is a written test. You can take this course as a class at a dive shop, or you may be able to complete it online.
After that, there’s a course that you complete in “confined water,” meaning a swimming pool or a similar environment. The instructor will show you how to put on and use your gear. You’ll learn how to enter and exit the water, how to control your buoyancy, and even the basics of navigating underwater. When you’re secure in those skills, you’re ready for the next step.
The final part of certification takes place in open water, like a lake or the ocean. You’ll perform four dives over two days, demonstrating to the instructor that you’ve truly learned everything they taught you about safety, equipment, and more. Pass all three parts and you’ll receive your C-Card.
How Long Does It Take to Get Scuba Certified?
Certification can take anywhere from three or four days to a couple of weeks, depending on the schedule you set with your instructor.
What Does Scuba Certification Cost?
Each test has a cost associated with it. The cost can vary, depending on where you are. The classroom and closed water portion costs around $200. The open water portion can vary greatly in cost, depending on how where you take the certification, and how far you have to travel to get there.
I’m Certified! Now What?
Getting your C-card is a wonderful accomplishment! But it’s the beginning of your journey, not the end. You’ve opened the door to an incredible new world. Your next steps include finding places to dive, deciding whether to buy or rent your own gear, and continuing your education as a diver.
Look for Your Next Dive
Take time to celebrate by figuring out where to go next. Maybe you want to explore the nearest lake or beach. Maybe you want a luxurious vacation in a scuba divers’ paradise like The coastal U.S. or the Caribbean. (If you’re looking for ideas, check out our Bonaire and Cuba dive guides.) Whatever you do, wherever you go, take time to appreciate your surroundings. It’s okay to feel proud. You’ve taken a big step.
Decide Whether to Rent or Buy Your Gear
Buying your own gear can be a significant financial investment, but if you’re getting a certification, odds are you’re already pretty committed to diving. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying vs. renting. You may want to consider renting gear at a few places to know what you like before making a purchase. That way, you can get gear that you know you like, and also have time to learn it well and adjust it to suit your specific body and needs.
Midwest Scuba will supply all the equipment you need for class at no additional fee. Most courses require you to purchase your own scuba mask, snorkel, boots, fins. There are some things you might want to vary depending on the conditions (like a wetsuit) and some things that might be too big to lug around with you. But a mask and a regulator are important parts of the scuba experience, and they will probably be among the first pieces of equipment that you want to lock down as you start your journey.
As you continue diving, you’ll probably want to expand the gear that you actually own. You want to know it, inside and out, especially as you move through more advanced certification classes and more adventurous dives.
Continue Your Education
Once you have your open water certification, your story is just beginning. There are continuing education programs, like specialty diver courses and advanced certifications. Keep in mind, “advanced” doesn’t mean you have to be an expert when you go in, but rather that these programs are meant to help you to advance your training beyond the basics.
Advanced Certification Courses
Once you have your main certification, most certification boards offer an advanced class that helps you build on the skills you’ve acquired. This class is built around a series of dives that will push you in new directions in very specific ways. These usually start with a small set of required dives as a cornerstone. They usually include underwater navigation and deep diving, and may mandate other courses such as low-visibility diving. After that, you can choose from other specific types of diving, including search-and-rescue, underwater photography, a dry dive (You’ll need to rent or purchase a dry suit) and a sidemount dive (You’ll need to rent or purchase a sidemount wing.)
Deep Diver Specialty Course
Deep diver classes may require some prerequisite course work first, to make sure that you’re ready for the rigors of deep diving. These courses usually focus on dives up to 40 meters / 130 ft deep. You’ll learn how to use specialized deep dive gear. You’ll also receive training in deep dive safety, including managing your gas supply and dealing with nitrogen narcosis. In addition to your regular scuba gear, you’ll need a dive computer on hand.
Rescue Diver Certification Course
This certification course teaches you how to take care of divers in distress. You’ll learn self-rescue techniques, and how to manage stress in others before it develops into an emergency. You’ll also learn how to use certain emergency equipment, and how to rescue panicked and unresponsive divers. You may need a pocket mask for practicing resuscitation.
Get Certified and Go Explore!
Scuba diving is a gateway to a unique part of the planet that most people never get to see with their own two eyes. It’s an unbelievable experience, and one that’s worth your time and effort. Getting that certification is the first step, so get it taken care of, and then go explore!
story and photo credit: scubapro.com