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Posted on 10/11/2017

 You are probably reading this because you are interested in diving and have come across one of the biggest diving dilemmas in modern history.

Should you follow diving courses offered by SSI or PADI?SSI Dive Briefing

Oh, we know, it’s a doozy of a question!

If you are new to the diving world and overwhelmed by the different certification options, fear no more. Manta Dive is here to help you unravel this mystery for you once and for all.

We will just go ahead and say this now, neither of the two is better or safer than the other. SSI and PADI both follow guidelines set forth by the WRSTC (or World Recreational Scuba Training Council), which means that both are equally capable of training and certifying new divers. As they both share the same scientific foundations, the quality offered by the two are basically the same. Having said this, there are small differences in the techniques both use to train new divers. Plus, if and when you do decide to become a professional diver, the choice does become a bit more complex. If you are a new in the diving world you will learn what the small differences are between PADI and SSI and if you want to take diving as your profession we will explain you when the difference between PADI and SSI will really make a difference for you. So, let’s say no more and dive right into the topic.SSI Open Water Course

Small differences

Name and Rights of the Diving Courses

First thing you should know is that PADI and SSI share a diving-level-structure. This means that someone interested in learning to dive will go through the same main diving levels (called courses) regardless if they choose for PADI or SSI. After finishing a diving course and receiving your certification you would gain the same diving limits and preparedness as the other. However, PADI and SSI name their courses differently from one another. In figure 1, you can find the most common courses offered by PADI and SSI and also learn how each equivalent course is named differently depending on the diving school.  

Diving Teaching Techniques PADI VS SSI

Okay, now let’s assume that you are interested in recreational diving, rather than following the professional route. When it comes to recreational courses, such as your Open Water or Advanced Open Water, SSI has a reputation of being more flexible in its teaching techniques than PADI. Though you will learn the same skills, the approach to teaching differs slightly.

Need an example? Let’s say that you are enrolled in the open-water course, the first step in recreational diver training. No matter if you choose PADI or SSI, at the end of the course you will have all the tools you need to be a proficient diver to a maximum depth of 18 meters. SSI allows instructors greater flexibility in sequencing their training sessions depending on the student’s personal training needs. If you’re struggling to clear your mask on your first dive in the pool, no problem, do some other skills and try it again later when you have more confidence. PADI, on the other hand, is more prescriptive when it comes to sequencing and a PADI instructor will insist that you complete the first dive skills before being allowed to move onto dive two. This is an incremental learning approach that builds on what you have learned. There are valid arguments for and against both approaches.

Another example. Another slight difference in SSI is that every skill is required to work in real world situations and with all equipment configurations.  In the unlikely event that a diver completely runs out-of-air on a dive, it is standard practice to breath from an alternate air source. If a diver runs out-of-air, depending on the situation, they could choose to ask their dive buddy for help. All divers have two breathable regulators, a primary and a secondary or ‘alternate’. SSI Open Water Pool Training Gili Air

PADI will teach the ‘out-of-air diver’ to signal their buddy and reach for their alternate air source attached at their side, while SSI teaches to pass the primary regulator (yup, the one in your mouth!). PADI sets the responsibility on the diver who is out-of-air to help themselves, while SSI bases its approach on the notion that an out-of-air diver will instinctively reach for the next available air source (in his or her buddy’s mouth) and the buddy can assist them by donating theirs.

Also in some parts of the world, divers are using alternate regulators attached to their BC inflators and the technique taught by PADI would be ineffective, as your gear would not have a traditional alternate regulator to grab on a long hose.  By teaching a universally accepted scenario, SSI’s method prepares the air ‘donor’ to cope with a stressful situation where their own air source is removed in an out-of-air emergency and they have to reach down and recover their alternate air source.  The difference seems subtle, and is certainly not a deal breaker when it comes to choosing, but it could be argued that SSI is slightly more realistic when simulating the situation.  Open Water Gili Air

When things get real

 Cost of courses

In contrast with the previously mentioned differences, from here on you will learn when you should really take a moment before deciding between SSI and PADI.

Depending on where you are, the price of courses varies, with SSI and PADI centers offering different price packages depending if you have your own equipment and learning material. However, many locales have price agreements including the Gili Islands, where our Manta Dive centers are located. You’ll pay the same regardless of which team you bat for. Open Water Course Gili Air Fun

SSI are arguably keeping up with our technological age a little bit better than PADI and have made online materials much more accessible and cheaper for their students than PADI. Also, the actual certification card or diving card, is cheaper with SSI than with PADI (come on PADI, keep up!). The savings on training materials is very real and could be a deciding factor for those trying to watch the pennies or perhaps want to complete theory before they arrive at their dive shop.

Becoming a Dive InstructorBecome an Instructor

This one is perhaps the most important differences to keep in mind when deciding between SSI and PADI. Before reaching the instructor level, a diver goes through four main levels of training. It doesn’t matter if you go through these courses with PADI, SSI or a combination of the two. However, if you reach the instructor level with SSI and then decide you want to work in a PADI dive shop, you’ll have to complete a fairly in depth crossover course. If you do it the other way around, and want to teach SSI courses as an existing PADI instructor, the process will be a few days shorter and indeed cheaper, as SSI PRO materials are more affordably priced and only some regions (like SE Asia) require an additional IE. For this reason, a number of instructors I’ve spoken to, first completed the PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course) and then did the SSI crossover but this is changing slowly. A few IDC centers, especially in SE Asia, offer a very affordable crossover from SSI to PADI but you have to find one offering consistent IDCs to score this deal.  So, if you are the person who wants to become a professional in the diving industry and make a living out of it, it is then wise to take some time to think before making a decision between the two.

 This is valuable information if you want to become a dive instructor and travel the world.  But as a student be assured, you can dive with any valid diving agency certification card to your training limits, in dive centers around the world, as guided dives just require good divers regardless of agency. PADI or SSI we dive the same

So, in short, no, it doesn’t matter if you choose PADI or SSI if you are diving recreationally. However, you should take your time to understand the full differences between the two if you want to make diving your career. If you are to reach instructor level, choose based on the location where you want to work and if you are below instructor level just enjoy your time diving.  The advice we give over and over again is the same, regardless if you go SSI or PADI: Choose a dive shop you trust and who loves diving and… (shh.. just keep it between us )… learn with the hottest instructor!


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  • John Marshall 20/09/2019 6:42am (5 months ago)

    Thank you, I am just going to sandals for vacation and wanted some info on the different certifications. I found this very helpful

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  • Morad Hassan 19/02/2019 4:30pm (12 months ago)

    Judith, in today's world there is really no such thing as a PADI independent instructor. While yes this unicorn does truly exist, PADI has made it so cost prohibitive that independent instructors would have to charge at least 50% more than a dive center in order to make the same amount of money.
    I was an independent instructor for years with PADI while working in Egypt. At the end of the day all independent instructor meant was, if I didn't work, I didn't get paid. If I was insurance, I had to pay for it.
    As an SSI instructor I got paid no matter what because what I had was an actual job with actual wages so that if there was no student I still got paid. I could still work for other centers as long as they were SSI centers.

    While it was hard to find an SSI center a few years ago, the reverse is happening today. In my market there used to be 22 PADI dive centers and 2 SSI centers. Today the opposite is true.

  • Judith McDonald 26/01/2019 4:54am (13 months ago)

    You forget to mention one important difference between the agencies. PADI Instructors can teach and certify their divers independently anywhere in the world. SSI Instructors must work through a SSI Dive Centre. If you are an SSI Instructor this could severely limit your work opportunities in many countries.

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