In this article, we will dive deeper into the differences between PADI and SSI.

If you’re interested in getting your scuba diving certification to become a proficient diver, capable of diving at a large variety of dive sites around the world, to gather experience and become an advanced diver someday, you’ve probably come across at least two major training agencies that provide certifications for divers today.

In this article, we will have a closer look at some of the differences between the two major Scuba Diver Training agencies we have today: PADI and SSI. We want to provide you with the main differences between PADI and SSI so that you can make an informed decision, that is hopefully right for your personal preferences when you have to make your choice.

What does PADI stand for?

The abbreviation PADI stands for Professional association of diving instructors.

What does SSI stand for?

The abbreviation SSI stands for Scuba Schools International

PADI versus SSI which one is better?

When you ever get on a dive boat with different divers of all shapes and sizes, you will in all likelihood overhear discussions about which scuba training agency is the best, and why this one is better than that one. If not, let me tell you that every diver is totally convinced, that “his” training agency is the best.

Well, every training agency will teach you how to be a skilled diver, as there are certain skills every diver needs to have, but with theoretical education, requirements and certification costs, each training agency has their approach, and they differ slightly.

Let me tell you one thing beforehand: both agencies (PADI and SSI) follow the general framework laid down by the World Recreational Scuba Diving Council, so that there are no significant differences in the skills and requirements every diver needs to have, and both agencies create capable divers all over the world.

Should you get a PADI or SSI certification?

Much comes down to personal preference, and many other factors, like the experience and willingness to teach of your instructor, the professionalism of the dive center you chose to do the course with.

And not to forget, the conditions you learn in. A diver that is trained in a murky, lake might not be very adapted to diving in crystal clear water with waves and currents, while somebody that has learned how to dive in crystal clear, warm waters might feel uncomfortable during his first dive in a dark, cold lake.

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Let’s get back to the few differences that you can find between PADI vs. SSI.

What are the costs of the certifications and training materials?

Both PADI and SSI offer online training (only the theoretical part) so that the time you will have to spend in a classroom during your precious holiday will be minimized. There is, however, a difference in price between these two.

When you are comparing prices for the open water diver course (or any course) with different dive operators, please do make sure you calculate the total price which includes all course materials and certification fees. A “cheap” course at first glance can work out more expensive once all has been added up!

If the course materials are not yet included in the published price you may expect to pay $150 to $200 extra for the course materials and certification fees.

So it makes a lot of sense to contact the dive center that you intend to do the underwater training with beforehand and ask them about their prices.

How much is the PADI eLearning course?

My last check on the PADI website revealed that online training with PADI would be about 170 USD if you are in California and about 140 Euro when you are in Germany, while SSI online training is free.

However, PADI grants you lifelong access to their online Open Water Diver Manual, while SSI still requires you to purchase all the training materials with the dive center you do the practical training with. Usually, the price of the open water course includes the course materials.

In terms of actual coursework involved, both the PADI and SSI certification programs will give you all of the skills and knowledge you need to become a comfortable and safe diver.

In fact, many people will tell you that the dive instructor, rather than the course itself, is the most important factor in terms of how much you learn and how well you learn the skills you need to be a scuba diver.

Overall, though, the courses teach the same information because they adhere to the standards set forth by the WRSTC, or World Recreational Scuba Training Council. There are only very minor differences between a PADI and SSI certification program.

The SSI Advanced Open Water is not what you might think it is.

One thing that is different are the actual names of the courses. For example, the PADI Advanced Open Water certification is the equivalent of the SSI Advanced Adventurer certification, not the SSI Advanced Open Water.

Just be careful when signing up for the courses, especially if you’re taking certain courses from one school and other courses from the other, also known as a cross- over. While SSI allows you to crossover and certain bridges exists, it is a little harder to fulfill PADIs requirements for a cross-over.

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SSI and PADI certification lookup

Again, because both schools adhere to the guidelines set forth by the WRSTC, you can rest assured that your PADI and SSI certification will be recognized at scuba schools everywhere in the world.

PADI and SSI dive centers seem to have the advantage of being able to access a database of students and certifications online. So if you ever forget your certification card while you’re on a trip, you can rest assured that your PADI and SSI dive center coordinator will be able to access your information when he or she seeks the proof that you’re qualified to dive. All that is required for your certification lookup is your name and birthdate.

Since we live in the digital era, all your dive certifications can be conveniently stored on each agencies app, so that you have them with you on your phone, iPad, etc. The DIVESSI app also holds a variety of checklists (equipment, dive planning, buddy check), a hand signal review and first aid flow charts and of course a list of all SSI dive centers and resorts and their services.

The PADI app also lets you access your e-certification cards but is a little more comprehensive (and slightly more complicated to navigate). Besides the usual checklists and PADI dive centers and resorts, it provides you also with the latest information about social and news feeds, information about courses, and website access.

As for your actual physical certification card, a newly certified SSI scuba you usually do not have to pay extra for it, whereas you become a PADI Open Water Diver you need to pay the fee for your PIC (Positive Identification Card) with which you can then get the actual certification card.

Flexibility in Teaching Methods

With regards to flexibility when it comes to teaching methods, SSI seems to allow its instructors to have more leeway when it comes to how they teach their students, whereas PADI courses tend to be more rigid. Therefore, SSI instructors have the ability to add more personalized or additional information to the course, while this is known as “over-teaching” with PADI and prohibited.

One thing you really should be aware of in case you are diving with a diver from the other agency is the following: PADI and SSI strangely teach a different approach to an “Out of Air” scenario.

While with PADI you are thought to reach for your buddy’s alternate air source, SSI teaches to grab for the primary regulator (that’s right, the one in your mouth!).

During the PADI open water course, the priority is teaching the diver that has run out of the air to reach for the less “dangerous” and easy to manage spare air source from his dive buddy.

While the SSI approach is based on the fact, that an out of air diver will instinctively reach for the next available air source (in his or her buddies mouth), and prepare the student (that has not run out of air) how to react in case he has to give up his primary air source.

Calmly reach for your spare regulator (octopus) and resume breathing. Nice to know, right?

Differences between PADI and SSI, here is another one

After you completed your Open Water Diver course with PADI, you are issued a PIC- Envelope which you or your dive center will send to one of the PADI (local) headquarters, where your PADI dive card will be printed and sent to your home address or your (local) dive center. In the meantime, you will be issued a PADI temporary card which can be used as a proof of certification.

With SSI, the certification card can be issued directly by the dive center, and you receive it straight after successful completion of the course.

In many cases, certification costs are already included in the course price. However, better always ask if there are any additional costs, before enrolling in a course.

What is the best Scuba Diving certification agency?

There is no best scuba diving certification agency! Whether you choose scuba schools international, PADI, NAUI, RAID, CMAS, TDI or SDI instructors from all organizations should be able to teach you to become a capable and enthusiastic diver.

And in the end, there is only one thing that lets you evolve into a great diver, and that is spending time under water, doing what you love best, be it watching fish, visiting wrecks, taking pictures or filming. The possibilities are endless! Are you stoked to get your Scuba Dive certification? Check our selection of Scuba Dive schools all around the world by clicking here.

This article is written by Rutger and published by The Scuba Page, the online magazine for Scuba Dive lovers around the world. The Scuba Page is part of RUSHKULT: the online booking platform for adventure sports. Visit the RUSHKULT platform to book your next Scuba Dive training, guided trip and accommodation