The Differences Between Scuba Diver and Open Water Diver

When you think of scuba diving, the first thing that likely comes to mind is an underwater adventure. The next thoughts are probably related to the equipment: tanks, regulators, and a wet suit. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to diving—and what type of diver you want to be. There are two types of scuba divers: open water diver and scuba diver.

The purpose of this post is not only provide information about both types but also help answer any questions about which one might be best for your needs!

You may have heard people say, “I’m a scuba diver,” or “I’m a PADI Diver,” but you may not have encountered the term Open Water Diver until you started trying to learn how to scuba dive. Here’s what you need to know:

When people say they have a diving license, ticket, or scuba certification, it is often because they are an Open Water diver. An Open Water Diver certification card allows you to:

  • Obtain air fills
  • Rent dive equipment
  • Dive on your own with a buddy up to a maximum depth of 18 meters/60 feet
  • Book boat dives
  • Take additional classes such as underwater photography/videography

If someone says “I’m a PADI Diver,” this means they’ve completed the PADI Open Water Diving course. It is the most recognized scuba diving certification in the world, with more than 900,000 divers choosing it each year.

The PADI Scuba Diver course is a part of the PADI Open Water Diver Course. This is the next step for people who want to be scuba divers but who have not done this yet. It’s like a learner’s permit when you are learning how to dive.

  • Don’t have time to complete the entire Open Water course
  • Can’t finish their Open Water training
  • Only want to dive with a PADI Professional

PADI Scuba Diver and PADI Open Water Diver: Pre-Requisites

To take part in a PADI Open Water Course, or the PADI Scuba Diver Course, you must be:

1.) Over 10 years old

2.) Be able to swim

3.) Be medically fit for scuba diving (in some countries this requires a medical certificate from a Doctor).

PADI Scuba Diver Vs. PADI Open Water Diver: Maximum Depth

– Open Water Divers: You can only dive alone or with a certified buddy to a maximum depth of 18 meters/ 60 feet.

– Scuba Divers: Scuba divers may only dive under the direct supervision of a PADI Professional to a maximum depth of 12 metres/40 feet.

What is the Benefit of Diving Deeper?

Deeper doesn’t always mean better, there are thousands of amazing dive sites around the world that can be dived at 12 meters/40 feet, or less! However, being able to dive deeper, to 18 meters/60 feet as an open water divers, opens up even more dive sites for you to explore. Additionally, some marine species live in deeper waters so being able to dive deeper gives you an increased chance of seeing them!

PADI Scuba Diver Vs. PADI Open Water Diver: Course Requirements

Open Water Diver (4-7 days)

1.) Learn fundamental concepts about scuba through PADI eLearning® or classroom instruction (knowledge development)

2.) Complete five confined water (pool) skill practice sessions

3.) Complete four open water (ocean/lake) dives

Scuba Diver (2-3 days)

1.) Learn fundamental concepts about scuba through PADI eLearning or classroom instruction

2.) Complete three of five confined water (pool) skill practice sessions

3.) Complete two of four open water dives

The PADI Scuba Diver course is (roughly) the first half of the PADI Open Water Diver course. It omits some of the more challenging skills and is a good choice for people who have limited time, who are not sure they want to commit to a full open water course yet, or for children (over the age of 10 years).


Upgrading from PADI Scuba Diver to PADI Open Water Diver

Looking at the information above, we can see that to upgrade to Open Water, Scuba DIvers need to:

  • Complete the remaining 2 out of 5 confined water (pool) skill practice sessions
  • Complete the remaining 2 out of 4 open water dives
  • Complete two additional knowledge development modules, a quiz and a final exam
  • Scuba Divers will also need to complete a surface swim

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