Recreational scuba certification levels are the levels of skill represented by recreational scuba certification. Each certification level is associated with a specific training standard published by the certification agency, and a training programme associated with the standard., though in some cases recognition of prior learning can apply. These levels of skill can be categorised in several ways:

Certification indicates that a diver was assessed as meeting the minimum requirements in the prescribed range of skills for that certification by an instructor registered by the issuing agency at the time of assessment. Most certification is not limited by time, and does not require periodical reassessment, or even that the holder maintains the minimum level of specified skills, but there are exceptions, which may be indicated by an expiry date on the certification card. Certification requiring periodic update usually indicates a requirement to re-register with the agency and payment of membership fees, but may also be associated with a requirement to provide evidence of skill retention. This is common for dive leadership certification where the holder is in a position of trust or legal responsibility to clients, where the agency needs to maintain a level of due diligence.


See also: History of scuba diving § Recreational scuba training and certification

The history of recreational scuba certification is mostly the history of recreational scuba training, as the need for a method of identifying the competent diver was part of the reason for instituting formal training for recreational diving, following a number of fatal accidents involving untrained divers.

Training standards

Main article: Diver training standard

A diver training standard is a document issued by a certification, registration, regulation or quality assurance agency, that describes the prerequisites for participation, the aim of the training programme, the specific competences that a candidate must demonstrate to be assessed as competent, and the minimum required experience that must be recorded before the candidate can be registered or certified at a specific grade by the agency.[1] Training standards allow objective comparison between the training provided by various agencies and the competence indicated by certification or registration to the specific standard, though in most cases, training and competence may exceed the minimum requirement much of the time, and variation between newly certified divers can be considerable, partly due to differences in the training, and partly due to qualities of the candidate. Training standards may narrowly prescribe the training, or may concentrate on assessment of exit level competence, and allow recognition of prior learning based on various forms of evidence. To be useful, a training standard must be sufficiently specific to allow agreement on the requirements by most readers reasonably competent in the field, including the instructors, assessors, and learners who must use it, and any quality assurance personnel who may need to enforce it. A training standard may be associated with a specific code of practice referring to how the training should be carried out and the facilities required.[2][3]

Core diving competence

Scuba diving education levels as used by ISO, PADI, CMAS, SSI and NAUI

This class of certification covers competence to dive within the scope of what is generally considered recreational open water diving, with no planned decompression obligations, a single air or nitrox breathing gas and relying on the buddy system or a dive leader for emergency management.

Certification exceeding Autonomous diver

Most certification agencies provide diving skills training and certification beyond the Autonomous diver standard:

Dive leadership

Specialist skills

Skills which are not directly required for open-water diving using standard recreational scuba equipment and the protocols taught for basic recreational diving may be taught and certification issued attesting to competence in those skills. There are a wide range of specialist skills, which may be categorised in the following basic groups. In many cases there is some overlap of category, as when a type of activity requires specific equipment, or when equipment is required for safety in a given environment, such as navigation and redundant gas supply in penetration dives.

Equipment related skills

Training programs with certification are available in:

Environment related skills

Activity related skills

Diving support skills

These certifications do not necessarily license the holder to work on life support equipment to be used by another person. In some cases the certification aligns with legislation. In some cases the certification is the de facto industry standard for competence in a specific jurisdiction.

International and inter-agency recognition

The International Organization for Standardization has approved six recreational diving standards that may be implemented worldwide (January 2007).

The listed standards developed by the (United States) RSTC are consistent with the applicable ISO Standards:[15]

(USA) RSTC Standard ISO Standard Alternative ISO Title
Introductory Scuba Experience No equivalent
No equivalent Level One Diver [16] Supervised Diver
Open Water Diver Level Two Diver[16] Autonomous Diver
Dive Supervisor Level Three Diver[16] Dive Leader
Assistant Instructor Level 1 Instructor[16]
Scuba Instructor Level 2 Instructor[16]
Instructor Trainer No equivalent
No equivalent Service Provider[16]


  1. ^ CMAS Technical Committee (December 2010). "Introduction". CMAS International Diver Training Standards and Procedures Manual. CMAS International. p. 5.
  2. ^ "Diving Regulations 2009". Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 – Regulations and Notices – Government Notice R41. Pretoria: Government Printer. Archived from the original on 2016-11-04. Retrieved 3 November 2016 – via Southern African Legal Information Institute.
  3. ^ Diving Advisory Board (2007). Code of Practice for Commercial Diver Training, Revision 3 (PDF). Pretoria: South African Department of Labour. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Recreational diving services — Requirements for the training of recreational scuba divers — Part 1: Level 1 — Supervised diver (ISO 24801-1)". ISO. Retrieved 2017-06-13.
  5. ^ "Recreational diving services — Requirements for the training of recreational scuba divers — Part 2: Level 2 — Autonomous diver (ISO 24801-2)". ISO. Retrieved 2015-04-29.
  6. ^ "Two Star Diver Training Programme". Retrieved 2019-08-23.
  7. ^ "Rescue Diver Course". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  8. ^ "SDI Rescue Diver Course". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Diver Stress & Rescue". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  10. ^ "NAUI Specialty Courses".Archived 2009-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Staff. "Recreational diving services — Requirements for the training of recreational scuba divers — Part 3: Level 3 — Dive leader (ISO 24801-3:2014)". ISO. Retrieved 2015-04-29.
  12. ^ a b c Staff. "Competencies and qualifications of recreational scuba divers Level 1-3". EUF Certification. European Underwater Federation (EUF). Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  13. ^ BSAC HQ (21 May 2018). "BSAC retains EUF accreditations for scuba diver and instructor qualifications". Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  14. ^ Richardson, Drew (1996). "An assessment of risk for recreational dive instructors at work". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 26 (2). Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-30.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ Staff, WRSTC (2013) ISO approves 6 Diving Standards "WRSTC News". Archived from the original on 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2013-09-28. retrieved 28 September 2013
  16. ^ a b c d e f Staff. "Standards for Training Organisations/System". EUF Certification International. Retrieved 28 September 2013.