The certification level is loosely equivalent the CMAS ** Diver qualification and the BSAC sports diver, although the European courses tend to be longer and more intensive than their U.S. counterparts.
Most organizations have a minimum age requirement of 15 to undertake the Rescue Diver course, although PADI does permit certification of "Junior" Rescue Divers.
The Rescue Diver course is the third level qualification in the American international system,[clarification needed] following the Advanced Open Water Diver qualification (AOWD). Historically the course was treated as a separate "speciality" rather than a mainstream certification in itself (and arguably it still is in many organization's certification structure), but most advanced training is contingent upon having previously completed the Rescue Diver certification, and thus it effectively becomes a tier in the training.
The European International dive education system CMAS recognises only three main levels of dive education indicated by a one star, two star, or three star system. One star indicates an ability to dive, two star indicates additional skill of rescuing divers, and three star indicates the additional skill in leading a group of divers.[needs update]
The course usually covers most of the following topics: