PADI or SSI for your dive courses

SSI or another famous diving agency whose name starts by P and ends with a I?

At Nico Dives Cool, we give you the choice between SSI and another famous federation whose name starts by P and ends by I… You may wonder why I don’t write its full name ? Well, simply because actually their reprensative ask us to remove its name/abreviation from our blogpost. But this is not what I want to discuss here… So we will assume that you all know which agency we are referring to and will call them P..I in this blogpost.

If you are wondering which Diving Training Agency is the best between SSI and P..I, the correct answer is that there is obviously not a good one or a bad one.

Let me clarify things beforehand: both scuba diving agencies (aka federations) follow the general structure and standards laid down by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) so there is no significant differences between them.

The WRSTC tell every diving agency (who then tells all of their professional members) what are the minimum requirements for each course taught. Therefore, most training standards are pretty much universal. SSI and P..I are just two of those Diving Training Agencies recognised internationally.

Two Diving Training Agencies recognised Internationally


The abbreviation  stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. P..I is the world’s largest scuba training agency. Instructors teaching with P..I can teach independently of a dive store.

By choosing P..I, you choose a strong brand name. It is probably the most renowned agency globally. But it also imposes the most constraints in terms of standards to be respected.


The abbreviation SSI stands for Scuba Schools International. SSI is the world’s largest store based training agency. SSI professionals must be affiliated with a dive center. That means that SSI instructors can not teach as independent.

SSI is being more and more represented all over the world. They have a great system of e-learning. Furthermore, they have an interesting training approach that allows diving instructors to integrate their experience into their teaching methodology.

Flexibility in Teaching Methods

With regards to teaching methods, SSI seems to allow its instructors to have more leeway when it comes to how they teach their students, whereas P..I courses tend to be more rigid.

Indeed, SSI instructors can add their personalised touch or additional exercise to the course, while this is known as “over-teaching” with P..I and prohibited.

P..I – The Strict Teaching Plan

P..I has a strict plan for each section of the course – this one must be respected. P..I standards are there for a reason. Therefore, the fact that P..I runs their courses in a strict order is not necessarily bad, but it means that if you have troubles with one skill, you can not progress until this skill is completed.

SSI – The Flexible Teaching Plan

SSI will allow you to continue the dive or pool session, move on and come back to it when you’ll be feeling more confident. This can be later during the day, or even the next day of your course. SSI allows their divers to learn at their own pace, as long as all skills are completed by the end of the course they will pass.

This may be the major difference between SSI and P..I, regarding the teaching methods.

Training material costs: Paper Manual or Online Learning? Certification prices and differences.

Both agencies offer e-learning options as well as printed manual.

P..I requires that you purchase the materials – no matter if you are traveling around the world or learning at home. You can choose to buy the e-learning kit directly from P..I or through a P..I dive center. Alternatively you can purchase the manual in a store or again through your dive centre.

With P..I, you can not share a manual between two members of a same family or among friends. This is due to each manual or e-learning kit having a PIC (Personal Identification Certification) associated with it. Without it your instructor can not certify you at the end of your course.

Last time I checked on P..I website, the price for the P..I eLearning Open Water course was 202 USD if I click that I was living in Indonesian or Australia. It was 148 Euros when I chose France as my home country. Here in Bali, the price for the manual itself including the PIC is around 100 USD in average, depending on the course.

With SSI you can choose to either borrow or purchase your manuals. In other words, you don’t have to buy the materials, if you want to use ours during the course and give it back at the end of it, that’s great!

Even if you purchase or borrow the manual, you will get automatically the digital kit as soon as you will sign up for a course with a SSI dive center.
If you haven’t already a profile as a diver SSI, you can create one free of charge or the dive center will do it for you, and the dive center will send you the digital kit through the SSI online system.

The price for the digital kits vary depending on the courses, but in Indonesia in 2018 most of them cost around 50 USD.

Delivery of Certification Cards

Both agencies will deliver you a printed certification card once you will have completed your course. SSI dive centers can print your card straight at the end of your course where as P..I will send it to your home address 6 weeks later. In the meantime, you will get an email as a proof of certification from both agencies.

Training path: Which Way Will be Yours? P..I or SSI?

P..I Training Path

P..I philosophy wants students to start with their Open Water Course, continue with the Advanced Open Water Course, and later on supplement their diving education with Speciality courses, and ideally, keep going with the Rescue Diver Course.

Recreational diver can reach the level of Master Scuba Diver by completing the Rescue Course and 5 speciality courses, and must have 50 dives logged or more. Since 2017, the application fee for the Master Scuba Diver rating has been waived by P..I.

SSI Training Path

The SSI path is slightly different. The focus after the Open Water Diver Course is more on gaining experience and learning new Specialty courses. SSI do offer an Advanced Adventurer course, which is very similar to the P..I Advanced Open Water course (5 dives, each one is the first dive of a Specialty course) but not to be confused with the SSI Advanced Open Water which is a recognition award received after completed 4 Specialty courses and have logged a minimum of 24 dives.  SSI have other awards that recognise training and experience, that are automatically given at no extra charge to those who meet these requirements. These include: Master Diver (4 Specialties + Diver Stress and Rescue + 50 dives), Century Diver (100 logged dives), Silver 300 Diver (300 logged dives), Gold 500 Diver (500 logged dives).

For non professional levels, P..I and SSI certification are equivalent and you can go from one to another easily. That means that you could do the SSI Open Water Course, followed by the Advanced P..I. Then why not keep going with SSI for the React Right and Diver Stress & Rescue Course?

Different agencies, different “out of air” scenarios

One thing important to know when diving with divers from the other agency is that SSI and P..I teach a different approach to an “Out of Air” scenario.

With P..I we teach students who run out of air to reach for their buddy’s alternate air source. On the other hand SSI teaches to grab straight the primary regulator of their buddy. If you are the buddy, yes, we are talking about the regulator which is in your mouth!

The idea of P..I is to reach the less dangerous and easy to reach spare air source. Whereas the SSI approach is based on the fact that a panicked diver will reach instinctively for the next available air source. Therefore we prepare the student how to react in this slightly more probable case.

So – if anybody grab your regulator during a dive, let it go and don’t panic, but calmly reach for your spare regulator and resume breathing.
Good to know, isn’t it ?

So, What is the better Choice, P..I or SSI?

The differences between P..I and SSI are quite small. But at the end of the day, they both offer quality and safety courses and produce capable divers.

It’s not the certification agency that does the quality of the training, but the instructor who actually teaches you.

If knowledge and experience are a must, enthusiasm, personality and attitude plays a key role as well. Whichever federation an instructor is teaching, it is important that he or she feels comfortable and consistent while doing it. And it’s crucial that you feel confident learning with him or her. Good instructors are patient, have empathy, instil confidence to their students.

They can adapt to different students and conditions, meet or exceed the standards in terms of safety, and really care about the people they are teaching or diving with. Instructors shouldn’t just “give” certifications. They should teach vital skills so you get the best preparation to dive autonomously. As Instructors, we should not be afraid to reorient a student if this one does not reach the required skill level. But we should always remain patient, caring, passionate and know how to transmit our passion to new divers.

P..I or SSI? Well, you Better Choose the Right Instructor!

If you can not choose the instructor that will teach you, it is important to be sure of the dive centre that will assign you a fitting instructor. The instructors and guides are the ones who are taking care of you while diving. Therefore they are the most important club representatives, especially for less experienced divers.

Obviously, a good first step is to ask for recommendations from people you know. Ask who has dived with a club before you and what there experience was like. But listen to your feelings too, if you don’t feel well, just run away and keep looking. If you have any doubt, feel free to ask us. Also, if you were positively impressed by your instructor, do share your experience with others and online!

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