At Nico Dives Cool, we give you the choice between PADI and SSI for each course. You may wonder which one of these 2 Diving Training Agencies is the best…
Obviously there is not a good one or a bad one.
Let me clarify things beforehand : both agencies follow the general structure and standards laid down by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council 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 PADI are just 2 of those Diving Training Agencies recognised internationally.
2 Diving Training Agencies recognized Internationally…
The abbreviation PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI is the world’s largest scuba training agency. PADI Instructors can teach independently of a dive store.
By choosing PADI, you choose a strong brand name, probably the most famous agency but also the one that 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 and an interesting training approach that allows the instructors to integrate their experience in 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 PADI courses tend to be more rigid.
Indeed, SSI instructors can add their personalised touch or additional exercice to the course, while this is known as “over-teaching” with PADI and prohibited.
PADI has a strict plan for each section of the course – this one must be respected. PADI standards are there for a reason. Therefore, the fact that PADI 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 will allow you to continue the dive or pool session, move on and come back to it when you’ll be feeling more confident. 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 PADI, regarding the teaching methods.
Training material costs : turn the pages or click on the link ?
Both agencies offer e-learning options as well as printed manual.
PADI 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 PADI or through a PADI dive center, or purchase the manual in a store or again through your dive center. You can not share a manual between two members of a same family or among friends, as for each manual or e-learning kit there is a PIC (Personal Identification Certification) associated, without which your instructor can not certify you at the end of your course.
Last time I checked on PADI website, the price for the PADI eLearning course was 202 $ US if I say that I was living in Indonesian or Australia, 148 Euros when I choose France as my country. Here in Bali, the price for the manual itself including the PIC is around 100$ US, depending on each 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 costs 50$ US.
Both agencies will deliver you a printed certification card once you will have completed your course, SSI straight at the end of your course and PADI sent to your home address. In the meantime, you will get an email as a proof of certification.
Training path : which way will be yours ?
PADI 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 PADI.
The SSI path is slightly different. The focus after the Open Water course is more on gaining experience and learning new Specialty courses. SSI do offer an Advanced Adventurer course, which is very similar to the PADI 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 24 logged 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, PADI 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, then the Advanced PADI, then why not keep going with SSI for the React Right and Stress & Rescue Course.
Differents agencies, differents “out of air” scenarios
One thing important to know when diving with divers from the other agency is that SSI and PADI teach a different approach to an “Out of Air” scenario.
While PADI teach their students who run out of air to reach for their buddy’s alternate air source, 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 PADI is to reach the less dangerous and easy to reach spare air source. Where as SSI approach is based on the fact that a panicked diver will reach instinctively for the next available air source and therefore prepare the student how to react in this 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, how to make a good choice ?
The differences between PADI 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 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, instill confidence to their students. They can adapt to different students and conditions, meets or exceeds the standards in terms of safety, and really care about the people they are teaching or diving with. They don’t “give” certification, they teach vital skills and are aware of the importance of those. They try their best, and are never afraid to reorient a student if this one does not reach the desired level. They are passionate and know how to transmit their passion to others.
If you can not choose the instructor that will teach you, it is important to be sure of the dive center that will assign you an instructor.The instructors and guides are the one who are taking care of you while diving and therefore the most important club representatives.
Obviously, a good first step is to ask for recommendations from people you know or who have dived with a club before you. But listen to your feelings too, if you don’t feel it, just run away. If you have any doubt, feel free to ask. And if you were impressed in a positive way by your instructor, do share your experience with others !