a single scuba diver going over a rock formation

Additional Scuba Certifications and Where They Lead

For many divers, once they get certified and begin diving, they want to explore more areas. While many divers are content to explore with an open water certification, many people endeavor to get further certifications.

Diving can be a very diverse hobby, and there are many different options that people can explore to enhance their abilities underwater. What are some of the additional scuba certifications that people can pursue and where can they take them?

There are dozens of certifications available through the various certification agencies. Some of the most popular are enriched air Nitrox, advanced open water, and underwater photographer. These courses allow a diver to qualify for deeper dives and stay longer at depth.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular additional certifications and what you can do with them. For this article, we will focus only on certifications you can get after open water certification.

Advanced Open Water Diver

You don’t actually have to be advanced to pursue this certification. Instead, you just have to be a certified open water diver. This course aims at teaching enhanced techniques and serves as a gateway to help divers begin to explore other specialties.

After completing e-learning, you will engage in a series of dive different dives aimed at learning and demonstrating a variety of skills. One dive will focus on underwater navigation using a compass while another will be a deep dive of some distance beyond 60 feet (18 meters).

a single scuba diver on the seabed facing camera

The other three dives will be adventure dives from various other specialties. The dives you take will vary depending upon where you complete your advanced open water training. Sometimes dive shops select three dives based on the site. 

Other times, the diver is able to choose. When I completed my advanced certification, my optional dives were wreck, neutral buoyancy, and low visibility.

Divers completing advanced open water certification open up a variety of advanced specialty courses including cave diver, ice diver, rebreather, and rescue diver. It is also a necessary step in the path to becoming a divemaster or instructor. 

Furthermore, it increases your maximum depth from 60 feet to 130 feet.

Enriched Air Nitrox

This is the most popular of the specialty certifications and is sought after by many divers who want to have more time underwater. Enriched air, or Nitrox, refers to tanks with higher levels of oxygen than what is found in the atmosphere.

Standard air that you breathe at the surface has 21% oxygen, which is what scuba tanks contain. 

However, Nitrox divers can use enriched air with oxygen mixtures typically ranging from 32% to 36%. The benefit of this is that your air contains less nitrogen meaning that you absorb less during the dive.

As a result, Nitrox divers are able to stay at depth longer. They are also able to have a shorter surface interval between dives. For those wanting to get in as much diving as possible on a trip, Nitrox is an excellent additional certification.

a few scuba divers at depth on a rocky seabed

Digital Underwater Photographer

Many divers enjoy taking photos of their adventures. The digital underwater photographer course helps divers investigate a number of concepts related to taking the perfect picture. One of the central components is learning about underwater camera systems, their components, and which ones to select for certain goals and dives.

An effective method covered in this course is the SEA (shoot, examine, adjust) method for getting good shots. This course also covers concepts such as image composition and different camera techniques. 

Divers completing this course will be able to better document their underwater exploits.

many scuba divers taking photographs in open water

Dry Suit Diver

There are many diving environments out there. Your open water certification gives you access to the bulk of tropical dive sites, particularly coral reef ecosystems. However, open water cannot get you access to many cold sites.

The reality is that there are temperatures where even wearing a hood and 7 mm wetsuit won’t protect you. For intensely cold temperatures, divers need a dry suit certification. 

A dry suit provides thermal insulation by encasing the diver in a 100% watertight layer using seals and gaskets, placing a layer of air between the diver and the environment.

This dry suit certification will teach you how to use and care for a dry suit. If you long to dive between two tectonic plates in Iceland, explore Scotland’s World War II ship graveyard in Scapa Flow, or just continue diving in the winter at your local quarry, a dry suit certification will chart the path for you.

Peak Performance Buoyancy

This course is probably one that does not sound as exciting as the other certifications; however, peak performance buoyancy can greatly enhance your diving expertise. One of the things that many divers struggle with is staying buoyant. This course aims to help you perfect that skill.

If you find yourself accidentally hitting the bottom or having trouble controlling your movement underwater, this is an excellent option. 

If you’ve been a diver for a while, you’ve probably noticed people with good buoyancy. They can glide effortlessly and hover as still as a barracuda. This is peak buoyancy and this course is the gateway.

There are a number of skills that you will learn in this course including how to determine the optimal amount of weight, how to perfect your trim so that you stay balanced in the water, and how to use air more efficiently. Successful completion will give you more control underwater and more air in your tank.

a scuba diver in clear open water in a pool

Wreck Diver

One of the things that many people want to do is dive wrecks. After all, shipwrecks are an exciting diving environment. They can provide a way for divers to glimpse a piece of history and also tend to be home to lots of marine life.

For divers, there are lots of wrecks in most diving locations. Wrecks consist of small remnants of boats, complete vessels, and even airplanes. While you can look at the exterior of wrecks with open water certification, you need the specialty certification to explore them in depth.

With this course, you will learn how to utilize reels and penetration lines to ensure safety while exploring wrecks. You’ll also learn specific dive techniques to reduce the likelihood of disturbing the wreck and its marine life by kicking up silt. Additionally, you’ll learn how to survey and map wrecks.

Diving wrecks requires an extensive diving plan and this course will prepare you to begin exploring. It is important to note that while open water divers can take a wreck certification with SDI, PADI divers must attain Adventure Diver rank first (which requires completing three other specialties).

5 scuba divers on the seafloor in a wreck

Night Diver

Many divers love going into the depths at night. There are many reasons why this is popular. First, divers will encounter a diverse array of creatures at night, many of which are relatively rare to see during the day. This includes octopuses and squid.

Many divers will tell you that a night dive opens up a whole new world of exploration, even diving familiar sites. This course aims to teach tactics on entering, exiting, and navigating in the dark. Additionally, divers will learn how to handle and communicate with lights as well as how animal behavior changes at night.

Divers do not require a night diving certification to take part in dives at night. However, this course will make divers much better prepared to get the most out of their dives. 

Additionally, some divers may be a bit nervous about taking part in a night dive, so this course can help enhance confidence by making them feel better prepared.

a scuba diver above a rock in dark water

Other Certifications

While these are some of the most popular certifications that are offered, there are many specialties that open water divers can take part in. These include things such as sidemount diver, underwater naturalist, diver propulsion vehicle diver, fish identification, and a number of conservation-related specialties.

Additionally, both PADI and SDI provide nearly identical courses, meaning that divers can take advantage of virtually any specialty at their preferred dive shop. For more information regarding specialties, divers can contact their local dive shop.

Final Thoughts

Open water certification provides access to an excellent world of underwater exploration. However, there are many other certifications and specialties that divers can attain which will help improve their skills and open up new worlds to explore.

Many divers wonder which certification they should embark upon first. The reality is that it depends heavily upon your individual goals. 

If you want to explore cold waters, dry suit is an excellent option. If you want more bottom time, the popular enriched air Nitrox is a great option. If you want to learn how to penetrate wrecks, you can get certified as a wreck diver.

As you plan out your future goals in scuba diving, keep in mind the various certifications available, and feel free to reach out to your local dive shop with questions.

Mike Seals
Chief Crisp Eater at Guiness Brewey | + posts

Mike resides in landlocked Indiana but takes every opportunity to travel to warm waters for diving. When in his home state, he typically dives quarries. His favorite place to dive is the reef off of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When not diving, he works as a researcher, runs marathons, and spends time with his three kids.

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