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PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC (Differences & is one certification better?)

PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC (Differences & is one certification better?)

Scuba diving PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC

It’s only right that you should want to compare scuba diving certifications. If you are looking at PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC, but don’t know which is better or what the differences are, below is a table of differences between each certification.

The difference between PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC include that PADI is a ‘training agency’ that trades for profit. BSAC is a ‘scuba club’ and a non-profit organisation. SSI is similar to PADI also a profit making dive organisation. But NAUI is similar to BSAC, as it is also a not for profit scuba diving organisation.

Before I explain the differences between PADI, SSI, NAUI and BSAC, let’s take a look at what each one stands for, starting with PADI.

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What does PADI stand for?

PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, where their motto is “Under every rock, around every reef, a new discovery awaits“.

PADI’s claim is there are 27 million divers that started with them. The PADI diving agency has been around since 1966.

The organisation is a recreational diving membership and diver training organisation. It was founded by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson.

The two founders were both scuba instructors and divers who were friends in the state of Illinois, U.S.A. Their goal was to give more people a chance to enjoy the underwater world. They wanted to offer relevant, instructionally valid scuba diving training to create confident scuba divers who dive regularly.

PADI is a business for profit organisation and their corporate headquarters located in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA.

What does SSI stand for?

SSI stands for the Scuba Schools International. SSI started in 1970 and has more than 30 Service Centers. The organisation is represented in more than 110 countries world-wide with over 2,800 International locations.


Scuba Schools International – About

SSI’s motto is “Focused on quality, and not quantity“.

Scuba Schools International is owned by scuba diving equipment company Mares Mares is owned by Head BV, which is a European sports equipment manufacturer.

More ReadingPADI vs BSAC search worldwide destinations

What does NAUI stand for?

NAUI stands for the National Association of Underwater Instructors. NAUI was set up by Albert Tillman and Neal Hess in 1959. Their headquarters are in Florida in the US.

NAUI’s motto is “The Definition of Diving“, but also they promote “Dive Safety Through Education“.

What does BSAC stand for?

BSAC stands for the British Sub Aqua Club. BSAC started in 1954, so has been around for much longer than most diving organisations, SSI included (and PADI for that matter).

The British Sub Aqua Club has around 1,100 independent dive clubs and 400 diving schools worldwide that teach scuba diving.

BSAC has taught the best which includes the likes of Princes and one of my favourite people in the world, Sir David Attenborough. In fact when I interviewed Richard Bull Rock-band star and professional scuba diver, he told me how he’d certified Sir David.

BSAC’s motto is quite simple and is “Dive with us“.

More ReadingWhat are the different types of scuba diving?

Is NAUI better than PADI? or is SSI better than PADI or is BSAC better than PADI, NAUI or SSI?

The best advice to take when choosing your scuba diver certification is to choose the trainer first over the diving organisation. Whichever scuba diver training you take, be it PADI, SSI, NAUI or BSAC, you’ll enjoy it and will be safe.

So whether you choose PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC really doesn’t matter. It really only boils down to whether there’s a PADI centre, an SSI centre, a NAUI or a BSAC centre near you.

Or which diving agency training centre is where you happen to be on holiday at the time you’re looking to get certified as a scuba diver.

Scuba diving PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC table of differences

Comparison #1First scuba certification level & max depth
PADIOpen Water Diver - 18 metres (60 feet)
SSIOpen Water Diver - 18 metres (60 feet)
NAUIScuba Diver - 18 metres (60 feet)
BSACOcean Diver - 20 metres (67 feet)
Comparison #2Second scuba certification level & max depth
PADIAdvanced Open Water Diver - 30 metres (100 feet)
SSIAdvanced Adventurer - 30 metres (100 feet)
NAUIAdvanced Scuba Diver - 40 metres (130 feet)
BSACSports Diver - 35 metres (115 feet)
Comparison #3Minimum Aged
PADI10+ (max depth until age 15 12 metres (40 feet) - the Junior Open Water Diver certification
SSI8+ (max depth to age 15 12m (40f); 8 max depth 5m (16f) - Scuba Rangers)
NAUI10+ (max depth until age 15 12 metres (40 feet) - the Junior Scuba Diver
Comparison #4Maximum recreational dive depth
PADI40 metres (130 feet) with Deep Diver specialty course
SSI100 metres (330 feet) as a SSI Hypoxic Trimix Instructor
NAUI40 metres (130 feet)
BSAC100 metres (328 feet) (Using helium-based mixed gases by suitably trained and qualified divers).
Comparison #5Other diver qualifications
PADIRescue Diver; Master Diver; Divemaster
SSIAdvanced Adventurer, Boat Diving, Search & Recovery, Enriched Air Nitrox
NAUIScuba Rescue Diver; Master Scuba Diver; Divemaster
BSACDive Leader, Advanced Diver
Comparison #6Dive centres and resorts
PADI6,500 world-wide
SSI2,800 world-wide
BSAC1,100 local independent dive clubs + 400 diving schools World-wide
Comparison #7How long is a the certification good for?
PADILifetime - but you may need a refresher course if you've not dived in a while
SSILifetime - but you may need a refresher course if you've not dived in a while
NAUILifetime - but you may need a refresher course if you've not dived in a while
BSACLifetime - but you may need a refresher course if you've not dived in a while
Comparison #8Famous divers
PADISandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, James Cameron, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson are all famous PADI divers
SSINone on record
NAUIKevin Costner, Lou Gossett Jr., Cameron Diaz; & Tiger Woods are all famous NAUI divers + Jacques Cousteau was on the Board of Advisers
BSACArthur C. Clarke, Prince William (Duke of Cambridge), Price Charles (+ his father Phillip), Prince Harry, Sir David Attenborough
Comparison #9Max age limit
PADINo - but is down to individual health
SSINo - but is down to individual health
NAUINo - but is down to individual health
BSACNo - but is down to individual health
Comparison #10Size and nature of diving organisation
PADILargest in the world and is a 'For Profit' organisation
SSIThe world’s largest store based training agency
NAUISecond largest in the world and is a 'Not for Profit' organisation
BSACA not for profit diving organisation and recognised world-wide.
The above table is a comparison of differences and similarities between PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC certifications.

Can you switch between PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC and is each certification recognised by the others?

The question about whether SSI is recognised by PADI or visa versa and PADI recognised by NAUI or if BSAC is recognised by PADI or SSI, or whatever combination you choose, the answer is yes, all these diving agencies recognise each other.

But whilst they recognise each other’s certifications, they are different. This means you can’t switch agency whilst you’re in the middle of your training or initial certification.

The important thing to understand is that when you’re ready to move to the next certification level, PADI, SSI, NAUI and BSAC all recognise each other’s certifications as “equivalent” or “similar” training.

I hope you enjoyed this article about scuba diving PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about scuba diving PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!

PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC (Differences & is one certification better?)

Article written by Russell Bowyer who has been a scuba diver since diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1989. After his first dive he trained as a BSAC diver in the UK. He attained his Diver Leader certification with BSAC. He then went on to become a scuba diving instructor, teaching others how to dive and was voted as Diving Officer and Treasurer for the Saffron Walden BSAC club too. Russell has dived all over the world, including the UK, on liveaboards in the Red Sea, the Caribbean, South Africa and the USA. Russell is experienced in all dive types, including drift diving, deep dives that involved decompression stops and recreational dives too.

2 thoughts on “PADI vs SSI vs NAUI vs BSAC (Differences & is one certification better?)

  1. Heard that PADI stands for ‘put another dollar in’ lol’, but then I am BSAC AD biased

    1. Hi David, yes that is PADI’s nickname and like you I am also a BSAC diver too – happy scuba diving and thank you for your comment

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