PADI vs NAUI vs SSI – Which One to Choose?

Last Updated: February 8, 2023

Are you planning on learning how to scuba dive or attain your scuba diving certification? Well, in that case, we’re sure that you must have come across numerous agencies that can help with it.

With over 150 agencies in the market offering the same services, it can become a daunting task to choose between them. However, don’t worry, as we have got you covered.

This guide will walk you through a comprehensive comparison between three different and most popular scuba diving training organizations, namely, PADI, NAUI, and SSI. We aim to help you choose the most suitable training agency for you needs.


padi vs naui vs ssi

Both PADI and NAUI are international scuba diving training organizations that can help you get your certification. These agencies will train you in scuba diving, allowing you to travel to many destinations, exploring the magnificent beauty of the underwater world.

However, there are certain differences between the two as well.

What is the difference between PADI and NAUI?


The term PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI offers a wide variety of certification courses to those interested. This includes the Open water course, which is the most basic in nature.

In the Open Water course, one learns some of the most basic scuba diving tips, how to breathe when underwater, how to keep oneself safe, and so on. A children’s version for the same is also offered by the association with special and relatively easier activities to engage in.

Once the basic certification course is complete, one can move onto attain additional training as well. This can include training in how to become a divemaster, an emergency responder, a rescue diver, and a night diver.

To become a rescue diver or an emergency responder, it requires prior certification in scuba diving from a professional agency.

One can also choose to learn underwater video-making, underwater photography, and become a naturalist.


NAUI stands for National Association of Underwater Instructors. In comparison to PADI, it is a relatively smaller association of instructors. Although international, NAUI is an association that is found at fewer locations of the world.

NAUI is a not-for-profit organization that takes immense pride in its excellent recreational and tech diving training programs. Many big organizations that are known throughout the world, such as Disneyland, NASA, and US Navy Seals, have relied upon NAUI training programs.

NAUI was founded in 1955 as the National Diving Patrol. However, in 1959 it was renamed the National Association of Underwater Instructors.


Both the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI) are globally recognized associations for attaining training in scuba diving at various levels. The programs provided by the two are more or less the same, especially at the beginner levels.

The main point of difference between the two is in their marketing skills and methods.

In addition to this, certain differences may arise as one begins to move up to the higher levels. For example, it is relatively easier for a PADI diver to cross-over and become an SSI diver. However, this is not very simple in the opposite case.

Therefore, until and unless you are willing to engage in master-diving courses, it is recommended that you opt for either as per your location and convenience. It is only for advanced training that you may have to give this a second thought.

PADI Certification Levels

As mentioned above, PADI offers training at various levels beginning with Open Water training. Well, in total, there are 7 training levels offered in the PADI universe. These are as follows:

1. Discovering the art of scuba diving

PADI offers a 1-day program to interested candidates. This program is not certified but is enough for one to be known as an open water diver. Under this program, one can dive up to 12 meters deep in the water.

This is best for those interested in knowing how breathing underwater is like and how the experience can be.

2. Scuba diver program

This level is completed in 2 days with a certain amount of e-learning and teaching. Once completed, a person can dive up to 12 meters with a professional PADI guide.

3. Open-water diver

This shall be the first time where one will be able to dive as a proper diver for up to 18 meters with a guide or a friend. This level is completed in 3-4 days, along with a certain amount of e-learning and teaching.

4. Specialty diver

Specialty diver courses have been created to learn a specific diving activity which could include underwater navigation, underwater video-making, underwater photography, or rescue. This course ends in 1-2 days only.

5. Advanced open water diver

The advanced open water diver course is a 2-day program with 5 diving sessions. Of 5, 2 are to be compulsorily done, namely underwater navigation dive and deep dive. The other 3 can be selected from the list supplied.

In addition to this, 5 knowledge reviews of the 5 courses are to be covered.

6. Rescue diver

A rescue diver course lasts for up to 2-3 days. Under this, you shall learn how to save yourself in cases of emergency, protect others, handle emergency tools and equipment, deal with panicked divers, and so on.

7. Divemaster scuba diver

This is the highest level in the scuba diver training programs offered at PADI. Only 2% of recreational divers have this training. Being trained under this program puts one under a very special group of divers known for their skills and experience in the world of scuba diving.

For this, one needs to have completed 50 logged diving sessions, 5 PADI specialty diver sessions and must be a rescue diver too!

Once all of this is done, one is eligible to apply for the divemaster training program at PADI, which is a great step to then become a professional scuba diving instructor.

Is NAUI better than PADI?

No, the National Association of Underwater Instructors, also known as NAUI, is not better than the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, also known as PADI. Nor is PADI better than NAUI. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

While PADI is better for crossing over to another association and has better marketing skills and methods, NAUI is considered to be better for higher levels of training purposes.

Besides, NAUI is a non-profit association that may seem appealing to some. However, PADI too is an immensely recognized association in the world. Both are globally known, although NAUI is relatively smaller in comparison to PADI.

The price range of entry-level certification at PADI, NAUI, and SSI

Now that a comparison between the courses and training programs offered at three of the biggest international scuba diving associations in the world has been provided, the prices must be compared too.

In terms of the entry-level certification fee, a difference does exist between the three. Upon careful analysis, it has been noticed that PADI courses at the entry-level are the cheapest. However, the cost will rise according to the levels selected.

PADI is followed by NAUI in terms of the price range. NAUI’s price range lies in the middle. Last is the Scuba School International training fee. However, many times you may notice that SSI high-level training sessions are a lot cheaper than PADI.


How do I choose between SSI, NAUI, and PADI?

When it comes to choosing between SSI, NAUI, and PADI, it is more or less a matter of preference and convenience. Depending upon where you put up and how far the association is, you can make your choice.

As discussed above, there isn’t much of a difference in the programs offered by them. As a result, what’s most important is the will to learn. If you have the dedication and the will to learn, you can opt for any one of the associations.

It is important to note that while NAUI is more prominent in only a certain location of the world, SSI is found more commonly in Asia. On the other hand, PADI is globally spread and is particularly known in the USA.

Are all course names the same for each association?

No, the course names may be different from one association to another. For example, the PADI Advanced Open Water course may be similar to the SSI Advanced Adventurer certification course.

To get a better idea, it is best to go through all the course descriptions before you make a choice. This can be done through the information provided on their web pages.

If I am a certified diver at SSI, can I train at PADI too?

The answer is yes, you can! It is very easy to make a cross-over between these associations. All you need for this purpose is proof of your certification. This can be provided through your association’s app or physical proof.

How much can scuba diving training cost?

There is a difference in price ranges offered by different training associations. If we compare the world’s most recognized associations, namely SSI, PADI, and NAUI, SSI is the cheapest.

However, you make a pick, it is best to check whether the course is also counting the certification and course material costs. If these costs have not been included, the course is likely to become a lot more expensive later on.

It is recommended that you contact the association or instructors personally for exact information on scuba certification cost. Based on your budget, you can then make your final decision.

Can I do an SSI course if I did my Open water with PADI?

Yes, it’s very easy for recreational divers to make a switch. Even if you have done your open water course at PADI, you can do a course at SSI too. Although acceptable, it’s best you contact the association personally.

Is e-learning part of every course?

No, e-learning is not a part of every course offered by every association. E-learning is most often provided at PADI with certain levels, such as the scuba diver program and open water learning program. However, at SSI you can start their e-learning program for free.

This is added knowledge about the practical activities you will be engaging in during your training sessions with the instructors.

How do I know if I am ready for scuba diving or not?

For scuba diving, all you need is a passion for learning new and interesting things that are unconventional in today’s world. Possessing this determination and passion is enough for you to get going and cross every level possible in the training session of the same.

You require no prior knowledge or training. For that, associations like PADI, NAUI, and SSI are there to help you out. Hence, if you wish to explore the unending beauty of the underwater world, why wait when you can start now?

Summing Up

Are you ready to scuba dive? Well then, why wait when you can apply at some of the most well-known associations now. Upon close analysis, all three, namely the National Association of Underwater Instructors, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, and Scuba School International, are equally valuable and good enough to invest in!

All of them offer a variety of courses with highly skilled instructors possessing multi-level certifications for their excellence. In the hands of such professionals, you are likely to remain safe at all times and upgrade your skills effectively too.

If a change in mind occurs at any point in time, you can always make a cross-over from one association to another very easily and take up training at different levels. This can be done with the help of your prior certification proof.

The price ranges too are very similar to one another. Thus, based on your convenience, location, and ease, you can make a decision and opt for training at any one of the three associations to explore the beauty of the underwater world at its finest.

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