When you start scuba diving, there are several choices available to you, especially when it comes to training. Among the many national organizations that exist like the FFESSM, or international such as CMAS and NAUI, we decided to focus on the two that dominate the market today: PADI and SSI.
Some dive centers offer PADI-only training, some SSI training, and some even offer both. Any diver has naturally asked this question once in his life: PADI or SSI, which organization should I be choosing?
First and foremost, these two organizations meet the minimum international standards for recreational diving training defined by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC), founded in 1999. These training standards, applied by PADI and SSI, are therefore almost universal and allow the two agencies to not be so different from each other. You will find that the instructors actually determine the quality of your diving course.
PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is considered the leading diving training organization in the world. It has indeed more than 6,400 affiliated centers around the world.
SSI, which stands for Scuba Schools International, is a training organization that continues to grow and expand in the world of diving. SSI now has more than 2800 international centers in more than 110 different countries.
Many dive centers are affiliated with both PADI and SSI. However, many of them offer SSI courses in more than 80% of cases because they are shorter and less expensive for divers. This difference in price applies especially when purchasing the theoretical course material that is mandatory at PADI, and optional at SSI. SSI also appears to be generally cheaper than PADI on all the courses offered.
When it comes to teaching methods, the SSI instructor has the freedom to add extra exercises as well as a personal touch by incorporating his experience in teaching different diving courses. If you have SSI training and are stuck in front of an exercise, you can move on to other exercises and return to the one that is problematic later. This allows you to move at your own pace. If you decide to head to PADI, the instructor will train you according to PADI standards that define a specific order in which you must learn and evolve. This implies that if you cannot perform an exercise, you will not be able to move to the next one. PADI instructors must be rigorous in the courses they teach since they must apply the same PADI standards to all divers.
The attitude taught in case of air failure is also one of the main differences between SSI or PADI. PADI will teach you, in this case, to get the backup regulator of your partner. SSI, assuming that in case of air failure, you instinctively react, teaches you to get the source of air closest to you: that is to say, the main regulator of your binomial. SSI prepares you to react in case a diver comes to remove your regulator directly from your mouth.
Regarding PADI and SSI non-professional certifications, they are equivalent and gateways exist since they contain all the minimum skills to be acquired dictated by the WRSTC. This allows you to start, for example, with the Open Water SSI, continue with the Advanced PADI, then move on with the Rescue training delivered by SSI.
Once certified, both organizations issue you a card. At SSI, you receive it directly at the end of your training, while with PADI, you receive this card by mail, a few weeks later. In both cases, you receive an email that proves your certification.
As you begin to climb the dive ladder and the training you have built continues to increase; the number of training manuals also increases. Thus, the two organizations SSI or PADI offer you to do your theoretical courses through digital training kits, to be downloaded online. They can be practical, especially when you are trying to travel light!
Whether digital or in the form of a paper manual, again, there is a difference between the two organizations. PADI requires each diver to have a copy of the theoretical courses: so when you purchase your manual, you must identify yourself with your Personal Identification Certification (PIC) to ensure your theoretical support is not shareable. At SSI, you have two choices: buy your own manual or digital kit or borrow it. If you have an SSI dive training with your family, you will not have to buy the theoretical manual in multiple copies (you will also avoid weight overload in the bag ...).
If you want to become a diving instructor, you should not overlook this difference. As a PADI instructor, you have the opportunity to perform your duties independently of a dive center while an SSI instructor must be attached to a center. PADI gives you the opportunity to teach and certify freelance divers.
The two organizations do not show significant differences in the skills and requirements that each diver must have. We can not advise you in particular. SSI and PADI, with more than 40 years of diving experience, will offer both quality training with regularly updated teaching materials, which will enable you to become a competent diver.
The quality of the diving course you will follow will ultimately depend on the instructor who teaches it, not on the agency by which he or she has been certified. If you want to train in scuba diving, make sure, first and foremost, that your instructor is qualified. There is no "perfect" instructor profile but he/she must inspire you with confidence. You must feel safe to start a class with your instructor. Do not hesitate to ask for advice and recommendations from your acquaintances, or from people who have dived with the club in which you wish to pass your training.