How to Become a Licensed SCUBA Diver


CC BY-SA 4.0

Paolo Arbid, Staff Writer

Since I was young, I’ve spent a lot of my time in the water. My father had been a diver when he was younger, and he used his experience to teach me things as simple as basic swimming to freediving techniques (underwater diving that relies on holding one’s breath as opposed to SCUBA equipment). So to me, the natural next step was getting my SCUBA license as soon as I was eligible.

Located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, SPE Dive School provides people with a weekend course to get a SCUBA diving license. I decided to attend the school in December, 2014. The process is very simple, and although it was tiring, I enjoyed it a lot.

The course is done in 2 segments every day: the “interactive” portion, where you are taken to a pool to, well, interact with the equipment and try it out, and the classroom portion, where the students learn from internationally PADI certified teachers. PADI, or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is an internationally recognized organization, and is the largest diver training organization in the world. They also have their own dive centers around the world, and they certify other dive shops, which is essentially their guarantee of quality equipment.

The classroom portion is done in the beginning of both days, starting at 9 AM. The information provided goes very in depth about water pressure, which is the most prevalent factor in diving. Water weighs 64 lbs per cubic foot, and the further down you go, the more water is weighing down on you. That’s a lot of pressure. We accommodate this by equalizing, or allowing higher pressure air from your throat to enter your middle ear, allowing the pressure within our body to be proportionate to that of the water around us. You are also taught about equipment, learning about the different types of things people use around the world, and how to use all of it. They also teach communication, i.e. hand signals, and laws and etiquette. Basically, they take you step by step through everything you need to know. At the end of the course, a final test is administered and must be passed in order to pass the class.

The next portion of the class, which takes less time than the classroom portion, is the interactive portion. You are taken, along with your entire class, to an indoor pool located near the classroom. Waiting there is lots of SCUBA equipment, ready for use. Then, the instructors teach you how to prepare your equipment, how to wear it all (a 35 pound SCUBA tank is not easy to get on your back), and have you practice everything you’ve learned, from breathing techniques to emergency maneuvers.

The final step in the process of gaining your diving license is doing three open water dives, meaning dives in an open body of water. These must be done with someone that has earned the title of divemaster. These people have a lot of SCUBA diving experience, and have taken many courses to become experts in the field. Once you complete your three dives, the divemaster you did your dives with will simply help you fill out an online form, give his credentials, and send you home. Soon, your PADI dive license will arrive in the mail, and voila! You can now dive safely and legally, exploring almost anywhere in the world on a whole new level.