CMAS, PADI, NAUI and all that jazz…

You have decided it is time to learn how to scuba dive, and you want to get certified and earn your first star. Good for you! You will have to listen to some theory, learn basic scuba diving skills, do a couple of dives and then take the certification test. You can’t dive without a certification anywhere in the world, or you shouldn’t have that is, until you are qualified to dive (there are exceptions, like “discovery dives”).

Everything seems pretty straightforward up until you realize there is a bunch of scuba diving organizations out there, and names like PADI or CMAS confuse you even further.

Similar like in boxing and its many associations (WBA, WBC, IBF…), diving as an activity is not regulated by one regulatory agency, but there is a large number of them and they have their own programs, syllabus, and they teach and certify their divers and instructors accordingly.

There are numerous scuba diving agencies and organizations around the world, and we will mention only the biggest ones operating in Croatia in this article.

We will also compare their qualification equivalents, so let’s start from the beginning!

CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques)

Jacques Cousteau, CMASOn the 28th of September 1958, delegates from the following Federations: Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, the United States of America and Yugoslavia met in Brussels on the occasion of the congress of the independent International Confederation gathering all underwater disciplines.

With this aim, a meeting was held in Monaco on January 9, 10 and 11, 1959 and a decision to establish the “World Confederation of Underwater Activities” in brief “C.M.A.S.”, was taken (source:

The first president of CMAS. was a legendary underwater explorer, diver and the captain himself – Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Croatian Diving Association regulates the diving activities in Croatia and works under C.M.A.S. recommendations and regulations.


The world’s largest scuba diving training organization, PADI was dreamed up in 1966 by two friends in Illinois over a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

Their goal – give more people a chance to enjoy the underwater world by offering relevant, instructionally valid scuba diving training to create confident scuba divers who dive regularly (source

Today, PADI is the largest organization in the world, and a good choice for a professional diver to get certified and work as a divemaster or diving instructor all over the world. Not to say that other organizations lack the job opportunities, but it seems to me personally that there is a certain advantage of being certified as a PADI instructor.


“To promote, through quality education, the techniques necessary for the general public to participate safely in underwater activities.”

From NAUI’s website: NAUI’s global reputation for the best in training and educational products reflects our core values of quality dive training through education.

While NAUI has long been respected for having the highest training standards in the recreational diving industry, we are also highly regarded for our Technical Diver Training. Many of our technical developments have been adopted by other agencies; our Technical Diving Division leads in the development of new theories and research that keeps NAUI on the cutting edge of technical diving.


For more than 45 years, SSI has provided training, scuba diving certification, and educational resources for divers, dive instructors, dive centers and resorts around the world. Started in 1970, SSI has expanded to include more than 30 Service Centers, is represented in more than 110 countries with over 2,800 International locations, and has materials printed in more than 30 languages. SSI is the name to trust in the diving world, and we attribute that success to our uncompromising standards and focused methodology.(source

So, which scuba diving organization should I choose?

For a novice diver, the organization is not as important as the instructor, his diving experience, and the dive center you are learning at. As you “climb” through the ranks, and switch from a hobby diver to a professional, a choice of the organization may come to play more.

On occasion a diver will do a “crossover” – switch from one organization/agency to another. These crossovers mostly occur on a professional level. The most likely scenario here is switching from another organization to PADI, chasing business opportunities with the biggest organization.

To do a crossover usually means to attend and complete either a part or a whole course at the level you currently are on. Unavoidably, there will be some fees to cover here as well.

Scuba Diving Diving Qualifications Comparison

Please take this table as a guideline, not a definiite source of information.

CMAS 1 Star (20m) 2 Star (40m) 3 Star (40m)  
PADI Open Water Diver (18m) Advanced Open Water Diver (30m) Rescue Diver Divemaster (40m)  
NAUI  Scuba Diver (18m) Advanced Scuba Diver (40m) Scuba Rescue Diver / Master Scuba Diver Dive Master  
SSI Open Water Diver (18m) Advanced Adventurer Diver (30m) Dive Guide Dive Master  

Which organization does your business work under? Did you switch during your career? What would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

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