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How Do I Choose Which Scuba Agency to Train With?

How Do I Choose Which Scuba Agency to Train With?

by Margot McManus
One of the most common questions dive shops get asked is: “I did my open water with another agency, can I still take a course with this agency?” The answer is nearly always YES. Yes, you can do your open water course with agency X, advanced course with agency Y, and go on to do your rescue or divemaster with agency Z. For example, in recreational diving, the content of the courses between different agencies, such as PADI and SSI, is almost the same since both agencies fall under the scuba organization WRSTC’s standards. We go into this a bit deeper in our blog “Diving Agencies vs. Organizations“. So here are the questions you need to ask yourself to start or continue your scuba diving journey.

What kind of diving are you planning on doing?

When you start your journey into scuba diving you’ll want to identify: what kind of diving you are looking for (recreational, technical, cave, commercial, etc.), and where you are planning to do most of your diving. These will be your first steps toward picking an agency to dive with. This could depend on where you live in the world, where you plan on diving and what the diving conditions are like there.
Diving Gili Air

Where in the world will you be diving?

When picking a diving destination, it’s important to consider the conditions. This primarily includes what the weather is like and consequently what the diving conditions are like.

Will you be diving in warm, shallow tropical waters with easy boat rides and calm seas? Or will you be somewhere where the water is colder that requires more gear? Or where there’s bigger waves, stronger currents and longer boat rides? It’s important to remember that a tropical environment doesn’t always mean easy conditions. For example, diving in the Komodo National Park can be beautiful and warm, however the currents can be very challenging, even for advanced divers.
Don’t be afraid to get really specific, such as how deep you’ll be diving as well as looking into how advanced you’re required to be for the dive sites you may have in mind.

Will you need to be an advanced diver or have a specific specialty? Will you be getting up super early for long days on the boat, or staying in a beach bungalow that’s walking distance from the dive shop?

Once you know what kind of diving you want to do, then you’ll want to find out what certifications you’ll need. From here, you can look into which agencies deliver the certifications for the type of diving you want to do, as well as which agencies are available to you where you want to go diving.

Once you have done your homework and found a few diving centers that operate where you will be doing your diving (who are run under the scuba agencies that you are looking for), it is time to pick one!

How do I choose which shop to dive with?

As for picking a shop, one of the most helpful tools is checking out different shops on TripAdvisor. You can also use resources such as Google or Facebook reviews, check out blogs or diving forums. Then there’s always word of mouth if you know other people in the community. Like anything else, it’s good to shop around and get different opinions.
Diving in paradise
Diving the Gilis

Why choosing your instructor is most important and how to go about it

When checking reviews of a dive center, look for a dive instructor’s name that seems to come up often and get good reviews. We strongly recommend further consideration into the instructor you’ll go with to certify you. You need to feel comfortable with that person above water before taking the plunge with them!

Having an instructor that’s a good fit is the most important thing that you need to find at the end of the day.

If you have to choose between two dive shops belonging to two different agencies, your choice should come down to the instructor – not the agency. If it’s possible, the best way to go about it is to meet them in person and chat with different instructors to see who you feel most comfortable with.

Diving with different agencies

So as for the questions we get asked: if you do your open water course with one scuba agency are you stuck with them for life? Can you switch between them?

Again the answer is almost always: you can switch, you’re not stuck!
For example, as a recreational diver at the beginner level, it doesn’t really matter which scuba diving agency you choose as the courses are held to the same international standards and are all recognised by each other’s qualifications. This may only change once you decide to take up professional or tech diving.

What’s more important is finding an instructor you like, feel comfortable, and get along with. It’s also important to be diving in an environment with conditions you feel comfortable in. Don’t worry so much about what agency they are, or what agency you’ve learned with in the past. Just make sure that whichever agency they teach with, that your dive insurance will accept it!
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