PADI vs SSI: Differences, benefits and drawbacks

If you’re interested in getting your scuba diving certification, you’ve probably come across with two of the most recognized SCUBA certification agencies around the world today: PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International).

There are tons of diver certification organizations in the world but for now we will stick to these two.


SSI is often slightly cheaper, as they don’t usually insist that the student purchases a manual for the course. You can borrow during the course and give it back at the end of it. SSI books are available for sale should you want one though.

PADI, however, do insist on purchasing the materials – no matter if you are traveling around the world or learning at home. They feel that post-course review of materials is important to maintain knowledge-levels.  They offer an e-book in case you are worried about cramming everything into your backpack.

Dive Materials As a diver, care for your environment should be very close to heart so consider whether you really do need a paper version no matter which you choose.


Both SSI and PADI offer their students to start the practical portion of the scuba lessons via  online learning which will save time and gives divers more time to just dive. The difference here is both cash and longevity: SSI’s online learning is free, whereas with PADI you will pay US$189 (as of 2016). PADI offer you access to their system for one year from when you sign up, whereas with SSI it’s there for you all the time, even after the course. If you choose not to buy the book, you can simply log in and use the site as a review when you want a refresher later on.


In terms of actual coursework involved, both the PADI and SSI certification programs will give you all of the skills and knowledge you need to be a successful and safe diver. In fact, many people will tell you that the dive instructor, rather than the course itself, is the most important factor in terms of how much you learn and how well you learn the skills you need to be a scuba diver.


The science, skills and techniques don’t change with whatever agency you choose but the methodology can be a little different. As an example, a PADI course runs in a set order, meaning the student must complete skill A before moving to skill B. Skills performed in rigid sequence. If you do change, you break standards. Whereas, an SSI course flow can be altered to suit the student. If you were having trouble mastering a skill with SSI, then your instructor is allowed to move on, get you comfortable and build your confidence with something else, and then return to that challenging technique. SSI teaches with an 80/20 approach. The instructor can adapt 20% of the course to fit the pace of learning, ensuring a student focused training program.


With PADI, centers have to either send off certification details or process them online to submit them to PADI. You can still dive straight away though and you do get a temporary card that is valid for 90 days. Your real card will be sent to the address you choose. If you are travelling then it’s best to send it home. If you are traveling for longer than 90 days, you can still have you certification checked on the PADI website.


SSI processes certification cards locally, so in most instances, you will receive your original certification card right at the end of your course. This means you will be registered straight away and you don’t need to wait for your original card to be sent home. No waiting months for your certification cards. With your card you may now dive anywhere else your travels take you. Although, printing your c-card is optional, I recommend to have it printed in case you go somewhere with unreliable internet connection just like when we went to Raja Ampat.


The actual names of the courses may be different between the two schools. For instance, the PADI Advanced Open Water is not the same level as the SSI Advanced Open Water.  In actual fact, the PADI AOW equates to the SSI Advanced Adventurer qualification.  The SSI Advanced Open Water qualification instead equates to the PADI Master Scuba Diver level.

Just be careful when signing up for the courses, especially if you’re taking certain courses from one school and other courses from the other.


Because both schools adhere to the guidelines set forth by the WRSTC or World Recreational Scuba Training Council, you can rest assured that certifications from both SSI and PADI schools will be recognized wherever you go in the world.


If you are thinking about a having a career in the diving industry as an Instructor, you should take into consideration if you plan to work on remote areas where there is no established dive center. PADI offers more freedom for its instructors to work independently while SSI requires that you work at a dive center. But, being forced to work at a center comes with one advantage, no annual fees for the instructor. PADI Instructor renewals starts from $195.


Overall, the courses teach the same information because they adhere to the standards set forth by the WRSTC. After all, no matter which organization you take a course with, you will use the same kind of equipment and see the same marine life under water.

A lot of experienced divers in the industry will tell you that it does not really matter whether you choose SSI or PADI. At the end of the day, you get a scuba certification card and you can dive anywhere in the world.

Scuba Diving Bubbles

Now, go get certified and blow some bubbles!

Do you want to get certified? Or, are you certified? Which do you think is a better certification agency?


27 Comments Add yours

  1. thelittlelai says:

    I might consider trying it. I have been always dreaming to try scuba diving but I’m always afraid, perhaps because I’m not an expert swimmer. Thank you for sharing information about this important matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Travelosio says:

      I will make a separate post about how to overcome your fears 🙂 I know quite a number of people with the same dilemma as yours. It is perfectly normal 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. aria says:

    I prefer NAUI, what do you think..?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Travelosio says:

      I got certified in Koh Tao, Thailand and NAUI was not a popular choice there. Can you tell us what aspects it differs from the two agencies? Thank you!


  3. Simon says:

    Hi, I like to save time and am thinking of doing the online learning. Can I also do the exam online with either of the agencies?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Travelosio says:

      Hi Simon, I am not sure. The exam I took was written (multiple choice) with the supervision of my instructor. I was her only student so I’m guessing this is the protocol. But then, it could vary also from dive center to another. I suggest you contact your chosen dive center if this option is possible.


      1. dive buddy says:

        Hi Simon, with the PADI e-learning you do take the exam online also. Once you enter a PADI dive center for the confined and openwater dives the dive instructor will test your knowledge by taking a small exam to see if you master the theory. I have no experience with SSI however 🙂


    2. Al says:

      Hi Simon check out RAID Diving all online theory and exams.

      Hope that helps.😉


  4. frankdiver says:

    SSI says “every student must own his own digital course material” !!!


    1. Travelosio says:

      When students enroll for e-Learning, the course materials will available for life. No subscription renewal needed.


  5. Learnt something new today. Thank you for sharing 😀


  6. We have a PADI Open Water Certification, but because our instructor has immigrated to the US, we’re planning to use CMAS for our Advanced Open Water certification. You’re right, it really doesn’t which organization you’re going to use.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps sometime this year. We need to save up to buy some equipment first.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, we misread your question as “when.” Hehe! We’ll probably take it here in Lapu Lapu…just near our place.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Rickjames says:

    As someone who taught both SSI and Padi for many years (on Koh Tao) I can tell you that the flexibility of the SSI course allows the instructor to tailor the class to the students needs – as you mentioned. It seemed to me that most people (especially on Tao) were backpacking and the idea of getting a textbook to carry on their travels did not appeal to them, so most chose the SSI. All in all, you’re absolutely correct, it’s the instructor that matters. If you have someone who is able to give you the skills and confidence to be a good diver, and someone who inspires a love for the ocean that makes you want to continue diving after your couse (not just put a tick in the bucket list) then the cert agency doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jack says:

    Your post is valuable , thanks for the info.


  9. Reblogged this on Bloggers In NCR and commented:
    Get to know the differences between Padi and SSI Diving Certifications.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ROBERT LEE says:

    I was a PADI instructor too a long time ago. I made it all the way to one of the higher levels until I retired from diving to return to the city.

    Here’s the one thing that is truly important. Regardless of any agency, READ the book and make sure that the instructor conducts all the skills, completely. Simply completing a skill does not mean one has mastered the skill, so it is important that each individual skills can be performed without difficulty before diving in the sea.


  11. cbholganza says:

    i used to dive before age caught up with me. my son took an interest to it at a very early age, and he’s now a dive instructor based in Panglao. he has both PADI and SSI certs. he wanted the best of both worlds, i guess.
    you should try diving in balicasag, here in bohol. truly amazing, i kid you not! here’s:


    1. Sarah B. says:

      Wow, cool! I felt ashamed how I’ve diving on the best diving spots around the world but I’ve never dived in my home country. I’ll see to it that I’ll dive in Balicasag when time permits…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cbholganza says:

        What??? How could you? You’re absolutely missing one third of your life!!! You have one half more to go!??!!🤓🤪😳🙃


      2. Sarah B. says:

        I know, right? I’ll make up for it on my next visit to Philippines 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. cbholganza says:

        Do come to Bohol. My son will be glad to show you the best dive sites here. Super world-class!!!


      4. Sarah B. says:

        Will do, please let me know his name and which dive center he’s in 🙂


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