What is PADI?
PADI stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI instructors have been teaching scuba diving all over the world for over 50 years. PADI is the world’s most popular scuba diving curriculum and it’s probably the one you’ve heard of the most. It is an association for recreational diver training.
It was set up in 1966 by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson. They decided to break away from the then biggest training organization – NAUI – and create their own. Their primary aim was to break scuba training down into more digestible modules.
They offer training from the very first dive you ever do, up to instructor, many specialties and some technical diving qualifications. As of 2017, PADI had issued over 25 million scuba certifications.
What is SSI?
SSI stands for Scuba Schools International. It is an international organization that teaches the skills of scuba diving and freediving. It supports dive centres and resorts all over the world.
It was started in 1970 by Robert Clark in the USA. He was one of the pioneers in scuba diving training. SSI was also the first organization to present a full teaching curriculum, including the first full motion video.
How are they similar?
Well, it goes without saying that both are incredibly safe and trustworthy scuba diving associations. They also both teach scuba diving (obviously). They are both regulated and checked by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council.
To sum in up in a sentence: both PADI and SSI offer world class diving training around the world.
The basic structure of courses is more or less exactly the same, but with slightly different names. The open water stays the same, PADI Advanced becomes the SSI Advanced Adventurer. The PADI Rescue becomes the SSI Stress and Rescue. If you choose to take your diving to the professional level (divemaster and above), the distinction becomes a little more obvious.
But will people accept an SSI qualification in a PADI shop?
Yes! Both organizations are recognised all over the world for quality scuba diving training. Any qualification you gain with either will be valid in any dive shop. You are also able to mix and match both. So, for example, you could get a PADI open water and then go to an SSI shop and get your Advanced Adventurer with no troubles whatsoever.
What everyone wants to know. Prices differ from around the world. On Gili T we have a dive alliance between the majority of the dive shops on the island. The Gili Indah Dive Alliance (GIDA) sets prices for the diving courses across the island. It also holds them all to high safety standards.
GIDA was created to protect the island and its marine ecosystem. It stops the island from becoming too saturated with dive shops which drives the price down and allows standards to drop. As a result, on Gili Trawangan there is no price difference between SSI and PADI courses. We have a very detailed price list to cover all of our different specialties as well, so you’ll never be wondering what you’ll pay when you get here!
Ok, so how are they different?
Worldwide domination (not really)
So, the chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you know that there are two dive organizations called PADI and SSI. However it can’t be denied that in most of the world, PADI dominates the dive industry.
This isn’t to say that it is going to stay this way, as SSI has been steadily increasing in growth over the past years. While it’ll take many years before it rivals the size of PADI, it is becoming better known.
Over the past few years, SSI has stepped up its game with regards to online certification and study. It has an app where you can log your dives, have course materials assigned by an instructor and display your courses and qualifications. PADI has a similar one, but it has been criticised for its accessibility issues.
With SSI you can study for free online at no extra cost. You can also borrow materials from your dive shop for the duration of your study. PADI generally requires payment for its course materials to study them online or you must buy physical copies.
With both companies, you are searchable on their online databases when you gain your qualification. If you want an actual card, that’s going to cost you more with PADI. Despite the price similarities at face value, if you’re counting pennies, SSI might be the one for you.
The course content for PADI and SSI is more or less identical. One thing that differs is the teaching methodology. PADI insists on skills being completed in a set order to meet PADI standards and pass the course.
SSI allows for slightly more flexibility. For example, if a student is having an issue with a skill, we can move on and come back to it. This allows the student to grow in confidence by completing other skills before going back to the one they were struggling with.
If you have made the decision that you want to be a diving professional, you want to choose the right organisation for you.
The first step on the ladder is your divemaster training. The organisation you choose at this level still doesn’t matter a lot. The level you will reach by the end is the same and there are other things to think about.
Location, feel for the shop and what kind of teaching you prefer is more important. We have one of the busiest and most popular divemaster programs on Gili Trawangan.
When it comes to training as an instructor, there is more of a difference. A PADI instructor need only complete a two day cross over to be able to teach SSI. In contrast, an SSI instructor must complete a more in-depth and more expensive crossover course to teach as a PADI instructor.
Instructors for PADI can operate independently of any dive shop. If they have completed the instructor development course (IDC), they can teach anywhere in the world.
This has its benefits and its drawbacks. Benefits include flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere in the world. The drawbacks are that they bear full responsibility for anything that goes wrong. This is true even when teaching out of a PADI dive centre.
SSI instructors have to be affiliated with an SSI centre (dive shop) in order to teach. Again, this has its ups and downs. The downside is that it offers less flexibility for the instructor. The positive though is that there is shared responsibility in the case of any incident between the centre and the instructor. This inspires the shops to demand high standards and professionalism from its instructors.
In conclusion, there is very little difference between PADI and SSI. As a recreational diver, the differences are so small that if you aren’t completing a course, you probably won’t notice. Both maintain high standards of training around the world. Both are globally acknowledged as diving qualifications. One of the more important things to look at when choosing a dive shop are the look and feel of the place as well as online reviews like TripAdvisor.
Whether you’re PADI or SSI or something else entirely, we’d love to have you dive with us!
By Rachel Thannhauser