Scuba and skin diving is a popular activity in the United States, with nearly three million Americans participating in scuba diving-related activities in 2019 alone. Signing up for good scuba and skin diving lessons near you provides you with the opportunity to safely enjoy this activity, and also provides you with access to numerous health and social benefits. These include improved aerobic fitness, increased muscle strength, improved blood circulation, reduced stress levels, lowered blood pressure, weight management, and improved social interaction.
However, finding the right diving school near you is as much a matter of developing your diving techniques as it is a matter of ensuring your safety during the training process and afterward. It is estimated that 2 out of every 100,000 recreational divers in the United States die yearly while scuba diving, with procedural errors and lack of certain skills cited as a major cause of these fatalities. Considering this, it is essential that you opt for the most qualified and professional diving school near you when looking to sign up for scuba and skin diving lessons. You can make the right choice on suitable good scuba and skin diving lessons near you by asking the following questions:
Are You Licensed, Registered, or Certified?
Scuba and skin-diving is a self-regulated industry in the US. As such, diving schools and instructors do not generally require state or local professional licenses before offering their services to the public. However, diving classes, like other businesses, are usually required to comply with business registration and tax laws in the states where they operate. As a result, before enrolling in any diving lessons near you, it is a good idea to check with your local consumer protection agency whether there are any licensing or registration criteria that diving lessons must fulfill.
Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to hire an instructor that holds a certification from a dive training agency. These organizations certify deserving members who satisfy certain requirements, like completing specific diving-related courses and passing tests that assess their diving and emergency response knowledge. Certified instructors are also more likely to behave more professionally and ethically since training agencies usually require them to adhere to various codes of conduct. Some reputable organizations that offer certification opportunities to diving instructors include the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), and the Scuba Schools International (SSI).
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Scuba and Skin-Diving Instructor?
You should generally expect to pay a scuba and skin-diving instructor between $190 and $500 for your entire training. This fee also typically includes the cost of getting a diver's certification after the training. The actual price is usually dependent on varying factors, including your location, the reputation of the training center the instructor works in, as well as the agency you wish to obtain your diving certification.
If you find the cost of scuba diving lessons to be above your budget, you should consider the following cost-cutting tips:
- Reach out to your preferred dive center and ask about special packages and available promos.
- Look out for scuba diving scholarships.
- Buy second-hand gear.
- Go to scuba diving conversions and exhibitions where you can get discounted scuba diving equipment.
- Participate in events organized by dive resorts. Some of these resorts offer dive lessons at discounted rates during these events.
What Are the Common Scuba and Skin-Diving Expenses?
Besides the cost of training and certification, several other costs are associated with scuba and skin diving lessons. These include:
- Medical Tests: Most diving schools generally require participants to take a medical test in an accredited hospital before their training. The purpose of the test is to determine whether or not the participant has any medical condition that is not suitable for scuba and skin diving. Some of such medical conditions are uncontrolled asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. You can expect to pay between $40 to over $1,000 for diving medicals, depending on where you take it.
- Diving equipment: Most dive shops also require the participant to get their equipment for training, such as scuba masks, snorkels, scuba fins, diving suits, scuba buoyancy control devices (BCDs), scuba regulators, and dive computers. These items can cost you anywhere between $30 and $2,500 per item. Note that trainees do not usually need to get all these items at once. However, you will typically be required to get a mask, snorkel, and fins at the minimum. It is also worth noting that purchasing this equipment altogether is not the sole option. Many dive shops will gladly rent you equipment for the afternoon, day, or weekend so you can experience scuba diving without having to purchase all of the necessary equipment. Rental prices may vary, but a weeklong rental will cost around $200 per diver while renting for a day would cost around $65. Sometimes the rent might have been included in your training fee, as such, always confirm whether this is the case with your diving lesson.
- Dive Insurance: This covers your medical expenses brought about by scuba diving. This is usually paid for annually, and the price varies depending on the insurance company and the coverage you choose.
Who Will Do the Work?
When signing up for a scuba or skin diving lesson, you should always know who will be responsible for your instruction. Depending on the size and reputation of the institution, you may be assigned to more than one instructor. Confirm that this instructor is certified and has adequate liability insurance to cover injuries and accidents. If several instructors will be handling your diving lessons, make sure that they are all covered by liability and workers' compensation insurance.
What Qualifications Should a Scuba and Skin Diving Instructor Have?
Although there are no government-stipulated minimum educational requirements for diving instructors in the U.S, diving schools usually require instructors to hold the requisite certification from a reputable training agency like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), and the Scuba Schools International (SSI). Each of these agencies has its certification requirements, which usually involve completing a training program, which generally includes rescue techniques, first aid, and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and logging a specific amount of dive hours. Holding a certification from a reputable agency is usually an indication that the instructor has the required training and skill to teach others and ensure their safety during the lesson.
In addition to a certification, newly hired diving instructors may be required to work with more experienced instructors for a period of time before being allowed to manage diving lessons on their own.
Will You Provide References?
Considering the risks associated with diving, any diving lesson or instructor you subscribe to should come highly recommended with a track record of excellent training. Asking for references from people who have already completed diving courses is a useful first step in selecting an instructor. This, however, is only the first step. While friends and social media acquaintances are good sources for referrals, in many cases they may be biased or not experienced enough to provide proper and impartial referrals. Therefore, whenever a diving school or instructor is referred to you, you should always go a step further and ask them for references and pay attention to how they respond to this request. If they object to being asked for references, it might be a sign that the diving school has not been providing satisfactory services, and you should probably look for another one. On the other hand, diving schools and instructors that are confident of their expertise and professionalism will gladly provide you with this information.
Another way of accessing the track record of a dive school is by utilizing online sources like Yelp, Google Review, and the Better Business Bureau. These sites provide unbiased feedback about a business in order to help others make a well-informed decision on who to work with. Finally, training agencies like Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) provide the locations of diving schools that have met certain agency-mandated standards via their websites, making them a good source for finding suitable scuba and skin diving lessons near you.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
*Note that the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect specific data for scuba and skin diving instructors, and this information was collated from data on commercial divers.
Depending on your preferences and schedule, learning to scuba dive might take anywhere from three days to a year. Your diving course might include a combination of classroom and computer-based instruction, as well as pool lessons and local open-water checkout dives. However, while classes will provide you with fundamental knowledge and training on diving, you will need to practice constantly to improve your abilities. For example, it is believed that it takes around ten dives to get adequate control of your buoyancy and learn how to properly observe your diving environment.
Generally, divers need a degree of cardiovascular fitness, strength, and endurance especially for handling their equipment and fining through currents. However, the specific standards for physical fitness to dive are typically set by the diver certification agencies. These training and certification agencies generally require participants to take physical fitness tests, where the participant will be required to swim a minimum distance without stopping. Additionally, students must also answer a scuba diving medical questionnaire before beginning a diving course or diving. This is to determine if they have any conditions or are on medications that should preclude them from diving.
Note that while a level of physical fitness is required for scuba diving, a disability may not disqualify you from learning how to dive. Scuba diving organizations like International Association for Handicapped Divers (IAHD) are devoted to teaching people with disabilities how to perform a type of scuba diving referred to as adaptive diving. Adaptive diving gear has also been developed for divers who may have difficulty using standard dive gear, such as webbed gloves for divers who cannot swim with fins.
While there is no upper age limit for scuba diving, the minimum age limit depends on the rule of the training agency certifying you. The minimum age requirement for most training agencies, including the NAUI, PADI, and SSI, is 10 years old. However, children under 15 are only recognized as junior-level divers and can only be upgraded when they reach the proper age. In addition, if the training involves online sessions, students must meet the minimum age requirement of 13 to comply with international internet laws.
Skin diving has a simple process. All you have to do is to take a deep breath, dive down, observe aquatic life and other underwater sights, and dive back up when you are done or when you feel that you are running out of oxygen. Skin diving is a great way to explore the underwater world when you're not able to scuba dive or if scuba diving just isn't your thing. Nonetheless, skin diving also requires certain skills and techniques. To learn these techniques, you need to enroll in a skin diving course offered by training agencies like the PADI and NAUI. Note that the requirements for skin diving might differ from those of scuba diving in certain areas. For example, to enroll in a PADI Skin Diver course, you must be at least 8 years old and you need adequate swimming skills and comfort in the water.
Scuba diving certification is offered by scuba training agencies. These certification agencies, such as the NAUI, PADI, and SSI, have affiliated dive lessons across the country. To get certified, you will have to enroll in a diving course, which usually mixes classroom and home-based computer training with pool sessions and open-water checkout dives. Following this training, your registered instructor or training center can then certify you on behalf of the training agency. A scuba diving certification is good for life, but it is necessary to review your medical questionnaire periodically to be sure you do not have any conditions that can prevent you from diving.
Not exactly. Although being a strong swimmer would help you feel more at ease in the water, the swimming requirements for scuba diving certification programs are quite modest. For example, you will be required to swim 200 yards without stopping for the PADI Open Water Diver Certification Course, but you can use any stroke and take as long as you like to finish the distance. In addition, you will be required to tread water for 10 minutes in a body of water that is too deep for you to stand in. The notion is that anyone who wants to scuba dive should feel at ease in the water and that one's ability to handle oneself on the surface is a good sign of one's ability to handle oneself underwater.
There is no question that putting on gear and diving beneath the surface of a lake or ocean has apparent and inherent risks. Each year, more than 1000 people are injured when diving, with over 10% of these injuries resulting in fatalities. The common risks associated with scuba diving include drowning, decompression sickness (DCS), arterial air embolism, and nitrogen narcosis. These events have been linked to divers' pre-existing medical issues, procedural mistakes, environmental changes, and equipment malfunctions. Nonetheless, diving isn't nearly as risky as other recreational sports if you follow safe diving procedures and confirm your medical and fitness status before diving.
Shark attacks are extremely rare. Sharks do not generally regard scuba divers as especially appealing prey, despite the fact that over the years, baiting has made them bolder around people. According to statistics provided by the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), 129 incidents involving sharks occurred in 2020 across several countries, including the United States. Of the total number of these alleged shark-human interactions, only 4% involved scuba divers. Scuba divers can avoid shark attacks by not diving during dawn or dusk and by avoiding areas where feeding or fishing is taking place.
While scuba diving is suitable for almost anyone who is in good health and physically fit, some circumstances may prevent a person from diving. These conditions are listed on the Medical Statement Form that you must complete before enrolling in a course with your training agency. If you need to answer Yes to any of the conditions on the form, you will be required to have a physician certify your fitness for scuba diving before participating in training or diving. The following are some of the conditions and circumstances that would normally prevent someone from diving.
- Uncontrolled Asthma
- Heart disease
- Frequent or severe attacks of hay fever or allergy
- Frequent colds, sinusitis or bronchitis
- Behavioral health, mental or psychological problems (Panic attack, fear of closed or open spaces)
- Epilepsy, seizures, or convulsions
- Head injury with loss of consciousness in the past five years
- High blood pressure
- Ear disease or surgery, hearing loss or problems with balance
- Use of prescription medication