How does SSI compare to PADI?

Just a quick note to say I had a look at your website and the place looks fantastic. I don’t know much about SSI, as compared to PADI.

Do you know if the two certifications are mutually accepted?

In other words, can my advance diver credentials allow me to make a deep dive in A dive lead by an SSI dive Master?


Hi LadyDanger,

SSI and PADI are both RSTC & WRSTC (the councils for setting scuba safety standards) recognized. This allows SSI and PADI to recognize one another’s certifications.

Your advanced diver credentials with PADI are the equivalent to SSI Advanced Adventurer. You are certainly able to make a deep (greater than 60’) dive with our SSI certified staff. Be sure to bring your log book so we can fill out all the fantastic sightings!

Dive and Live,
Blue Island Divers


@Blueisland thank you, very informative.

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There a few fundamental differences between SSI and PADI, but most are related to Diver certifications at the professional level. Here are few of these differences:

  • SSI accepts PADI instructors into their system easier than PADI accepts SSI instructors

  • PADI professionals are independent and can practice their trade free of a scuba shop.

  • SSI certifies their instructors through their stores vs. PADI who certifies instructors via an independent panel lead by PADI personnel who are not associated with any local dive shop

But we are splitting hairs here. Over the years SSI has adjusted their curriculum to fit the same standards as PADI, and the two programs are virtually the same. PADI certifies nearly 75% of all divers, so they are the “gold standard” - they’ve been doing it for some time, but SSI is now just as reputable.

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As you say nitrox, we are splitting hairs but I must disagree with the 3rd point and elaborate on the other two key points.

  • SSI does accept PADI crossover instructors more easily since we would much rather recognize an instructors hard work and show them a system we feel is more beneficial to them as instructors. This gives them the opportunity to use the system without crushing their paycheck. If an instructor utilizes the system properly; they will love it and thrive. As an SSI instructor who was originally certified as a PADI DM, I have much insight into the certification process. I utilized the crossover system from PADI to SSI as a Divemaster. I then chose to complete the SSI Instructor Training Course directly with SSI.

  • The ability to practice independently from a dive shop is seen as detriment to the sport of scuba diving. Why would an instructor NOT want to be associated with a dive center at the end of the day? The SSI system gives more oversight through dive centers. The dive center allows the student a true experience of the dive shop; the knowledge of staff, the experience of other divers, the immediate exposure to retail sales, the sight of a workbench in process of servicing, and much much more. I have used both methods and just can’t find a benefit of “practicing trade free of a scuba shop” a benefit to students or instructors.

*SSI instructors are likewise trained by an Instructor Trainer and a 3rd party (independent) Instructor Certifier is utilized for the evaluation and final certification of the Instructor.

I also would not consider PADI a “gold standard” simply because in past years they certified a large portion of the diving community. I think we can all agree a diver trained with CMAS would by far win the gold standard rating for scuba. PADI is an excellent marketing company and thus the reason for their dramatic success over so many other certifiers. Nike would be considered a “gold standard” if we use the same comparison; however, they don’t make the very best shoes. Brand development will never equate to best quality. For this reason I try not to place SSI and PADI in the same basket. They are similar in certifying standards; yet, vastly different in total diver development and ideology. We welcome both agencies and recognize their efforts toward making the sport the best it can be.


This is a good question. Being involved with a dive shop beyond volunteer work or beyond being a repeat customer exposes a diver to repetition and muscle memory to equipment handling and scuba guidelines. Divemasters (and subsequently instructions) are above all models for good behavior. And nothing reinforces good behavior as public oversight.

If you’re considering getting certified by a solo instructor in the privacy of his own backyard, you may need to think twice about it :wink:

Nice input.


@Blueisland - You are more of a subject matter expert here than I. Excellent contribution to the thread.

As a PADI divemaster myself, I am able to support more than one Scuba store with the needs of their Open Water classes. Is this possible with SSI?

Nice commentary.


Hi Nitrox, sorry for the delay in reply.

Thank you for the compliment. You are certainly able to be affiliated with multiple dive centers with SSI. You simply have a home shop you choose to be associated with and simply ask the SSI regional office to add you as an instructor to the other dive centers you work with.

Thank you for the excellent question. I know that is a stigma that many PADI professionals are not aware of.

I would welcome you to explore the SSI crossover for PADI professionals, if you have not already.


Great insight ROA. This is exactly the type of influence we hoping to convey. Even seasoned DM’s and Instructor’s need oversight from management in order to be sure this model and good behavior are being projected.

We all become complacent at times and we need to piers to pull together and collaborate with to keep our skills sharp.



To the question above: There are small admin differences at the professional level. But little to no differences as it relates to a diver entering the water and wanting to enjoy a nice day of diving. [quote=“LadyDanger, post:1, topic:306”]
Do you know if the two certifications are mutually accepted?
To the question above: Yes, they are mutually accepted and recognized. Dive with confidence.


Be on the look for the following items as they are better indicators of excellence when choosing a dive shop:

1. Is the equipment well maintained?
We did not ask if the equipment is new. We asked if it is well maintained. There is a difference. Make sure the shop can maintain their gear. This is more obvious that you might think. Look around at how they store and treat their gear.

2. Are the employees knowledgeable and helpful?
Strike up a conversation. Quality operators will be interested in teaching you and will elaborate on questions. Short tempered “shut your month” type operators are a tell tell sign of a poorly operated establishment.

3. Do they provide a facility where surface intervals can be had and where valuables will be safe?
Remember, you won’t be in the water 100% of the time. How is their boat? How are their facilities? Can you see yourself hanging out there for a few hours or a few days?

4. How large of a group do they take out at once?
Successful operators get big, and then they get crowded before they start to turn into bad operators. Ideally, you dive with a small group so that you can get to know one another outside the water and can keep an eye out for one another inside the water. Small groups make for better diving experiences.

5. Are they a “gotcha” firm or do they offer reasonable cancellation policies?
The best operators have their eyes set on the future. They want re-occurring business, and they want a quality review more than do a quick sale. So if you come across a shop that uses the word “nonrefundable” more than they do the word “Dive Experience” then you probably need to look elsewhere.

6. Can they keep their restrooms in order and clean?
This is an easy giveaway. C’mon, if they cannot keep their restroom clean, they probably cannot keep up with the rest of their operation.

7. Is their website maintained, professional, current, and are inquiries quickly addressed?
Now let’s be fair, dive shops are not known for being web developers, so cut them a break. BUT, pay attention to how they conduct themselves online. Do they respond quickly and professionally? Do they ask questions to better understand your needs? Are they posting fun pictures of groups that came before you? Is their blog updated regularly? All these will help you measure how much of an industry leader they may or may not be and above all how well they take care of their guest.


I would add a number eight…

8. Do they have a seaworthy boat and does the boat have oxygen and an emergency medical plan onboard?

  • The dive boat should at a minimum give off the appearance that it is seaworthy
  • There should be Oxygen on the boat
  • The boat captain should have a deckhand or a divemaster who doubles as a deck hand
  • The boat captain should know who to go and who to call in the event of an emergency

@DeepThinker That is a nice add on. I agree fully. Roatan only has the one hyperbaric chamber, so surely they all know where it is. Thank you for adding to my comments.


@Barracuda Thank you for taking a moment to write out a thoughtful post. Good points from start to finish. I agree fully.


Excellent points!!! Well done.


Absolutely @DeepThinker! This is one of the most easily achieved goals; yet one of the most overlooked. Great add!


Oh wow, excellent list of things to consider when choosing a dive shop in Roatan. Thank you for sharing.

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The comments are spot on, they are the same to the incoming visitor and the differences are too small to make a fuss about.

As in all cases, there are good and bad PADI operators and there are good and bad SSI operators. Use the guidelines above to pick a quality operator and go with them, regardless of their branding.

I see two dive shops in this forum which carry a good reputation:

I’ve also used West Bay Divers and Barefoot Divers but I don’t see them represented in this forum.

Hope this helps.


Many thanks for the vote of support @ReefObserver! We will continue to stay the course.