The Secret to Increasing Certifications Every Successful Instructor Knows

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written by Megan Denny

Certain PADI® courses may be taught at the same time to enhance student knowledge or improve diver comfort. For example, you can teach the PADI Dry Suit Diver Specialty as part of the Open Water Diver® course. In addition to helping student divers gain experience and confidence, the instructor can earn certifications twice as fast.

Selling one person two classes isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Today’s consumers are used to being offered upgrades and add-ons when making a purchase. Whether it’s a phone case, extra legroom on an airplane, or an upgrade to a larger rental vehicle, most people appreciate the option to tailor a purchase to their individual needs.

By combining PADI courses, you give students the opportunity to customize their dive experience. At the same time, you’ll quickly gain certifications to reach the Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) or Master Instructor rating. Even if you’re already a seasoned instructor, increasing your Master Scuba Diver certs can help you win a free 2019 PADI membership renewal.

PADI Open Water Diver + Specialties

By pairing a PADI Specialty with the PADI Open Water Diver course you can add value to your Open Water program and boost your certification numbers. Here are a few ways to go about it:

Open Water and Digital Underwater Photographer
Underwater photography consistently ranks as one of the top interests for new divers. Invite students to make their scuba experience #instaworthy by bundling the Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty Course with Open Water. Here’s how to link the two courses together:

  • Integrate the Digital Underwater Photographer knowledge development at any point during the Open Water course
  • Conduct the Digital Underwater Photographer Level One photo dive in confined water any time after Confined Water Dive 3, or in open water as part of the tour portion of Open Water Dive 4.
  • Complete the additional open water dive for Digital Underwater Photographer Level Two certification at any point after the student diver’s Open Water certification dive.


  • You must have the relevant PADI Specialty Instructor Rating
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day

Open Water and Full Face Mask
One of the most-clicked PADI blog posts of all time is The Full Face Mask Diving Experience. Fulfill divers’ curiosity by combining the Full Face Mask Diver specialty with the Open Water Diver course. Here’s how:

  • Integrate knowledge development any time during the course
  • Conduct the Full Face Mask Confined Water Dive any time after Confined Water Dive 3.
  • Conduct Full Face Mask Dive 1 after Open Water Dive 3.
  • Integrate Full Face Mask Dive 2 with Dive 4, or complete both Full Face Mask Dives after Dive 4.

Open Water and Peak Performance Buoyancy
The most popular course combo we see is Open Water with the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course (PPB). Add PPB knowledge development whenever its convenient during the Open Water Diver course and conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 or 4. The student must complete one additional dive beyond their Open Water course dives to complete the Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 2 skills.

Other specialties that may be linked to the Open Water Diver course include:

Altitude Diver– integrate knowledge development at any time and conduct all four Open Water Course dives at altitude. Complete Altitude Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Lastly, conduct one additional dive after the Open Water Course dives to complete the Altitude Dive 2 skills – and the specialty course.

Delayed Surface Marker Buoy Diver (DSMB) – integrate knowledge development any time during the Open Water course. Conduct DSMB Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 and 4. Conduct another dive beyond the Open Water Course dives to complete DSMB Dive 2 skills, and the DSMB Specialty.

Dry Suit Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water performance requirements and conduct all four course dives in a dry suit. Complete Dry Suit Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Conduct another dive after the Open Water Course dives dives to complete the Dry Suit Dive 2 skills, and the Dry Suit Specialty.

Sidemount Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water requirements and practical application anytime during the Open Water course. Complete Sidemount Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3 or 4. Conduct Sidemount Dives 2 and 3 after Open Water Diver certification. Minimum student diver age is 15.

Specialties without Dives
Enriched Air Diver may be combined with any core PADI course, even Open Water.* Integrate Enriched Air knowledge development, the pre-dive simulation and practical application exercises at any time during a PADI scuba course. Enriched air dives are not required, however, the minimum student diver age is 12.

* The student must complete their Open Water Diver certification before being certified as an Enriched Air Diver, but you can plan dive 4 using Enriched Air.

The Project AWARE Specialist and AWARE Coral Reef Specialty courses do not require dives and may be added to any PADI course. Consider offering these certifications as part of an Eco Master Scuba Diver program.

Emergency Oxygen Provider + PADI Rescue Diver
The Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty course can replace Rescue Exercise 9 in the PADI Rescue Diver course (first aid for pressure-related injuries and oxygen administration). Incorporate knowledge development at any point before or during your Rescue Diver course.

Bridging the Gap

Open Water to PADI Advanced Open Water
Divers often say they don’t feel ready to enroll in the Advanced Open Water course. But as every PADI Pro knows, Advanced Open Water is the ideal way for new divers to build confidence and improve their skills.

An easy way to help divers take the next step is to conduct an adventure dive following Open Water Dive 4. Dive Against Debris, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Naturalist are great options. Incorporate the knowledge development into your briefing, and when the dive is over, ask students if they had fun and what they learned. Then tell them that’s what the Advanced Open Water class is all about!


  • Students who choose to enroll in your Advanced Open Water class must complete the Continuing Education Administrative Document (10038 or EU 10541) before the second Adventure Dive.
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day.

Advanced Open Water to Specialties
Each Adventure Dive from the Advanced Open Water Diver course may count toward Dive 1 of a standardized PADI/AWARE Specialty Diver course (or vice versa) if the diver has completed the relevant knowledge review. Your Advanced Open Water Divers may not realize they’ve completed half of a PADI Specialty course (see pages 32-33 of the 2018 PADI Instructor Manual to view the number of dives required for each specialty, most only require two dives, but some require three or four).

Exception: For the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty, Dive 1 may credit as an Adventure Dive only if it is conducted using scuba equipment in open water. If not, then credit Digital Underwater Photography Dive 2.

Discover Scuba® Diving to Open Water Diver
By conducting Confined Water Dive 1 skills during the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) program, you can:

  • Add value to your DSD program
  • Help student divers build confidence
  • Award Confined Water Dive 1 credit to successful participants
  • Sell more Open Water classes

Students who successfully complete the confined water skills and participate in the optional open water dive may also earn credit towards Dive 1 of Open Water. Brief and conduct Open Water Dive 1 skills with DSD participants who have previously mastered Confined Water Dive 1 skills. Students who are successful earn credit towards Open Water Dive 1.
Open Water to Rescue Diver
PADI Open Water Divers can improve their confidence, become better buddies, and get a taste of the serious fun divers have in the PADI Rescue Diver course by participating in the confined water session. It’s also a great way to keep divers active during colder months when open water diving may not be possible.

Open Water Divers may participate in both Rescue Diver Knowledge Development and Rescue Exercises in confined water. They may also earn the Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty which takes the place of Rescue Exercise 9 (see above).

IMPORTANT: Do not combine the performance requirements for two or more dives, such as Adventure Dives or specialty course dives, into one dive so that credit is received for more than one rating.

By linking PADI courses, you can become a MSDT, or Master Instructor much faster than teaching each course separately. Plus, you’ll help students work their way to the prestigious Master Scuba Diver rating. Last but not list, you might win a free 2019 renewal by participating in the PADI Master Scuba Diver Challenge.

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