BSAC vs PADI – What are the differences in scuba diving qualifications?
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BSAC OR PADI
Before you throw yourself into the deep end contemplating whether BSAC vs PADI should actually be a comparison in the first place, let me guide you through the shallows with some thoughts to consider.
It seems like a whale-sized decision choosing between them. It’s likely you’ve arrived at this article after some research already, and if that included any forum threads on this subject, I empathise with you as they do get a little out of hand. Rest assured I will offer you the facts, observations and balanced thoughts derived from many years’ experience in the dive industry.
Who are PADI and BSAC?
P.A.D.I. stands for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Having awarded over 23 million certifications, their claim to be, ‘The Way The World Learns to Dive’ is not that much of an overstatement.
P.A.D.I. was founded in 1966 with the aim of producing a modular system of diver education that would make scuba diving more accessible. PADI have over 6000 dive centres around the world, and you can walk into any centre, choose a course and off you go. PADI Instructors are paid for their work and can work on a self-employed basis or be employed by a dive centre or resort.
Take a look at the PADI video below for further insight.
Check out BSAC’s Video below too.
B.S.A.C. stands for the British Sub Aqua Club, and its name is a clear indicator that the organisations prime geographical focus is Britain.They claim to be the home of U.K. diving and were reported to have 30,000 members in 2009.
B.S.A.C. is a club based system which you join and become a member. There are around 1000 clubs in the U.K. and around 400 schools internationally. Their instructors are volunteers who give their time to train members.
Are there other options apart from PADI and BSAC?
While this article compares BSAC vs PADI only, you should know that there are many scuba diving organisations or agencies out there; SSI, CMAS, NAUI, SDI, RAID, IANTD, ANDI and GUE are all names that you will come across if you hang around the diving industry long enough.
That list is far from exhaustive; there are many more.
They all offer you a method of learning to dive which, when completed to standard, will give you a license allowing you to dive anywhere in the world and continue your scuba diving training with any centre no matter what their chosen agency affiliation is.
Some offer specialist courses that focus on specific types of diving like Technical and Cave.
Some have a slant towards a particular geographic region. Each has a slightly different philosophy and each structure and present their courses and materials in a different way.
But here’s the kicker, and this is what you need to bear in mind:
The science behind diving, the knowledge you need to acquire and the techniques you need to master are essentially the same.
Think about it for a second, how can they be different
SCUBA Agency Comparison Chart
Check out the chart below to compare dive agency qualification levels.
|AGENCY||SCUBA DIVING QUALIFICATIONS|
|BSAC||Ocean Diver 20m||Sports Diver 35m||Dive Leader 50m||Advanced Diver 50m||1st Class Diver|
|PADI||Open Water Diver 18m||Advanced Open Water Diver 30m||Rescue Diver||Divemaster|
|NAUI||Scuba Diver 18m||Advanced Scuba Diver 40m||Scuba Rescue Diver / Master Scuba Diver||Divemaster|
|SSI||Open Water Diver 18m||Advanced Adventurer Diver 30m||Advanced Open Water Diver with ‘Stress & Rescue’||Dive Control Specialist|
|CMAS||1 Star 20m||2 Star 40m||2 Star 40m||3 Star 56m||4 Star|
|NASDS||Open Water Diver||Advanced Open Water Diver||Rescue Diver||Dive Supervisor|
|IADS||1 Star Open Water Diver 20m||2 Star Advanced Diver 32m||2 Star Advanced Diver 32m||Intermediate Certification|
|ACUC||Open Water||Advanced Open Water||Advanced Open Water with Rescue Diver||Divemaster|
|PSAI||Open Water Sport Diver 18m||Advanced Open Water Diver||R.A.P.I.D. Master Diver||Advanced Deep Air Level 1||Divemaster|
|FEDAS||Buceador 1 Estrella||Buceador 1 Estrella||Buceador 2 Estrellas||Buceador 2 Estrellas||Buceador 2 Estrellas|
|DMT NASE UK||Open Water Diver||Advanced Open Water Diver||Rescue Diver||Advanced Rescue Diver||Dive Master|
|SAA||Open Water Diver||Club Diver||Dive Leader||Dive Supervisor|
|IANTD||Open Water Diver||Essentials Diver||Advanced Open Water Diver||Rescue Diver||Dive Master|
|NASE||Open Water Diver||Advanced Open Water diver||Rescue Diver||Master Diver|
|PSS WORLDWIDE||Open Water Diver||Advanced Open Water Diver||Scuba Rescue Diver|
What’s available to me?
Let’s move away from what can be an emotional and somewhat opinionated debate and move onto some practicalities.
Ask yourself where it is you think you will do most of your diving, on holiday or at home? Either way, you are going to be limited to what is on offer at your given location.
While PADI is far more prevalent, you should also remember that a PADI Dive Centre relies on ‘customers signing up’ as opposed to BSAC who fill their dive trips with “members joining in”.
A good BSAC club with a large number of members who are very active will give you excellent support, training, and mentorship throughout your scuba diving education.
If they have access to a pool, open water, a boat and a range of gear to loan you then your opportunities to dive in the U.K. could outstrip that offered by a local PADI Dive Centre.
If you are looking to get started in SCUBA you should check out our FAQ article.
A busy club will have an active fun diving and dive holiday program, and you will have some great opportunities to dive locally, nationally and internationally. See our articles on diving in Cozumel and diving Miami for insight into what’s available at different locations around the world.
They’ll hold social events where you will meet a bunch of new people who all share your passion for the underwater world. This is not something that you will typically experience through a PADI Dive Centre.
How much time will each system take?
You can do a full PADI Open Water Course in three and a half days while on holiday abroad. If you were to do your PADI Open Water course at a local centre at home your course would likely be spread over evenings and weekends.
Technically you could do a BSAC course in around the same time frame. However, because their instructors are volunteers this rarely happens, your course could take months to complete.
Add instructor availability to weather conditions and access to facilities and you get the idea how painstakingly slow learning to dive this way could be.
What do people think of them?
Each agencies image or their brand’s identity are just emotional connections that marketers want you to make with their brand; much like Coca Cola being, ‘The Real Thing’ and Pepsi being, ‘The Choice of a New Generation’.
PADI is synonymous with glossy good looks and pearly white smiles, tropical beaches, swaying palms and crystal clear turquoise water. It’s accessible, inviting, encouraging and full of the promise of good times.
BSAC, on the other hand, has an older, more serious feel and while its detractors would accuse it of being slow and grave, it does command respect. By its members, it’s certainly regarded as a more thorough, careful and holistic approach to learning to dive.
Which offers the most flexibility?
PADI offers so much more flexibility it hardly seems fair to BSAC. You can break your PADI course up into three pieces.
Each piece can be completed separately anywhere in the world.
You can do your theory online or download the app and learn offline at your convenience, or you can learn with an instructor.
Your second chunk is your shallow water skill mastery which can be completed in a swimming pool or shallow water and the third, your open water dives. What this means is that you can arrive on holiday with only four open water dives left to do to complete your course.
Not only that, if you don’t have much time or if you are not 100% sure scuba diving is for you PADI offers you the chance to get your fins wet and test the waters before committing to learning to dive.
PADI’s Discover Scuba Diver program is an experience only and not a licence. After a little basic theory and some skill development and while under very close supervision you can make a shallow dive.
If you have a little more time but not enough for the full PADI Open Water Course you could consider the PADI Scuba Diver Course. This course is shorter, but it still results in a licence.
This licence is a little different, qualifying you to a maximum depth of 12m rather than 18m and you must always dive with a professional.
The Scuba Diver Course is a good starting point for kids too as it doesn’t include the theory that children might find too much initially.
If you choose this option for you or your children, it can still be topped up to the full PADI Open Water Course at any time in the future.
Can you mix and match?
If you learnt to dive with PADI on holiday you can still join your local BSAC club when you return. Just because you have completed one course with one agency it doesn’t mean that you have to continue with that agency either.
Each agency has minimum entry requirements for each course that they offer. So if you have completed a B.S.A.C. Ocean Diver Course, you do meet the minimum requirements to be eligible to start the PADI Advanced Open Water Course.
The only place this can fall down when comparing BSAC vs PADI is that BSAC don’t offer a course which PADI recognises as equivalent to their Rescue Diver Course.
The PADI Rescue Diver Course is a prerequisite to the PADI Dive Master Course. If you were qualified as a BSAC.
Sports Diver you can progress straight to BSAC Dive Leader (the BSAC equivalent to PADI Dive Master) but not to PADI Dive Master without having completed a PADI Rescue Course.
Progress and Career
Both agencies offer progression to instructor level and beyond. At this stage, choosing with whom and where to do your entry level training, I honestly don’t think you need to worry too much about progression to instructor level.
Earn your licence first and get some experience.
BSAC vs PADI – Cost
While the general feeling is that BSAC is cheaper than PADI, I know that you can take a comprehensive PADI Open Water Course in Thailand with award winning dive centres for as little as GBP200/USD300.
If you are diving in the UK, then your BSAC club membership will likely entitle you to a lower fun dive price than what you would be quoted from a PADI Dive Centre.
What you need to factor in with either option is your equipment costs. Do you need to invest in equipment upfront? If so, what? Is there equipment available to hire (that fits you)? Is there a cost to hiring this? Read out article on average costs to get started with scuba diving to give you a heads up on gear and training fees.
I know that some BSAC clubs require their members without gear to hire their gear from the local PADI dive centre.
Learn to dive on holiday and you might be asked to purchase a mask and snorkel but almost certainly nothing more.
However, this decision should not just be based on cost.
While I have dealt, as fairly and accurately, as I can with the key facets you might weigh up when comparing BSAC vs PADI, there is one factor that overrides all.
Whatever agency you choose, in whatever location you choose, your course will only be as good as the capabilities, knowledge and experience of the instructor delivering it.
It will only be as safe and as well organised as the facility they work with dictates, and you will only get out of it what you put in.
So while you should indeed take some time to think about where you want to learn, how you want to learn and how you see your diving education progressing, don’t under estimate the value of an enthusiastic, patient professional who is keen to share their passion for the underwater world with you.
Don’t make your choice based on brand identity or internet arguments, make an informed decision that suits you, your time, lifestyle and needs and know that this can never be the wrong choice.
Sources and Useful Links
Useful PADI Links
Wikipedia Facts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_Association_of_Diving_Instructors
On or Offline Theory Options https://apps.padi.com/scuba-diving/elearning/
Useful BSAC links
Home Page: https://www.bsac.com/
Joining B.S.A.C. from P.A.D.I. http://www.bsac.com/page.asp?section=1629§ionTitle=A+warm+welcome+to+divers+from+other+agencies
Wikipedia Facts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
BSAC Club Locator http://www.bsac.com/findit.asp?section=1420&cat=clubs&subcat=
Author – Ayesha
Ayesha is a very experienced dive instructor with a passion for travel, health, and wellness.