Photo by Mael Balland / Unsplash

Getting comfortable in the water at a young age is important in gaining a healthy respect for the water world. And if your child is interested in the ocean and the marine life, then you’re a very lucky person as this means your child is naturally amazing! So how old do you have to be to scuba dive, and when can you child get their certification? Let’s take a look.

How old do you have to be to scuba dive?

The minimum age to scuba dive is 8 years old. This age may differ between dive agencies, but with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International); two of the largest dive agencies, a child that is 8 years old can try scuba diving.

These programs for scuba diving are a try dive and not a full certification or license to dive. The child will be able to dive in a swimming pool or in confined waters. Confined water means pool-like conditions, in regards to clarity of the water, calmness, and no currents.

If there is access to a calm ocean that is protected from the elements with a shallow area, then the scuba instructor may allow the child to dive in the ocean, providing the conditions are ideal. The child will always be with an instructor and will need to follow depth restrictions.

PADI Bubblemaker course – maximum depth of 2 meters / 6 feet
PADI Seal Team course – maximum depth of 4 meters / 12 feet
SSI Scuba Rangers course – maximum depth of 5 meters / 15 feet

Instructor Emma teaching scuba diving to a child in the swimming pool
Teaching the ‘Bubblemaker’ program in the swimming pool.

How old do you have to be to get a scuba diving certification?

To get a full scuba diving license, you will need to be usually 10 years of age. PADI and SSI offer their Open Water Diving certifications for children 10 years and above. This is the same course that adults will take for their beginner certification to go down to 18 meters / 60 feet. However, they will be Junior Open Water Divers, and there will be depth restrictions.

PADI Open Water
10 – 11 years maximum depth of 12 meters / 40 feet

SSI Open Water
10 – 11 years maximum depth of 12 meters / 40 feet

Is scuba diving safe for children?

Yes, scuba diving is safe for children. All divers need to follow the basic safety requirements for scuba diving, and diving can be a very enjoyable and valuable experience for children.

Apart from the usual scuba diving risks, there are a few additional factors to consider when deciding if your child is ready for scuba diving.

Does the child meet the medical requirements?

Check with the dive agency and the instructor if you have any questions about this. This will need to be completed before any in-water exercises.

Does the child want to scuba dive?

As an instructor, we have met many scuba diving parents who are keen to share their love of diving with the children. However, this should not be the reason for your child to scuba dive. The worst thing to see is a parent pushing a reluctant or scared child into diving.

Can the child concentrate and listen to the basic rules of scuba diving?

While there are age restrictions for diving, this is not the only factor to consider when allowing a child to dive. The child will also need to be mentally capable of understanding and following basic rules for their own safety. Children develop at different ages and the instructor will make a judgement call on the individual child.

Is the child comfortable in the water, and can swim?

You do not need to necessarily be a strong swimmer to try scuba diving, but you do need to be comfortable in the water. For the open water courses, there will be a mandatory swim test.

Is the child physically capable of scuba diving?

There are BCDs that go down to an XXS size and are made for children. However, the child needs to be big enough for the BCD and equipment to fit them properly. You do not want equipment too big for them as this could be a safety issue. Scuba diving also requires some level of fitness, so this will be another factor to consider.

Is the child comfortable with the instructor?

Of course, you will need to make sure that you and the child are comfortable and understand the scuba instructor. However, you will also need to ensure that the child is confident enough to ask questions if they do not understand something or to abort the dive if they do not feel comfortable.

Find out more about what is required when deciding if scuba diving is for you and your child.

The Takeaway

So we know how old do you have to be to scuba dive now. The minimum age is 8 years to try a scuba dive in a swimming pool or somewhere with pool-like conditions. However, age is just a number, and you will need to assess whether your child is ready for scuba diving based on additional factors. While the thrill of scuba diving cannot be compared, safety will always be the first priority when deciding whether your child can go scuba diving.