NAUI vs PADI the key differences infographic

New divers are often wondering whether to choose NAUI vs PADI when first starting out as a diver. There are many similarities between these two popular scuba diving agencies. This means it is important to know the differences between NAUI vs PADI so that you, as a diver, can make an informed decision and decide which you prefer!

Read More: What is PADI?



In 1960, NAUI (The National Association of Underwater Instructors) was founded by Albert Tillman and Neal Hess. Their headquarters is based in Florida, USA.

In 1966, PADI (The Professional Association of Diving Instructors) was founded by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson. Their headquarters is based in California, USA with many regional offices around the world.


Naui is, interestingly, a non-profit association of scuba diver training. PADI is run for profit and has many shareholders and investors. It was last sold in 1997 for $700m USD.

NAUI vs PADI Certification

PADI is easily the leading agency for certifying divers around the world. According to their 2019 statistics, PADI has issued over 27 million diver certifications since 1967 with a million certifications annually. They also have more than 137,000 professional members around the world, which includes divemasters and instructors. There are more than 6,600 PADI dive centers and resorts globally and they operate in 186 countries and territories around the world.

NAUI is popular in the United States but is lesser known around the world. All good dive centers will accept NAUI certifications. However, based on their location website for NAUI dive operations, it is slightly harder to find a NAUI operated dive center and NAUI dive instructors outside of the US.

PADI and NAUI Certification Levels

No Certification – Introductory DiveTry Scuba / Passport Scuba Diver – 12 meters / 40 feetDiscover Scuba Diving – 12 meters / 40 feet
Certification – BeginnerScuba Diver – 18 meters / 60 feetOpen Water Diver – 18 meters / 60 feet
Certification – AdvancedAdvanced Scuba Diver – 40 meters / 130 feetAdvanced Open Water – 30 meters / 100 feet
Certification – RescueRescue Scuba DiverRescue Diver
Certification – ProfessionalDivemaster / InstructorDivemaster / Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI)

Differences between NAUI vs PADI

As you can see, there are many similarities between NAUI vs PADI with their history and certification levels. However, there are some key differences within the certification courses.

The first certification level for recreational divers, NAUI’s Scuba Diver course and PADI’s Open Water course have many similar exercises and skills. However, the main key difference is that NAUI requires students to practice and perform retrieving an unconscious diver from 3 meters / 10 feet, whereas PADI does not. This can be argued that is a very important and potentially life-saving skill that all divers should learn.

NAUI Advanced Diver Requirements

In the Advanced certification course, NAUI requires 6 open water dives including 3 compulsory dives of Deep, Navigation, and Night (or lowlight) dives. The Advanced Scuba Diver course certifies you to a maximum of 40 meters / 130 feet.

PADI Advanced Diver Requirements

PADI, however, requires 5 open water dives including 2 compulsory dives of Deep and Navigation. PADI’s Advanced Open Water course certifies you to a maximum of 30 meters / 100 feet.

Apart from the small differences in their courses, NAUI and PADI are both good scuba diving agencies to be certified with. Both certifications will be recognized globally even though PADI is more widely known around the world. It is also easy to switch between diving agencies when getting certified in a different level. For example; being a PADI Open Water and then choosing to go with NAUI for the Advanced Scuba Diver course.

NAUI vs PADI Divemaster

If you are a professional diver looking for scuba diving instructor work, then there will likely be more PADI jobs available worldwide due to the sheer number of PADI dive centers and affiliated shops.

However, as a Divemaster in whichever agency you were certified, you will be qualified to take any agency certified divers on dive trips. For example; as a NAUI Divemaster you can take PADI certified recreational divers.

The main difference between a NAUI Divemaster and a PADI Divemaster course is the pre-requesite as a diver. NAUI requires a minimum of 50 logged open water scuba dives with a minimum of 25 hours bottom time. PADI only requires a minimum of 40 logged open water scuba dives to begin the Divemaster course.

NAUI vs PADI Instructor

NAUI Instructor Requirements

  • Minimum age is 18 years by the water phase of the course. 
  • Current certification as a NAUI Assistant Instructor or NAUI Divemaster or other agency leaders.
  • Current certification as a NAUI Nitrox Diver or the equivalent
  • Current certification as a NAUI Master Scuba Diver or the equivalent
  • Current certification in NAUI First Aid for the Diving Professional or equivalent.
  • A minimum of 60 logged open water scuba dives with a minimum of 30 hours bottom time. Dives shall be varied in environment, depth, and activities.
  • Instructor candidates must pass the NAUI Instructor Prequalification Examination prior to the start of the ITC.
  • Medical Approval – Verification of good physical condition as documented by a medical examination and unconditional approval for diving by a licensed physician within the preceding 12 months.
  • Materials – Contact the NAUI Training Department for current requirements.

PADI Instructor Requirements

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be certified as a diver for a minimum of 6 months (from Open Water level)
  • A minimum of 60 dives that includes experience in night, deep and navigation
  • Have a minimum of 100 logged dives before sitting the (IE) Instructor Exam
  • Be fit for diving and submit a medical statement signed by a physician within the last 12 months
  • Have proof of CPR and First Aid training within the last 24 months (the PADI EFR course meets this requirement)

NAUI vs PADI Instructor Crossover

As a PADI Instructor crossing over to becoming a NAUI instructor you will need the following;

  • Certification as a scuba instructor with a minimum of one year experience
  • Has taught or assisted with at least two diving instruction programs
  • Current certification in NAUI First Aid for Dive Professionals, NAUI Nitrox Diver, (or equivalent)
  • And a minimum of 100 logged open water scuba dives with a minimum of 50 hours bottom time

As a NAUI Instructor crossing over to becoming a PADI instructor, you will need to take the whole Instructor Development Course (IDC) with PADI. This is generally around 10-14 days.

NAUI vs PADI Employment

If you are looking for scuba diving employment opportunities in various fields, such as maritime archaeology or marine biology, then there is little difference between being a NAUI vs PADI diver. The main thing you should bring in these fields will be experience and passion!

However, in saying that, there is no denial that physically, there are more PADI dive centers than NAUI dive centers around this world. This means there is more demand for around the world for PADI instructors as most dive centers will prefer to employ people who are in their certifying agency.