How old do you have to be to scuba dive?

If you can’t wait to take your kid with you into the thrilling realm of scuba diving, you are not alone. So, how old do you have to be to scuba dive? In order to become a certified scuba diver, most agencies require your child to be 10-12 years old. However, there are many other factors to consider before signing your child up for a scuba class.

Scuba Diving Considerations for Kids

Just because your child reaches the minimum age limit to begin scuba classes doesn’t mean he should. The following considerations must be made when contemplating scuba for younger children.

Young man in scuba attire

Does Your Child Want to Scuba Dive?

This seems like an unnecessary question, especially since you are already here. However, think about why you are considering scuba for your child? Is it because you absolutely love and want to share it? Or, has your child expressed a serious interest in going with you on your next dive?

Your child has to want scuba in order to be fully prepared for the risks involved. A child who is just doing it to make her parents happy, might not give it the proper attention required. A prime example was my lack of interest in the college courses my mother chose for me. Needless to say, I failed most of those classes. You simply cannot fail in diving, because failing can cost your child her life.

Maturity Level

Some 10-year-olds are reading Charles Dickens while others are still enjoying picture books. Just because a child has reached the magic number physically, does not mean they are mentally prepared for scuba diving.

This does not mean your child needs to be a genius to scuba dive. They simply have to have a maturity level capable of retaining information learned in class, making decisions on the spot, and even using some intuition while diving.

For example, maintaining buoyancy can be tough. Is your child able to recognize that his weights may be too heavy for him? Can he learn to achieve balance without continually inflating and deflating his BCD? Can he recognize possible malfunctions with his equipment, and either notify the divemaster or solve these issues himself while underwater?

 

Scuba Diving Certification Agencies

Instructor and students during scuba diving lessons

There are a few recognized agencies that offer scuba diving certification. The age requirements for certification varies with each organization, but generally the minimum age is 10. Until the child is 15, they will be certified as a Junior Open Water Diver after completing the training.

The following table is a list of the certifying agencies and their minimum age requirements to become a certified scuba diver. For the initial open water certification, there is little difference in the certifying agency. Your local dive shop affiliation will likely determine who you use.

 Certifying AgencyMinimum Age
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors10
SSI (Scuba Schools International)10
NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors)12
BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club)12

How do you get your Child Certified for Scuba?

Your child is physically, emotionally and mentally ready to become a certified scuba diver, so where do you start?.

Visit Your Local Dive Shop

The very best place to start is your local dive shop. Even if you live in a completely landlocked state, you should be able to find a dive shop within a few hours drive. Starting here is the best choice because you can chat with a dive professional prior to your child beginning his or her certification.

Your dive pro can alert you to the ins and outs of the certification training, prepare your child for what to expect, and help you to pick out dive equipment. There is no better person to help you get your child started in diving.

Enroll in a Scuba Class

Your dive pro can set you up with class schedules and pricing. You may even like taking the class along with your child for a refresher. In the class, your instructor will cover the fundamentals of diving, including:

  • Being a Diver
  • Equipment
  • Problem Management
  • Dive Computers

There are five main chapters to the scuba certification. Each chapter finishes with a quiz. After all chapters are completed, a final exam will take 

Complete Confined and Open Water Dives

Your child will need to show the instructor he or she is capable of performing certain dive skills while underwater. This will be done with 3 confined dives which take place in a pool, and 2 open water dives which can be in a lake or ocean.

These skills will initially be demonstrated in the pool and later in a lake or ocean. As a diver, your child must be able to communicate underwater with his dive buddy. Divers have a universal system of hand signals to communicate with each other. From ear troubles to ascending, there is a hand signal to alert each other of potential problems. A few other skills your young diver must demonstrate include:

  • Clearing the mask of water while underwater
  • Safety Checks Prior to Entering the Water
  • Controlled Descent
  • Regulator Retrieval
  • Emergency Ascents

Certified Junior Open Water Diver

Once your child has successfully completed his training, he is good to go. It is important to note that the Junior Open Water Certification differs from the Open Water Certification in a few ways. The Junior certification requires that you can only dive with a dive pro at a maximum depth of 40 feet. The adult Open Water Certification allows for depths of up to 60 feet and you can dive with any other certified diver.

What if your Child Doesn’t Complete Open Water Certification?

If your child doesn’t pass her final exam or complete her open water dives, she can still participate in other scuba diving activities. Many agencies offer programs for children 8-years and older. These programs introduce children to the basics of scuba diving and allow them to get comfortable with it prior to going for their certifications.

PADI alone offers a Bubblemaker Program which is open to children 8-years and older. This type of program is a great way for children to figure out if scuba diving is truly something they will enjoy. It offers them the opportunities to get comfortable with scuba gear and being in the water.

These types of programs are under the strict control and supervision of a PADI professional diver. They only allow for your child to dive up to 6-feet and gain experience in the water. This is an excellent opportunity for those that might no quite be ready for a Junior Open Water Certification to learn the fundamentals of diving.

How old do you have to be to Scuba Dive?

As you have learned, the absolute minimum age to begin scuba diving certification is 10-years-old. Some agencies require your child to be 12-years-old. However, you can even find courses suitable to children as young as 8-years old.

No matter what, encouraging a healthy respect for marine life and environment with your children is always a good choice. Whether your child chooses to pursue a life of scuba diving or not, she will still benefit from a course in scuba diving.

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