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Getting SCUBA Certified!

Hi everyone! Recently, I asked one of the community members to share her experience getting SCUBA certified. As I have mentioned many times, getting your SCUBA certification is a must if you want to work with marine mammals. Most, if not all, marine facilities require this certification. Congratulations, Alyssa! And thank you for such great insight into this necessary step in becoming a marine mammal trainer! You are well on your way!

How I Schooled SCUBA School! (And how you can too!)

By: Alyssa Valdez

Getting-your-scuba-certificationHello to all future marine mammal trainers! My name’s Alyssa Valdez and I recently got my SCUBA certification this weekend in Idaho through Scuba Schools International (SSI) (yes Idaho! If you want it, you can find it to achieve it!). I’d like to share with you what I think will be some very helpful tips and my experiences while on the path to being scuba certified.

Getting Started

When you sign up, the instructors will ask if you’re comfortable in the water originally. For me, since I was a competitive swimmer for four years in high school and a lifeguard for three years, I’m VERY comfortable in the water. So that was a no brainer for me. If you aren’t, it’s okay. You don’t have to be a competitive swimmer like me to scuba dive. All the people that were in my class weren’t competitive swimmers. They knew how to swim though. As long as you know HOW to swim enough so you won’t drown yourself, you will be fine scuba diving.

Reading and Homework

The instructors also give you a book that has all the information on equipment, regulations, some words of caution while scuba diving in the ocean, lake etc, and also some skills that they will teach you in the water. You HAVE to read the book. Yes, some parts will be boring. However, there are homework questions on the back of each section that you HAVE to fill out before you get certified. They will pick up all the homework after you take the final. And, a lot of the questions on the final come from the book more than skills you learn. However, you need to know skills and the book. So do your homework, keep up with the readings of the section for the class and pay attention at pool or open water sessions. They will benefit you. Like Kyle said in an earlier article, you have to pass the homework and the final in order to be certified. Everyone in my class did not get a 100%. So it really is not easy. For SSI (the one who certified me), you have to get an 80% or better in order to be considered passing. So do the work and you will be rewarded.

Let’s Go Underwater!


For the portions that we did in the pool and at open water (a lake or pond), you have to pay attention to everything they say. They test you on it. Going to the surface of the water isn’t an option after day one. The instructors will start you off in the shallow end of the pool for the first class, but for the rest of the time, it’s in the deep end of the pool and the lake. And it’s not like the instructors throw you in and expect you to know already. They explain before you enter the water, after everyone entered before you go under, and do an example before you do it. That’s why they want you comfortable in the water. Don’t worry about buying all the equipment like the air tank, flippers, mask, etc. If you sign up with a class, you will most likely rent the equipment with them. It comes with the cost of the class. Make sure you ask though before you sign up to make sure. The setback is that not all the equipment may be up to date, which is why they will try to sell you equipment. I say to go for it if you have the money. I currently don’t, being a college student, but I will eventually.


With my experience, I went to some classes with a cold. Now it won’t kill you for scuba diving with a cold, but they highly recommend that you don’t. With going deep in the water, your ears will hurt since it is harder to clear them. I, being sick while swimming and lifeguarding some of the times, am used to the pressure so I was able to do it. It was a bit painful so I personally don’t recommend it either. Trust me. I had two open water portions. The first portion, I had a rough cold, but I had to attend. Going deep in the water with a cold hurt my ears. It got to the point where when I got home, I slept on the sore ear so that no sound could enter in and it would stop hurting. It did, after a few days though. The second time we went to open water, my cold was gone. And going underwater was WAY easier. So when they say to never dive with a cold, they mean it! Another thing that was a setback for me was since I work, I couldn’t carpool so I had to drive to the open water portion out of my own pocket since it wasn’t close by. So be aware of where open water is at and such to plan for that spending money too.

Having Great Instructors!

I was blessed to have good instructors who really want you to be scuba certified. They all do! They want you to be able to scuba dive in the Bahamas, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Washington, anywhere you can! So they are helpful and will answer practically any question! They’re really friendly and fun to be around as well. They want more people involved because it is a very fun sport. My expectation for the class was that it was going to be tedious and just boring skills. But it wasn’t! It was super fun to actually have good conversations, jokes, and just making friends. If you’re focused solely on just being scuba certified, then it will not be fun. Make friends with the instructors, other students, and people at the dive shop. They love scuba diving and want you involved with their adventures too!

Where To Get Certified?

Now, a lot of you are probably asking, “well, which training school should I do? NAUI?? PADI?? SSI??” A girl in my scuba class asked our teacher which scuba organization is better. Our teacher said:

“It doesn’t matter. They’re all pretty much the same. I was trained PADI, my husband trained NAUI and we both teach SSI. They have the same material in the book and the same skills for the most part. Of course, each teacher teaches it differently and each session will be different. But in reality, it really doesn’t matter.”

And that’s what I’m going to say. It really doesn’t.

What Are You Waiting For?

Now, after reading this, I hope none of you are scared to scuba dive. Trust me, it is very fun! I’m already almost a level two diver because of how many dives I was able to get in each time I went to open water. The class is mostly for skills, but after you get those down, it is very fun to go scuba diving. It’s a life-changing experience. Once you get certified, you cannot stay away from it!