How much does scuba diving costs

How Much Does Scuba Diving Cost?

By Brian Shreve

The Big Question

As a dive store owner, the most common question I was asked is “I want to get certified.  How much does that cost?”  As with most things in life, the first answer is, “It depends.”  Let’s look at why that is, and what sorts of things go into determining the answer.

Dive Training cost

The cost of the actual training course is all that most potential new divers consider when they ask the big question.  While it certainly is one of the costs, it’s not the only one.  But, what goes into the cost of training?

The Open Water course is typically divided into three components – academics, confined water training (pool dives) and open water training.  The academics may be delivered through several channels, with one of the most popular being eLearning.  With eLearning, the student divers complete the background academics at home on their own time and at their own pace.  The quizzes and a comprehensive exam are also completed online.  This leads to a more knowledgeable, better prepared diver at the start of confined water training.  Most instructors will go over some of the key concepts presented in the online course, and go over any missed questions from the quizzes and exam to make certain that the new divers have mastered that material sufficiently.

Confined water training is where the new diver learns all the skills that will make them a competent, comfortable diver in the water.  Often times, this is done over a weekend or several evenings, and may be combined with classroom sessions to review academics (or for lecture if the online course wasn’t used).

During the open water dives, student divers show to their instructor that they’ve mastered the skills learned in the pool over the course of a minimum of four open water dives conducted over at least two days.  The open water dives may be completed locally with the same dive center as the academics and confined water training, on a trip with the local dive center, or by referral with another dive center.  Obviously, the route that a new diver takes in completing the course can greatly influence the cost of training.  Local quarry or ocean dives will typically be much less than a week-long vacation in the Caribbean and the cost of finishing by referral is often two to three times that of finishing locally.

A quick survey of dive centers in the Midwest US showed training costs to run between $350 and $450 or more depending on what was included and location.  We sometimes see dive centers advertising $99 classes – let’s look at those a little later.

Scuba Equipment Cost

Another cost in becoming a certified scuba diver is your personal equipment.  This typically consists of a properly fitted mask, a snorkel, a pair of wetsuit boots, and a pair of scuba fins.  The fit and comfort of your personal equipment are keys to having an enjoyable diving experience, and you shouldn’t scrimp on these items.  As with many things in life, you get what you pay for.  Quality equipment will last many years with proper care, and will be a much better investment in the long run.  By the same token, you don’t have to get the most expensive kit to have quality equipment.  Most divers will typically spend between $200 and $300 on their personal equipment, and may spend quite a bit more if they are also purchasing a wetsuit and a personal dive computer.

A diver who wants to be comfortable and confident in open water will typically invest in a full equipment system.  With well maintained, properly fitted equipment, divers minimize equipment issues and quickly become familiar with how everything works.  Again, you get what you pay for, and spending just a little more on a full equipment system can typically land a higher performance package that can still be a bargain in the long run.

But what about renting?  Isn’t it too expensive to buy that full system?  If you look at average rental rates versus purchasing a full system, you can typically pay for that system with as little as 20-30 days of renting.  Not only that, but most divers purchase systems that are much nicer and higher performance than the equipment typically found in the rental lockers of most destination resorts.  By purchasing your own equipment, even a little at a time, you’ll save money in the long run and likely enjoy your diving even more!

The $99 “learn to dive” class and other expenses

Some dive centers will use training as a loss leader to get people to do business with their stores, hoping to make up the loss with equipment sales or other add-on sales later.  This is OK, but keep in mind that such courses may typically be crowded, taught in as short a time as possible, and may not include all the costs discussed previously.  Forgetting about price but focusing on value for just one moment, keep in mind that a dive center that charges a fair price for the course realizes that it takes time and practice to make good divers, and good instructors have to be able to make a living teaching these courses.  All of that adds to overhead, increasing course prices, but as a consumer, you definitely get what you pay for with dive training.

You may also find the course fees don’t include such things as use of training equipment, course materials, air fills, pool rental fees, and certification fees.  You may have to pay for charter fees if diving off of a boat, and travel and motels are rarely included if you are training outside of your local area.  These can all add up, and you may end up paying more for that $99 course than you think.  Be sure to ask questions and do research and find out exactly what you will get in exchange for a $99 course.  In the end, it may be what you are looking for anyway.

Bottom Line

Scuba Diving certification prices do vary by region, especially when comparing the continental US with other dive destinations.  But when you add up all the expenses, in the high-end, it takes somewhere in the vicinity of $700 (even as high as $1,000 in major cities like London, Tokyo and NYC) to become a certified diver.  For that amount, though, you have your own personal equipment, quality instruction, all the course materials and certification fees, and you’ll end up truly becoming a diver (and not just someone who got certified).If you are just looking for a solid course as well as the certification and bare bones minimum in equipment, you may find course for as low as $199.99.  It is not unusual for people to start buying additional gear in time as their wallets allow them to – piece by piece.

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12 replies
  1. Alec Peirce
    Alec Peirce says:

    After 43 years of teaching scuba, I absolutely disagree with the statement that eLearning leads to a “more knowledgeable and better prepared diver”. Please explain how sitting in front of a computer, regardless of how sophisticated the program, can equal the direction of a knowledgeable teacher with a small class using modern AV aids (DVDs, programmed quizzes, props, etc) and with a wealth of personal experience not to mention the shared questions and comments from the class. eLearning allows divers with a restricted timetable to complete the academics outside of a classroom but it will never equal that classroom experience. We train over 1000 divers each year and have used both. I see the results. Do you want a diver who can give the answer a computer tells him to give or do you want enthusiastic, involved, questioning divers with the dream of becoming the best diver possible? Only an instructor can instill that dream, alomg with proper values and attitudes.
    eLearning has a purpose but, despite the agencies’ best efforts to reduce their costs by pushing it on the industry, it will never, ever replace a good scuba instructor.

    • Robert Winsor
      Robert Winsor says:

      eLearning is, in general, accessible at any time, in my experience. So when I have a question or need to refresh my memory on something specific, I can access it and done! That makes me more knowledgable and better prepared. I don’t think anyone is saying eLearning replaces a classroom or a living, breathing instructor. But people have limits that eLearning can in some ways address. There’s nothing wrong with that.
      Definitely having a dive Master around to ask questions is critical.

    • Sean Harrison
      Sean Harrison says:

      We appreciate your feedback and certainly would not want to change your approach to diver training if you are getting positive results and your customers are receptive to how you teach. According to outside sources though, blended learning (which is what SDI/TDI advocates) is far more effective and the method of choice by students. Here is a link to a US Department of Education Study:
      Here is an additional resources the Online Learning Consortium further search “blended learning” and there is plenty of information:
      You may have to cut and paste the links into your browser.
      The point here is twofold, people learn in different ways and online may not be for everyone and not all instructors are adapt with online learning. If a student does not like online learning or the instructor does not know how to utilize it effectively, then it is not a good fit. Education requires a lot of tools and this is just one of them.

    • Johnathan Whellson
      Johnathan Whellson says:

      I appreciate that you are leaving this comment but I can feel the raw emotion of hatred and anger about the culture or way of life that you’ve probably spent your entire life dedicated too is now being replaced at a fast pace and you can’t stop it but in my personal opinion where people may think that a small classroom with an experience instructor may or would be better than sitting in a classroom but as a former experienced dive master I would fully support and agree that E learning is simply better for most people for a multitude of reasons.

  2. R. Speir
    R. Speir says:

    I think your basic scuba course costs are a bit low for the East Coast. I recently researched costs and composition for my granddaughter in the Washington DC area and found most of them to come up in the $500-$600 range (not including personal equipment). Some are very misleading for the average consumer. Some quote a cost for “instruction” and pool dives, but then add a certification fee that includes paying the PADI/NAUI/SSI/etc. portion of the cost. Then they quote a separate price for local “open water” dives (i.e., quarry dives) that are required before certification. Those may, or may not include the cost of the quarry fee.

  3. Jason Meany
    Jason Meany says:

    Using the flipped classroom method we have actually seen an increase in diver knowledge and enthusiasm. I have actually used the methods I learned from utilizing a flipped classroom and brought it to the college classes I teach. Grades have gone up significantly and understanding and application of material is through the roof. I do agree just elearning is not the answer but a flipped classroom has given us amazing results.

  4. Ted Reitsma
    Ted Reitsma says:

    I agree and disagree with Alec. When I started over 20 years ago, I was to read the manual cover to cover BEFORE the classroom. Then we watched the DVDs/ did quizzes in back of the book and asked questions. What I have seen now (at least in one dive shop) is no one reads anything until class starts, then they just pop in the DVDs (which is no different from e-learning) and do the quizzes after (with some asking questions). I also see people ignoring the videos and looking at their phones. This drives me crazy as what they miss can be life or death! Anyone who fails the written test at the end- just covered the info again until they passes that same day. The shop owner wanted to get them through as fast as possible as the pool class was right after the lectures. I personally would say come back next week and take the test (un-added) again. I would also prefer a much higher bar to pass. In my TDI Cave/cavern elearning course I took a few years ago, I think I needed 100% on each quiz to proceed. That can be frustrating but it is a life or death hobby, especially at that level. I have taken extensive side mounting courses on-line (no agency affiliation), and I also did the proper courses. The online (I think was about 100 hours, or at least it felt like it) showed me more than my instructor did, and that was not only due to experience, but the fact that courses are only so many hours long. I never trained at Alec’s old dive shop, but it had its own tiny pool. I have recommended this to people as- lets face it, it HAS to be a small in water class and therefore more individual hands on training.


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