Diving federations : Levels and Equivalent Diving Qualifications

by spotmydive

There are many different diving federations in the world and they all have their own specificities. Their systems and standards are very divergent from one another, so it is sometimes difficult to navigate through all this doldrums. To better understand it all and to stop diving in troubled waters, Spotmydive offers you the ultimate guide of the main diving federations in the world with training, levels and their equivalences.


© Credit / CMAS

On the 9th, 10th and 11th of January 1959, the CMAS was created in Monaco, founded by 15 different countries such as Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, the United States and the Netherlands among others. The commander Cousteau was the first president and Luigi Ferraro the vice-president. This confederation brings together the most important independent sports federations of underwater disciplines around the world. CMAS reunite 130 federations from 5 continents and is composed of three committees:

  • A sports committee underwater hockey, spearfishing, orientation
  • A technical committee education, technical diving, diving safety
  • A Scientific Committee archeology, marine geology, biology ..

To these three committees, we must add 7 independent commissions in which we find, the legal, medical and discipline committee among others

The World Underwater Activities Confederation is present in many countries and offers different levels of diving. It offers the opportunity to access specialized knowledge and training. The CMAS levels are divided into two categories, ie, diver and instructor.


© Credit / PADI

Probably the most famous scuba diving federation, PADI works with thousands of diving centers around the world. In 1966, Ralph D Erickson and John Cronin created the PADI Diver Training Organization. In 1971, Cronin took the direction of the association. PADI or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors represent nearly 946,000 licenses annually. At the pro level there are 100,000 members and nearly 4,300 diving centers in about 175 country. The courses books and the training is translated in more than 20 languages. However, PADI is primarily a commercial activity, it dominates the diving market in USA and Europe and represent more than 50% of the world market in terms of recreational diving. PADI, like its counterparts, provides a complete range of courses from beginners to Master Scuba Diver. This association is often use as the reference in the scuba diving industry.


The National Association of Underwater Instructors is a non-profit association. It was created by Al Tillman and Bev Morgan in 1959. In 1961, NAUI is recognized as a nonprofit diving education association by the state of California. It is the oldest non-profit scuba diving training association, founded solely to support and promote the safety of divers through education. In 1997, the association published its first standards for technical diving. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was notably adviser for NAUI. In addition, renowned ambassadors such as Lloyd Bridges and Buster Crabbe participated in the success of this organization, used by the NAvy seals. The NAUI, has a wide range of training from simple diver to Course director. In addition, this association offers the opportunity to train both recreational divers and technical divers.


© Credit / SSI

Established in 1970, Scuba Schools International is a commercial association. It promotes and provide scuba diving training standards. SSI has grown significantly over the past 50 years to reach more than 30 Service Centers around the world. Today, Scuba Schools International operates in more than 110 countries and works with 2800 international centers worldwide. Since June 1, 2010, it became one of the few diving agencies to obtain an ISO certification. The SSI offers standards and specificities similar to those of PADI. This organization offers 11 diving levels from Level 1 to Pro level. These levels are defined in relation to the number of dives performed by the diver.


© Credit / IANTD

The International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers was founded in 1985 by Dick Ruckowski, a former diving chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA in the United States. The association is dedicated to technical divers specialized in the use of Nitrox, Trimix and recyclers. It is especially well known in everything related to technical dives. IANTD offers 6 different programs.


© Credit / TDI

Technical Diving International is one of the largest certification federations for technical diving in the world. It is part of International Training. It was founded in 1994 by Bret Gilliam, John Comly, John Crea, David Sipperly and Mitch Skaggs after a disagreement with the IANTD. It specializes only on the most advanced diving techniques characterized by the use of recyclers and the use of respiratory gas such as trimix or heliox. In 1999, International Training expanded its catalog of offers by creating, on the initiative of Brett Gilliam, Scuba Diving International SDI. It focuses on a more sporty and recreational side of diving. It is still considered as the little sister of the TDI. The SDI gives divers the possibility to follow 4 types of training. Entry-level training, specialty training, advanced training and vocational training.

Equivalence of levels

Here is a summary table of all the levels and their equivalences according to the main federations.