Advanced Open Water Diver
Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) is a scuba diving certification level provided by several diver training agencies, such as Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), and Scuba Schools International (SSI). The equivalent course offered by National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) is the Advanced Scuba Diver. The certification level is roughly equivalent to the CMAS * Diver qualification and the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Ocean Diver qualification, although some differences occur. For example, BSAC Ocean Divers are trained in the use of Nitrox and basic rescue skills for recreational diving.
The SSI Advanced Open Water program is different from most other organizations, as they require not only training but they also require diving experience. To be certified as a SSI AOWD one needs to have completed four specialty courses and minimum of 24 logged dives. In the absence of a logged dives requirement, it is possible to become certified as AOW with some other agencies while having less than 10 lifetime dives.
Scuba Diving International (SDI) offers an Advanced Adventure Diver course similar to the Advanced Open Water Diver Course offered by the Agencies noted herein.
The AOWD is now the second level qualification in the American system, following the Open Water Diver qualification (OWD). At the OWD level divers gain basic knowledge of skills, equipment and theory for diving to a recommended depth of about 18 metres (60 ft). The AOWD is described by PADI as refining these skills, allowing the diver to explore a broader variety of diving to a maximum of 30 metres (100 ft) deep. Critics point out that the AOWD course consists of a single navigation dive, a single deeper dive and a choice of three "adventure" dives whose primary purpose, these critics feel, is to provide an opportunity to sell the student a specialty course rather than to impart any particular level of competence in a new activity. Prior to entering an AOWD equivalent course, some organizations have logged dives prerequisites. The course usually contains some mandatory dives and knowledge while a certain portion of the course consists of free elective topics such as drift diving or search and recovery.
The European international dive education system, CMAS, recognizes only three main levels of dive education indicated by a one star, two star, or three star designation. One star indicates an ability to dive, two star indicates additional skill of rescuing divers, and three star indicates the additional skill in leading a group of divers.
The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course requires a single instance of an Underwater navigation and a Deep diving activity as well as a single instance of three of the remaining topics from a list of approximately 18 possible specialties. Until 2006, night diving was also mandatory, but this is no longer the case. It was dropped at the request of the Scandinavian countries, for whom there is almost no night during the summer months when most of the diving is done, as it created an unreasonable restriction on certifying advanced divers (which is a prerequisite for further training). Most other countries still recommend the night diver course. These dives are purported to represent introductory knowledge and skills, but it is also suggested (as demonstrated under "Your Next Adventure") that they serve primarily to provide an opportunity to sell the student on a future specialty course.
The name of this specific training level has been a topic of controversy within the diving community for many years. The crux of this debate is in the interpretation of the word 'Advanced' in its title, and what is the proper application or use of this adjective.
One school of thought on the matter defends the use of the word Advanced, explaining that it is describing the training accurately as being more comprehensive (i.e., more advanced) than the basic entry level training.
The opposing school of thought is that the use of the word 'Advanced' is essentially deceptive marketing, as graduates of the class very commonly then refer to themselves as "Advanced Divers". However, the training standards are not sufficient to raise a recreational diver (particularly the novice diver to whom the class is frequently marketed) to traditional expectations of holistic dive mastery, This is relevant because in the USA the diving community continues to equate 'advanced' with 'expert.' As such, while it is agreed that the training is indeed more than basic, it is insufficient to create an Advanced (i.e., Expert) Diver.
Specifically with regard to the PADI 'Advanced' certification standard, a 2006 coroner's court in the United Kingdom heard expert evidence to the effect that "I do not believe that someone with eight dives should be classified as an advanced diver. It is madness."
Another factor that relates to this controversy is NAUI's name changes from "Open Water II" to "Advanced Scuba Diver." NAUI's program was, at the time, a 38 hr. Open Water I course, followed by a six dive Open Water II course (aka "Sport Diver"), followed by the third course in the sequence, "Advanced Diver." At the time, PADI had a similar progression. Then, PADI eliminated its upper level course (Advanced Open Water Diver) and repurposed the title for its middle course to gain a competitive advantage.
Some time after that NAUI followed suit, in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain market share. Publicly, NAUI claimed that this change was intended to address customer confusion as to the comparative rigors of training required to earn specific certifications, which is, in a sense true, but begs the point.
- McGrath, Ginny (August 9, 2006). "PADI scuba-dive course slammed". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
- 1995 NAUI instructor reporting on NAUI course name change