John Lennon once said that there were two types of people in the world: those who take showers and those who take baths. It’s pretty obvious that between writing songs and having a nice lie in with Yoko, John never learnt to scuba dive.
If he had, he would know that the real line drawn down the centre of humanity is between those who favour the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and those who side with the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) qualifications.
Just a quick search of the net and you can find literally hundreds of forums and threads discussing BSCA vs PADI. They all follow a similar pattern too. It starts off with an innocent question by someone keen to get in to diving. Namely, which certification should I do? What follows almost always descends into childish name-calling, boasting and one-upmanship.
So, in the interest of impartiality, here is a fair and reasoned look at them both, weighing up the pros and cons of each.
BSAC vs PADI: Cost of scuba diving
Simultaneously the most important and least important factor in diving. However, the two qualifications vary significantly. A basic PADI course preparing you for open water diving will set you back about £250. Ideal for beginners, this will cover all the prep work so that when you go away, you’ll be ready to try open water diving. However, a complete PADI Open Water course with the four open water dives required to qualify costs about £450.
Comparatively, a BSAC course will be significantly less, as they are run by established diving clubs staffed and taught by volunteers. Because it’s a club network, they have access to plenty of facilities and dive sites. The Ocean Diver qualification (the equivalent to PADI Open Water) costs about £250 including one years membership of BSAC will but typically this includes at least 5 open water dives. However, you also have to pay membership fees for your local club (which vary) and you might have to provide some of your own equipment.
The cost of diving once qualified varies greatly around the world but typically you will be charged the same with PADI or BSAC. However if you are going to dive regularly in the UK once your are a BSAC member (£55 a year) it costs around £15 per dive so it is a lot cheaper. Round 1 goes to BSAC by a country fathom for being significantly cheaper.
BSAC 1 PADI 0
BSAC vs PADI: Reputation
As we’ve mentioned, the two don’t always see eye to eye. BSAC and its supporters see themselves as the pure guardians of diving an official body that likes to do things the safe and proper way. PADI is the swish newcomer that’s only in it for the money (apparently).
PADI view themselves as the professionals, providing quality instruction and widely recognised certification, believing the BSAC to be little more than well meaning amateurs. It is the most popular diving qualification worldwide and in many parts of the world it is the only qualification offered.
Both are generally very well respected both at home and abroad but PADI is the more popular and recognised in more countries so it wins this round by a prawns whisker.
BSAC 1 PADI 1
BSAC vs PADI: Course content and quality
The Ocean Diver BSAC theory will prepare you in the basic principles of diving and safety. This is then followed by five confined to water dives in a pool and then five open water dives to develop your skills to a depth of 20m. PADI open water also consists of theory, pool dives and then 4 open water dives up to 18m.
As BSAC offers 25% more open water diving time and you can go 10% deeper then than the PADI course we feel it prepares divers slightly better for real world diving. This round goes to BSAC by a narwhal’s nose.
BSAC 2 PADI 1
BSAC vs PADI: Making a career out of diving
PADI are a professional organisation, providing consistent instruction worldwide. Whilst BSAC are essentially a diving club with instructors being fellow club members that do this for love of diving rather than to make money. However, there is a feeling amongst some that what BSAC offer is ‘real diving’ for people who are serious rather than those planning just a few holiday dives.
PADI has professional scuba diving instructors all over the world earning a living from the sport they love. In a seahorse race this round would go to PADI at a canter.
BSAC 2 PADI 2
BSAC vs PADI: Conclusions
The final score is 2 all. In short, each has its merits and each is widely recognised so it comes down to personal preference in the end. If I planned to do a lot of diving in the UK I would definitely go with BSAC, if I planned to make a career out of diving I would definitely go with PADI. But for most people doing a few holiday dives a year with the odd UK dive thrown in it won’t make a huge difference what you choose.
I am not sure if it helps make the BSAC vs PADI decision any easier, but if you go down the wrong route then it is easy to convert between the two qualifications in either direction. The most important decision is to decide to take up scuba diving and get learning as soon as you can!