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I am an instructor for both agencies. I think both have their positives and "not so positives". SSI is very dive shop oriented. To teach for SSI you have to be registered with a dive shop. PADI allows independant instructors. SSI Advanced certification requires more dives before you recieve your certification. Which I think is better. Under PADI you can be an Advanced diver after 10 dives. SSI requires 25 dives. But they are both great agencies. Just different. Just understand when you recieve your Open Water certification....... you need to get some experience before you go out and do those 90 - 100 foot dives. Sure maybe nothing will happen, but it is people diving out of their certification levels that tend to hurt themselves or others. After you get your advanced certification get some experience and see what interests you and get some speciality certifications. They will teach you the proper equipment for a speciality and how not to hurt yourself. I really enjoyed the rescue and divemaster certifications. You really see where divers are going wrong and where the problems are going to be before they happen. But some divers do not want to take any constructive criticism. Just my 2 cents.
I teach for SSI and don't teach for PADI. I do believe they both use the same basic requirements for OW. I do like the SSI requirements for more dives before you can become advanced certified. I say this simply because I know I wasn't ready to go to 100 foot after 10 dives. This is just me, but I truly believe it takes dives to get experienced. I think both agencies can provide good basic OW instruction. Beyond that you need to dive to get experience and both allow you to do that. Just my humble opinion.
Why do you ask? Are you trying to find a high quality class? If so, read this thread.
Are you just curious? Are you more interested in differences at the OW level? Advanced level? Their philosophy towards independent instructors? Their headquarters location? What exactly are you trying to learn?
The Devil's in the details.
Disclaimer: All discussion of value, by me or anyone else, is opinion.
'Cmon, Walter - its not like the question - in one shape or form - is not asked many times on SB (Maybe not as often as "LDS vs Online" but really a whole bunch of times), and for someone considering our little hobby, its a legit question.
And I doubt - and likely so do you - that the OP cares, or was inquiring, about where the HQ's is located, or their philosophy towards independent instructors.
That said, your How to find an excellent SCUBA class is excellent and should be read by anyone looking to get certified - while the agency is important (SSI advanced ow vs PADI's seems to have more validitity, I think the instructor is key.
You make it easy to ask the right questions - w/out this I doubt many considering certification would know the right questions to ask.
Like in every other profession there are good mechanics and bad ones. There are good dentists and bad ones. There are good dive store operators and bad ones. There are good instructors and bad ones. Both allow stores and instructors to be the way they are. So, shop around and educate yourself regarding your local situation. Ask for a reference of someone who took whatever class you are intersted in. Just my 2 cents, but why waste the hundreds of dollars.