PADI Master Scuba Diver

Garibaldi in the California Channel Islands

Garibaldi in the California Channel Islands

No one walks into a dojo saying “I want to be a white belt.”   Everyone aspires to be a Black Belt.   It’s the same in Scuba.   Yes, becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Diver is awesome, but… divers don’t dive to remove & replace their mask or to recover & clear a regulator.    Divers dive because it is FUN!   Why is it fun?   Because we get to explore the underwater world.    The PADI Open Water Scuba Diver is just the beginning, not the end.

Let’s take a look at the Black Belt of recreational diving, the PADI Master Scuba Diver.    This is the highest recreational (non-professional) diving certification.  What does it take to get there?


Now, let’s think about that.    Eight (8) certifications and 50 logged dives.    That’s a buddy I want to dive with.

How long does it take?   To become a PADI Master Scuba Diver, you need to complete all eight courses and have 50 logged dives.   Those 50 logged dives include training dives, but the eight courses don’t amount to a total of 50 dives.  So you need to make some recreational dives beyond the training courses.   Now, could you go to a dive site and make a set of 10 minute dives with short surface intervals and count them?   Yes, you probably could, but that’s not the point.   You need both the experience in the water as well as the pre-dive and post-dive components.   Setting up equipment, including specialty equipment.   Entries & exits.   Diving in different environments.  Taking care of equipment after the dive, including specialty equipment.   I’d contend that you really need to be looking at dives in different environments over a period of time to truly master scuba diving.

Here’s a sample schedule, starting from being a non-diver:

  • PADI Open Water Scuba Diver  1-2 weeks, 4 dives
  • PADI Advanced Open Water   1-4 days, 5 dives
  • PADI Rescue Diver  1-5 days, 2 dives (minimum)
  • Five PADI Specialty Courses   4+ days, 10 dives

To start with, that’s 27 days and 21 dives.   Sprinkle in a lot of non-training dives between courses, and you might be looking at becoming a PADI Master Scuba Diver in 1-2 months, depending on how driven you are.   But racing towards MSD may not be the best option.   Remember, you need to master and hone your diving skills.     On every dive, practice your buoyancy.   For every PADI Specialty course you take, practice those skills on later dives.   For example, I recently completed the PADI Sidemount Specialty.

You can see the separate SPG's from each first stage on my left & right sides.

You can see the separate SPG’s from each first stage on my left & right sides.

While I did complete all of the performance requirements, I knew I needed more dives to practice the skills.  I’ve since made 20+ additional side mount dives.   On each dive, I practiced some of the skills I learned in the course, such as S-drills (making sure my long hose was clear so I could share it with my buddy), out-of-air or regulator malfunction drills, etc.    Much of becoming a PADI Master Scuba Diver is in your attitude.   You need to feel comfortable with your gear and the specialty diving you’re doing–whether it’s Altitude diving, Sidemount or Hot Spring diving.

Related posts:

Altitude Diver

Sidemount Diver

Hot Spring Diving

Rescue Diver

PADI Specialty Diver Courses–What are they?

Specialty Diver Courses

What are PADI Specialty Diver Courses?   When PADI developed their continuing education model, they realized that divers have a lot of varied interests.  For me, it’s underwater imaging (underwater photography and underwater videography) and dive safety.   To accommodate those interests, they started developing courses that go into more depth about a certain topic.   If you’re familiar with Adventures in Diving Program or Advanced Open Water Diver, you’ve experienced a sample of these specialty areas.

Garibaldi in the California Channel Islands

PADI has a multitude of Specialty Diver courses that can help you explore your interests in diving and the list continues to grow.   Here’s a short sample:

  • Altitude Diver
  • Boat Diver
  • Deep Diver
  • Diver Propulsion Vehicle
  • Dry Suit Diver
  • Emergency Oxygen Provider
  • Enriched Air Diver
  • Equipment Specialist
  • Fish Identification (AWARE FishID)
  • Digital Underwater Photography
  • Multilevel/Computer Diver
  • Underwater Naturalist
  • Underwater Navigator
  • Project AWARE Specialty
  • Project AWARE Coral Reef Conservation
  • Search & Recovery Diver
  • Night Diver
  • Underwater Photographer
  • Underwater Videographer
  • Wreck Diver


Divers using a lift bag as part of the PADI Search and Recovery Specialty

In some cases, instructors can author (or be trained ) and teach PADI Distinctive Specialty courses.  For example, here are some PADI Distinctive Specialties I can teach:

  • AWARE Shark Conservation
  • Neurological Assessment
  • AED for Scuba
  • First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries
  • Oxygen First Aid for Scuba

The last four correlate to the DAN Diving First Aid courses I teach.   Take the DAN course and get the PADI Distinctive Specialty at the same time!


Specialties are typically designed to give you, the diver, a safe and structured way to explore the specialty area.   After the initial dive or two, I, as the instructor, usually back off and act as a resource rather than just tell you what to do.  That way you develop the comfort to continue exploring that specialty area of diving.   For example, the PADI Altitude Diver Specialty has two dives.   The first dive involves a good amount of pre-dive planning and we compare depth gauges during the dive.   The depth gauge comparison helps you understand why we dive conservatively.   On the second dive, you plan the dive and I’m there to help and answer questions.   It can vary between specialties, of course.

Specialties are not designed to make you an expert, though.  For example, the PADI Equipment Specialist course isn’t to train you to break down and rebuild regulators.   [That requires training from the manufacturer.]   We do look at how regulators are built and how they work.  We practice basic field repairs such as repairing a wetsuit or replacing an o-ring.   The PADI Equipment Specialist course is an excellent course for all divers, as it will help you with all of your equipment purchases, long-term equipment maintenance and basic field repairs.

PADI Specialties do have an important relation with the Adventure Dives in Adventures in Diving (Adventure Diver & Advanced Open Water Diver).   The first dive in a given specialty is the same as the correlating Adventure Dive.   That means that if you’ve completed any Adventure Dives, they can count towards the correlating specialty.   If you’ve completed the Specialty, the first dive of that Specialty can count towards your Adventure Diver or Advanced Open Water certification.

PADI Continuing Education Flowchart

Specialty Diver courses also count towards your PADI Master Scuba Diver rating.  Jump over to the Master Scuba Diver page to learn more.


Questions about PADI Specialty Diver courses?  Contact me!