What is PADI Advanced Open Water? Everything You Need to Know

What is PADI Advanced Open Water? Everything You Need to Know

Do you want to take your PADI adventure a step further? This article contains all the information for the PADI Advanced Open water diving course. By completing the PADI Advanced Open water course, you will be able to dive to 30m/100ft. You can also take speciality courses such as Fish ID and night diving. Do you want to know if the PADI Advanced Open water course is for you? Read below to see!

How to Pass PADI Advanced Open Water

The PADI Advanced Open water course is considered ‘easier’ than the PADI Open watercourse. This is due to the fact there’s no exam! The PADI Advanced Open water course is much more practical. You will be diving more and spending less time in the classroom. Sounds ideal, right! 

After all the videos and coursework of PADI Open water, you probably want to dive more. It’s why we all become divers. That’s why PADI Advanced open water focuses on five adventure dives. You can choose these yourself, based on your personal preference. Night diving was on the top of my list, as it sounded awesome to me. But many people prefer to do something a little more relaxing such as fish identification. It’s up to you! 

The only ‘non-optional’ courses are the deep dive and the underwater navigation dive. This is because you need the deep dive in order to dive to the maximum depth of 30m/100ft. The underwater navigation dive trains you in underwater orientation. Which everyone can agree is needed, as it helps to know how to orientate yourself underwater. Especially if you have hundreds of tons of water above your head! 

There are twenty-six speciality courses you can do, each emphasising a different skill in scuba diving. See below for the list of PADI Advanced Open water specialist courses:


  • Boat
  • Cavern
  • DSMB
  • Digital Underwater Imaging
  • Dive Against Debris (AWARE)
  • DPV
  • Drift
  • Dry Suit
  • Enriched Air
  • Fish ID
  • Full Face Mask
  • Ice
  • Night
  • Peak Performance Buoyancy
  • Rebreather
  • Search & Recovery
  • Self-Reliant
  • Shark Conservation (AWARE)
  • Sidemount
  • Underwater Naturalist
  • Wreck
  • Altitude

These courses are designed to give a ‘flavour’ if you want to continue with the speciality program. Bare in mind, not all dive centres will be able to offer every course. Not many tropical dive centres offer ice diving, there’s no ice! If you signal out a course and you must do it. Check beforehand to avoid missing out. 

In order to pass PADI Advanced Open Water, you need to complete the two mandatory dives. If you take the underwater navigation course. You will need to show you can navigate from one area to another. Don’t worry, you won’t be going far. Once you learn this, it will mean you are a better diver. You can get to places of interest quicker, which means you use less oxygen. So, you can spend more time looking at the reef or ID’ing those corals. By learning this skill, you also get more underwater confidence, as you can find the dives exit location more easily. 

STW Top Tip

The day before I went on my underwater navigation guide. I practised using the compass by myself. My compass skills were pretty rusty as I had the convenience of a phone in my pocket at nearly all times. I spent twenty minutes getting reacquainted with the ups and downs (North and South) and felt much better when it was my turn to navigate. Have a little practice in your room before the dive and you will feel better. I promise! 

On the dive, you will use a few new techniques such as kick cycles to navigate a short distance, then return to your instructor. You will also plot distances but is all explained by the instructor beforehand. 

The compulsory PADI deep water dive will allow you to dive to a maximum depth of 30m/100ft. This is incredibly useful in order to see wrecks. Most wrecks are below this depth and this adventure dive gives greater flexibility of dive sites. Also, many species prefer cooler water and darker conditions than can be found below 18m/60ft. 

On this dive, you will learn about the effects of nitrogen narcosis, increased oxygen usage at depth, and how the conditions affect you and the dive. The deeper you dive, the more oxygen you will use due to the pressure change. Buoyancy will also be affected as well as no stop times.

 During my first deeper dive, my instructor gave me a can of coke at around 25 meters. This may sound strange, but it is a good example of pressure and colour change. The coke magically stayed in the can as well as the famous red can becoming green. The magic behind the colour change is due to the red light being filtered out first at depth.

The most important point to learn on this dive is the effects of nitrogen narcosis. This funky phenomenon occurs when diving at deeper depths. The nitrogen present in the air supply you are breathing is more concentrated. This means it reacts differently with your body than at the surface. 

This causes a few potential hiccups for a diver. The most common being a general haziness. Very similar to seeing off that 7th beer at closing time. You know the one. Of course on land, the biggest issue you will face is finding a kebab shop that’s still open. It may feel life-threatening, but no one has ever drowned in garlic mayo, that I know of anyway. 

Underwater, however, this could be a different story. Nitrogen narcosis or getting ‘narc’d’ as some call it, will mean that you may find it harder to perform basic tasks. This can be anything from struggling to count to going the wrong direction on a dive. This may sound over the top but it does happen. 

Nitrogen narcosis does not happen every dive and affects all divers different, the takeaway is to remember to remain vigilant. If you start feeling funky, let your instructor know and ascend to a shallower depth. 

Should I Take PADI Advanced Open Water?

The PADI Advanced Open Water course allows divers to dive to a greater depth, this means you have access to more dive sites! Who doesn’t want that! 

By being certified to dive to greater depths, you can check out new reefs, dive more advanced spots and see more of the Ocean. Some technical diving, such as night diving is completely different from day diving and should be experienced. Some marine animals are nocturnal and you will not see them if diving in the day.

Many new divers are wary of the first-night dive, who can blame them, it’s dark! But after, nearly everyone wants to go again!

By completing PADI Advanced Open water, you also can access sites such as Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo. These sites are not accessible to PADI Open Water divers as the depths are too great and the conditions too strong.

 If you take the PADI Advanced open water course you can dive in many more areas. These sites also tend to be more ‘adventurous’ and offer more in terms of what you can see. Want to see big sharks or awesome wrecks, take the PADI Advanced Open water. 

PADI Advanced Open Water also gives divers greater confidence underwater and makes them better divers. By completing the adventure dives, especially Peak performance buoyancy, divers will gain more skills. These skills will be used on every dive. They will allow you to dive for longer and be more comfortable.

The optional peak performance buoyancy dive teaches better buoyancy when diving. This is definitely a good idea as it’s used on every dive. Nearly all divers wish for better buoyancy and it has the added bonus of decreasing air consumption. Longer dive times all round! 

Last point, the more technical information you possess, the safer you are down there. By gaining new knowledge you find what you can do well and what you need to work on. The more knowledge and confidence you have when diving means you become a better diver. Completing more courses may be more expensive but who cares? You get to dive more, that’s the whole point anyway! 

How Long Will PADI Advanced Open Water Take?

The PADI Advanced Open Water course will consist of five adventure dives. You can complete the course in two days if you want. But three dives in a day is going to make you tired. The three-day course may be more relaxed if you want to take more time. Bare in mind that if you choose a night dive. One of the dives will take place in the evening, as the light is fading.

Aside from the five adventure dives, there is not much else to this course. Filling in your dive log and debriefing after a dive is all the ‘paperwork’ you will be doing. 

This means you can become PADI Advanced Open Water certified in only three days! 

STW Top Tip

When picking the adventure dives, think about the different routes you can take. If you are more interested in fish species and the name of the coral, take the fish ID dive. You will learn the names of the things you see and can contribute to the debrief when the instructor asks what everyone saw. However, if you plan to continue to rescue diver and divemaster there are other dives to consider. Peak performance buoyancy will make you an overall better diver and help with oxygen usage levels. Similarly, search and recovery, whilst not so ‘fashionable’ will help you progress as you learn safety procedures that will help with the next PADI course. 

Night diving, as previously mentioned, can be daunting. But the experience is truly unique and very different from ‘day’ diving. The slightly worrying feeling of jumping into the great unknown in the dark immediately evaporates as soon as you descend. There isn’t anything to worry about, just don’t wander off! 

How Deep Can I Dive With PADI Advanced Open Water?

After the PADI Open Water certification, you can dive to a depth of 18m/60ft. If you take it a step further and complete PADI Advanced Open Water you can safely dive to 30m/100ft. This opens up new possibilities to dive new wrecks or deeper reefs. 

There is also a greater chance of seeing large Pelagic species if you dive deeper. Pelagic species refer to marine animals that inhabit the open Ocean or the Pelagic zone. By doing the PADI Advanced Open water Course will increase the chances of seeing large sharks or Mola-Mola.

What to Do After PADI Advanced Open Water?

After PADI Advanced Open Water, some divers are content to rack up the dives and stay at AOW. However, others may wish to keep going. 

The first option is to find speciality courses that interest you. You will have already taken the first dive after the Advanced Open Water course. You can continue to take adventure dives to reach your speciality or you can complete a PADI Rescue Diver course. 

This course teaches rescue skills and safety skills to help others and yourself if a situation occurs. The rescue diver course is the prerequisite to becoming a Divemaster and is needed. You also have to have an updated CPR and first-aid certificate. 

Do you want to know about the PADI Rescue Diver course? Read our post here!

PADI Advanced Open Water VS SSI

In the end, there is no ‘right’ course to take. PADI and SSI are both governed by the same body. The WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council) has a nice ring to it right? Sets high standards and as a result, both courses are very similar. You can also interchange between the organisations. This allows you to make a jump if you want to make a switch to SSI, or vice versa.

There are a few differences in teaching style, but again this is minimal and won’t impact you in the future. It may even make you a better diver!

Is PADI Advanced Open Water Worth it?

The PADI Advanced Open water certification allows you to dive to a greater depth and access many more dive sites than if you have PADI Open water. By taking the qualification further, you can become a more advanced diver and become safer in the water. This qualification will also mean you are closer to becoming a divemaster if that’s what you want!

We did our Padi Advanced Open Water course years ago and this allowed us to dive places that would have been inaccessible otherwise. Some dive sites have strong currents or drop-offs that are dangerous for Open Water divers. Similarly, dive centres require divers to have PADI Advanced Open water if they want to dive these sites. Basically, if you want to dive the ‘cool’ dive sites, the ones with the bigger animals or with different features, you need the advanced course. 

Only you will be able to make the decision to complete the PADI Advanced Open Water Course. However, we at STW obviously think you should! You get to dive more and go deeper! 

If you enjoyed this article, please leave us a comment, we like mail! 


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