This course is for those that know they want to obtain their certification card.
For ease of explanation a PADI course will be described. The other certifying agencies are very similar. Regardless of the certifying agency the course consists of two parts. For ease of explanation, the padi model will be described. the other agencies use similar concepts with a few deviations.
A full course consists of 5 classroom sessions, 5 confined sessions, and 4 open water dives plus a variety of extra skills. You can if choose to do only a few of each or cannot complete the full course due to illness or injury or time you may have your instructor sign off on what parts you have completed and this will be count toward the full course when you are able to resume and complete it either here or in another part of the world. Vice versa you may come to Utila with a referral from another dive shop and complete your course here. Many students choose to do the paperwork and classroom component at home and do only water work here in Utila to save time. Especially if you are on a tight schedule.
In most dive centers the open water course is offered as an intense course over 3-4 days. If you were to take this at home it might be done over the course of a few months on weekends or certain nights of the week to accommodate people’s working schedules. Classroom: you will be issued a book to read and answer questions. You will also be assigned videos to watch at some point in time. Your instructor will go over the questions and give quizzes (in PADI) or a review (ssi and naui). at the end of the classroom sessions or at the end of the course there will be a final exam or final review covering the material as a whole. PADI requires a passing grade and you may retake the test once if you do not pass. Ssi and naui require you to master the material and your instructor will make sure you know what you do not understand in all cases and agencies.
Confined water: in a pool, or in an area with pool-like conditions (ie shallow and calm). This is where you will become oriented with your equipment, breathing underwater, and performing some skills which will train you to become a competent diver.
Open water: in the open ocean. Ideally the conditions will still be favorable to teaching. Most shops will make sure it is reasonable for students to participate in the current weather or reschedule for another time. There are usually 4-5 open water dives depending on the certifying agency. These on these dives you will further your practice and competence in the water by re-performing the confined skills in a deeper area and actually diving along the reef perfecting your buoyancy
Buoyancy practice: perhaps the number one skill to be practiced and perfected in scuba diving in order to fully appreciate the sport and the reef. Using your lungs you will learn how air in your lungs will make you float more while no air in your lungs (exhale) will make you sink. The goal is to be right in the middle so you are not floating nor sinking but “neutrally buoyant”. Although your BCD can help for large compensation , your lungs are the key to an enjoyable dive where you are relaxed and able to look at and enjoy the reef and fish.
Once you have completed your open water course you may dive for fun (fun dives) or continue with a variety of other courses. The next most popular course is the Advanced course. the padi version is 5 dives including a Deep dive, a navigation dive and 3 elective dives chosen by the student. Other courses are specialty courses to give you more instruction in an area you are interested in. popular specialty courses include but are not limited to: deep, photography, naturalist, and wreck.