The PADI Course Progression

From the first time you put on scuba gear and breathe underwater, diving has a way of getting you hooked! Here at Divers Den in Cairns we offer a full range of PADI dive courses, from beginner to professional. If you want to understand the PADI course progression and see where your scuba certification can take you, read on!

Why choose PADI

PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world’s largest scuba diving organisation. A PADI qualification is recognised and respected wherever you go.

When you book a PADI course, you’ll gain your skills through performance-based learning taught to strict educational standards. At Divers Den we’re proud to hold 5-Star PADI Instructor Development Center and 5-Star Career Development Center status. These are the highest possible accreditations for diver training.

With a PADI certification you’ll be part of a global community of fellow divers – it’s the pathway to a world of adventure, friends and fun! And your first certification is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning and growth. Here’s a basic look at the PADI course progression we offer at Divers Den:

Divers Den Cairns - PADI Course Progression Chart

Getting Started with Scuba Diving

There are several ways to get started on your scuba diving journey. The best choice for you depends on your age, swimming ability and how ready you feel for open water diving. View all our Beginner Dive Courses or read about them below.

Introductory Dive (Discover Scuba)

If you’d like to try diving but don’t have the time or budget for a full open water course, you can opt for a Discover Scuba experience. This is also known as an introductory dive or a ‘try dive’. You’ll start with a full briefing on the gear, basic skills and how to descend and ascend safely. Then you’ll get into the water with your instructor and a maximum of three other intro divers. On your first dive you’ll descend to a maximum of 12 metres to practice your skills and explore. You can try an intro dive on our outer reef day trips or overnight trips.

Scuba Kids (Bubblemaker)

PADI has some great kids’ scuba diving programs to get young ones into diving in an age-appropriate way. The first step is our Scuba Kids program (aka Bubblemaker). This is like an introductory dive for kids aged 8+, where they’ll try scuba diving in the safety of our dive pool.

Open Water Diver

If you’re planning on learning to scuba dive, this is where most people start. The Open Water Diver course consists of knowledge development, pool practice and four open water dives. At the end you’ll be certified to dive to 18 metres with a dive buddy. At Divers Den the course takes four days, which you can split over two weekends if you prefer. You can also choose to do your open water dives over two day trips, or spend the night on our Great Barrier Reef liveaboard.

Find out more about learning to scuba dive with our Open Water courses.

Advanced Courses: Enhance Your Scuba Skills

Once you have your Open Water certification, you can enjoy recreational diving all over the world. You can also continue to expand and enhance your scuba diving knowledge and skills with PADI’s specialties and further scuba diving courses.

Advanced Open Water Diver

The natural progression after Open Water is the Advanced Open Water Diver certification. Don’t be intimidated by the word ‘advanced’! It simply means that this certification builds on the knowledge you gained in your open water course. The course qualifies you to dive to depths of 30 metres, which opens up a host of new dive sites to you worldwide.

The PADI Advanced Open Water has no formal classroom sessions. You’ll just read the relevant information (and complete a short quiz) before completing your five open water dives. These will include a deep dive and underwater navigation. The Advanced Open Water will develop your diving skills and make you a more competent diver. It’s also a lot of fun!

PADI Specialties

As an Open Water or Advanced Diver, you can also take a variety of PADI specialty courses. These are short diving courses designed to enhance your skills in a particular area of diving. Options include underwater photography, navigation or night diving. One of our most popular specialty courses is the Enriched Air (Nitrox) Diver specialty, which qualifies you to use Nitrox tanks when diving. We also proudly offer our own exclusive PADI distinctive specialty, the Dwarf Minke Whale Awareness specialty.

Rescue Diver

Keep challenging yourself as a diver and broaden your perspective with the Rescue Diver certification. This course teaches you how to act in an emergency and rescue other divers if needed. Ask any diving professional and they’ll tell you this was the most challenging but rewarding course they took. You’ll not only learn how to rescue yourself and other divers, you’ll also learn about how to prevent accidents from happening and how to carry out underwater searches. This is also an essential course for anyone who has their sights set on becoming a PADI Divemaster or Instructor.

Master Scuba Diver

Once you’ve achieved your Advanced and Rescue Diver certifications, taken at least five specialty courses, and logged a minimum of 50 dives, you can call yourself a Master Scuba Diver! It’s like having your black belt in scuba diving. Only an elite few in the global PADI community attain this rank.

Professional Courses: Careers in Scuba Diving

If scuba diving has become a true passion, why not make it your career? Talk to us about becoming a PADI professional. This involves working your way through the Divemaster certification with a view to gaining your instructor qualification. View Professional Dive Courses.


The first step towards becoming a PADI pro, the Divemaster course teaches you leadership. You’ll learn how to deal with a range of conditions and situations, map dive sites, conduct briefings and supervise dive activities. This is the start of an epic adventure! You’ll need at least 40 logged dives and your Rescue Diver certification, plus CPR and First Aid certificates.


The next step in the PADI course progression chart above is the Instructor qualification. As a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, you’ll be able to teach others to scuba dive and share your love of diving and the underwater world. To gain this qualification you’ll take an Instructor Development Course (IDC for short), followed by the Instructor Exam (IE).

Before you join the course you’ll need your Divemaster and EFR certification, and at least 60 logged dives. By the time you sit the exam you’ll need 100 dives. Over the course you’ll learn how to teach all of PADI’s core scuba diving courses, from the classroom and pool through to the open water. You’ll learn to present in front of a class, how to keep your students safe, all the PADI standards and procedures. The course also covers some of the business aspects of scuba diving.

Preparing for your IDC

The IDC gives you a thorough grounding in teaching scuba diving. But working as a dive instructor on the Great Barrier Reef involves so much more than teaching courses! That’s why we recommend joining our Instructor Training Program (ITP) before you take the IDC. During the ITP you’ll work for three months on our various boats, learning about every inch of the Cairns diving industry. From filling tanks and serving food to helping with boat maintenance, you’ll gain a vast range of extra industry knowledge. By the end you’ll be ready for the IDC, and you’ll be a more attractive option for employers! We regularly hire instructors who complete ITP training with us, so it’s a great choice if working on the Great Barrier Reef is your goal.

If it’s been a while since your Divemaster course, we offer a two-day intensive prep course to get you back on track before you start your IDC.

PADI Pro: The adventure continues…

Of course, it doesn’t stop there… after the basic Instructor rating, there’s a whole extra ladder to climb! From Specialty Instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer, IDC Staff Instructor, all the way to PADI Course Director! You can find out more about PADI’s Professional qualifications here.

No matter your scuba certification level, there is always a next step to take and more ways to develop your skills. Contact Divers Den today to take the next step (or the first) into your scuba diving future.