Crossing over between dive training agencies comes up regularly in diving forums and conversations. For recreational courses level, moving between agencies is fairly straightforward, as the material is largely streamlined. But how does it work when it comes to crossing over between tech diving training agencies? We’re taking a closer look.
Choosing the Right Agency
Starting tech diving training is often more about finding the right instructor than it is about choosing a specific agency. However, it’s worth looking at the agency side also. Each training agency has a somewhat different philosophy, often influenced by founders and training directors.
This philosophy will be reflected in their training programs and materials. As far as materials go, two areas can make a difference. The first point is access: online learning is convenient, cost effective and environmentally friendly, but not every diver finds it easy to learn this way; some people may prefer books, and some may prefer instructor-led theory classes. It’s worth checking whether your chosen course can accommodate your preferred learning style.
The second difference lies in the timeliness of the material: when was it written? Technical diving is evolving fast. There are regular updates to best practices, not just underwater, but also regarding dive planning, equipment specifications, and more. Online-based materials can accommodate these changes far more easily than printed books.
Course Flexibility and Curriculum
Aside from the material, looking at the degree of flexibility within a course is important. Some agencies prescribe exactly which skills divers must perform during each course dive. Others list all skills required for certification but leave it to the individual instructor to decide which skills to tackle on specific dives. The latter often allows for a more tailored course that accommodates individual learning styles and paces.
Also investigate how an agency’s course progression is structured and how it fits with your diving goals. Some of this is evident in course flow charts and course descriptions, but it’s probably something you should discuss with an instructor.
Many technical diving instructors are affiliated with multiple agencies and therefore can advise you on which curriculum best fits with your preexisting qualifications, experience, diving goals, and the environment you are training in. Based on that, you may well stick with one agency’s training.
Does switching have benefits?
Are there any benefits to switching? Definitely. Mainly, you’ll have the opportunity to compare and better understand which curriculum and teaching style works best for you. Generally, crossing over between agencies at a recreational level is as simple as signing up for a new course. However, as technical diving curriculums are not as streamlined as the entry level courses, you may have to take a step sideways to fit into the other agency’s course flow.
As an example, both IANTD’s and TDI’s Advanced Nitrox courses qualify divers to utilize nitrox mixes up to pure oxygen. However, while the IANTD version of the course covers conducting limited decompression stops, TDI’s Advanced Nitrox course stays within no-stop limits. So, coming from IANTD and wanting to continue within the TDI curriculum, divers still need to complete TDI’s initial decompression diving training course, Decompression Procedures. Even though much of the material is similar and the difference in potential maximum depth is only a few feet apart, Decompression Procedures allows unlimited decompression stops—a major difference between the two.
Crossing Over for Dive Pros
For dive professionals, crossing over is a more structured process. Details vary depending on existing qualifications and teaching experience. The process may range from a shorter version of an instructor course to a simple administrative switch. All depends on the individual agency’s requirements and the instructor’s existing qualifications and teaching experience.
Most agencies will recognize that teaching experience is valuable, even the instructor has been teaching different curriculum. At the end of the day, the instructor has still explained technical diving principles and practices to their students. A crossover usually entails spending some screen time learning about an agency’s history, understanding its teaching philosophy, course structures and—perhaps most importantly —teaching standards.
Underwater, a crossover may include a skills circuit, often conducted as a peer review rather than an exam situation. This means that the instructor crossing over is being assessed in a more workshop-like scenario. However, some crossovers are more like a shorter version of an instructor training course, including academic and underwater skills presentations. There may also be requirements to assist on courses.
So, while moving between diver training agencies is fairly straightforward at diver level, those intending to add professional ratings to their qualifications will find more formal requirements.