Teaching Your Kids to Dive: PADI Junior Specialty Diver Program

In the fifth of our series on dive programs for children, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the PADI Junior Specialty Diver Program. 

There are several levels of PADI certifications for children starting at age 8.  We have outlined several course options throughout this series, including Bubblemaker, PADI Seal Team, Discover Scuba Diving, and Junior Open Water. Once your child has completed his Open Water certification, he should spend as much time diving as possible to practice and refine his new dive skills. With kids especially, “repeat and remind” is an ongoing mantra with most things and diving is no different. Today we’ll cover the PADI Junior Specialty Diver Program.

What comes after Open Water?

It’s important to pursue continuing education to keep skills sharp and interest high, just as kids do in school or as you might do professionally. To that end, PADI has identified several courses for the junior diver beyond the Open Water certification. The minimum age varies from course to course not only so that the junior diver can pick out courses that interest him, but also to keep safety at the forefront. This article will focus on the Jr. Adventure Diver certification, since it’s a requirement for the Junior Rescue Diver certification.

What’s involved in the Junior Specialty Diver certification?

While kids as young as 10 may participate in individual specialty courses, the Adventure Diver program is part of the track to Jr. Master Diver, so it makes sense to achieve that certification as one of the required specialties. As a side note, I talked briefly in the last article about the Jr. Advanced Open Water Diver certification. If your child is already 12 years old, they might take program instead of Adventure Diver. A deep dive is required for that certification, so it’s not available to younger divers.

As with the Junior Open Water certification, kids must be at least 10 years old to participate in the Jr. Adventure Diver program. The ratio of student to instructor is 8 to 1 if the students are 12 or older. It drops to 4 to 1 for 10- to 11-year-olds, as with the Open Water certification requirements. To achieve a Junior Adventure Diver certification, the child must complete three knowledge reviews and three open-water dives, selected from the list of adventure dives offered by PADI or your local dive shop.

Some of the options include Altitude Diver, Fish Identification, Boat Diver, Digital Underwater Photography, Dry Suit, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Underwater Naturalist, Underwater Navigation, Underwater Photography, and Underwater Videography.  Keep in mind that not every shop will offer all of these specialties.

If your child wants to take Jr. Rescue, which will be detailed in the next segment of this series, note that PADI requires Underwater Navigation as one of the specialties that the junior diver will complete. Peak Performance Buoyancy is another excellent course for both kids and adults, no matter how many dives you’ve logged. Neutral buoyancy is essential near reefs, and it will assist any diver interested in photography or videography.

Specialty dives according to age

As I already mentioned, some dive specialties are only available at age 12, 15, or 18. The 10- to 11-year-old Adventure Diver will not have as many options. Specialty dives available for junior divers age 12 and up include Dive Propulsion Vehicle Diver, Drift Diver, Multilevel Diver, Night Diver, and Search and Recovery Diver. At age 15, divers can take Deep Diver, Enriched Air Diver, Semi-closed Rebreather, and Wreck Diver. Divers under the age of 18 cannot enroll in Ice Diver, Cavern Diver, or TEC Diver.

If you are considering this certification for your child, he is well on his way to becoming a well-trained diver. Keep in mind that a few specialty dive certification courses are available to kids as young as 10. But the Adventure Diver course (or Jr. Advanced Open Water at age 12) allows the education to take a defined path, through specialties, Jr. Rescue, and by logging dives that will translate into his adult diving career.