There are many scuba diving organizations that offer certification classes. I have taken training from both of the major agencies within the U.S. My first level of certification was called Open Water I (this designation has since been changed to just be Scuba Diver or Open Water). It came through NAUI, the National Association of Underwater Instructors. This level of training, as I summarize it, is a list of Do's and Don'ts.
For my second level of certification, I switched to the other major certifying agency in the U.S. -- PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Under PADI's designations, the second level of training is called Advanced Open Water. For both of the certifying agencies, this level of training is just a series of supervised dives, with briefings and de-briefings, in a series of new and varied conditions. The certification date for this PADI training is May 26, 1993.
The last level of non-leadership training that I have received also came from NAUI. NAUI's term for the third level of training was also called Advanced Open Water when I took it. NAUI has since changed that designation to be Master Scuba Diver (this level of training is signified with a white certification card and that identification has not changed). My personal summary of this level of training, in contrast to Open Water's list of Do's and Don'ts, is that this course covers the Physics and Biology reasons for the list of Do's and Don'ts.
I have completed my preliminary steps to taking the NAUI Rescue Diver specialty course. My first step was to take the American Red Cross CPR and First Aid Courses. I completed these two half day courses in Late March of 1997. If you are interested in taking these courses, contact the American Red Cross. I believe that a CPR certification is required to take the Rescue Diver specialty. I refreshed these certifications in March and April of 1998.
For my first specialty course, I took a combined class of Divers Alert Network (DAN) Oxygen First Aid and PADI's O2 First Aid. I took this specialty as a preparation for the NAUI Rescue Diver course. While not required, I felt that this is a complementary specialty and might prove useful in the future. I received these specialties on March 24, 1997. I am planning on taking a refresher for this certification late in 1998.
I have also completed the NAUI Rescue Diver specialty course. This was a great class that I am very happy to have taken. It provided a lot of useful knowledge for preventing accidents and in diver rescue. As said by NAUI in the book, this class taught the knowledge used in diver rescue, however, it did not make me a "Rescue Diver". This will take some more training.
I am taking the NAUI Assistant Instructor course. This course includes twelve lecture and pool sessions. The course also features assisting an instructor during both enclosed and open water training dives.
During January through February 1999, I assisted through an entire Scuba Diver course. This included both the lectures and the pool sessions. I will, most likely, go through at least one more course during my AI training.
On my last trip to Cozumel (March 1999), I also assisted during the open water training dives of several Scuba Diver candidates.
After the completion of the NAUI AI course, the next logical step is to become an Instructor. Stay tuned to see what develops.