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What scuba training agency is best for technical diving?

This advice will help you the best scuba training agency for your technical diving training

A frequently asked question online is “what scuba training agency is best for technical diving?“. That question often sparks heated debate, not in the least because of varying agency loyalties and the financial self-interests of those working in the technical diving training industry. Deciding upon a training agency is an important step when establishing your individual goals for technical diving development.

The usual, least biased, the answer is that the agency doesn’t matter; it is the individual instructor that determines the outcome and quality of a technical diving course. Whilst that answer is absolutely correct (and it’s critical to thoroughly research your potential tech instructor), it also fails to acknowledge that technical training agencies can differ significantly in the standards and structure of the courses they offer.

Those differences at an agency level should be worthy of consideration when selecting what training is most optimal for your needs and best meets your personal philosophy on development.

I recognize four main differences between scuba training agencies with respect to their technical diving training. Consider those differences and decide which is best for your needs.

What are the scuba training agency technical diving course structures?

Modularized Technical Diving Course Structures

Some agencies break their courses down into convenient 2-day/4-dive modules; i.e. PADI Tec40/45/50 or TDI AN/DP/ER. The main reason for this is based on commercial principles from recreational dive training – courses that can be run over a single weekend attract more sales. Modular courses tend to have much less developmental value compared to singular, comprehensive, courses; but do afford the opportunity to consolidate your experience between smaller levels of progression if you’re struggling to keep pace with the skill curve (which is basically defined by how well-prepared, or not, you are to start a course).

Singular Technical Diving Course Structures

Other agencies utilize singular courses of longer duration that might take a week to complete; i.e. GUE Tech1 or RAID Deco50. These tend to benefit students from the day-to-day continuity in training; which is a distinct benefit to ingraining skills and allows more dedicated practice each day. However, being singular and longer duration, they do require a greater initial commitment of time, money and effort from the prospective student. As a result, they tend to attract more dedicated and motivated divers.

Technuical diving syllabus comparison scuba training agency


What is the scuba training agency approach to trimix diving?

Agency tech curriculums vary on when they introduce helium as a breathing gas. Some agencies adhere to DAN’s scientific recommendations on gas density – which necessitates helium use from the outset (equivalent narcotic depth of 30m/100ft).

Mandated or universal trimix training

GUE, UTD, RAID and ISE all mandate trimix on *every* tech course. For them, every tech qualification is a trimix qualification. This acknowledges evidence of breathing gas density issues exacerbating Co2 retention and assumes that inert gas narcosis management is essential on more complex and risk-consequential technical dives.

Optional trimix training

Some scuba training agencies, such as TDI and IANTD, encourage trimix introduction as an optional module in their curriculum path.

Delayed trimix training

Other agencies, like PADI, reserve trimix training until much later in the curriculum (i.e. Tec65); basing their philosophy on helium use purely upon oxygen toxicity limits (1.4pp02).

Technical divers should have access to the right ‘tools’ to mitigate risks on their dives – and trimix is an important option to consider.

trimix course

What are the scuba training agency performance standards for technical diving?

The performance standards expected of students (and instructors) vary greatly between agencies.

Mass market diving equals lower standards

Some agencies have very lax standards, which empower lacklustre instructors to downwardly interpret the necessary student proficiency to an absolute bare minimum level. Training can easily be below modern benchmark expectations of quality. As a consequence, it becomes absolutely critical to research and select your instructor on the basis of their individual reputation and prestige.

Niche scuba training agencies and higher standards

Other agencies have very rugged training standards, which have very little room for depreciated interpretation. This delivers an assurance that your training will be very robust and meet modern benchmarks of performance. The consequence of that does tend to demand that prospective students take responsibility for attending training with the right level of proficiencies in place.. and work harder during their courses in order to have a realistic chance of certifying.

diving fundies scuba training agency


How standardized is the scuba training agency?

Agencies differ significantly in terms of how standardized their skills, protocols and equipment are.

High standardization technical diving agencies

Some, such as GUE and UTD (“DIR agencies”) are rigidly standardized. This ensures equality of competence and approach between any qualified diver holding their certifications. It also allows a holistic and integrated approach to a progressive curriculum; meaning that each course prepares for the next level and that you can swap between different instructors with no drawbacks or discrepancies.

Low standardization of technical diving training

In contrast, some agencies have little or no standardization. It’s a literal ‘free-for-all’ – with each individual instructor defining their own preferences on protocols, equipment and skills approach. This brings a risk that some instructors may have flawed, or very outdated, approaches to tech diving; which they’ll pass on to their students. Of course, it also means that different instructors would teach differently; which can cause progression-impeding conflicts if you have different instructors when progressing through the curriculum.

If you found this helpful, you’ll also love:

Top-10 tips on how to best prepare for technical diving training

What is the best way to prepare for technical diving training?

How To Set Goals For Your Technical Diving Development

What is the biggest risk in technical diving? (and how to avoid it)

The Changing Technical Diving Mindset


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About the Author

Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC and SSI-qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching sidemount, trimix and advanced wreck diving courses.

Currently residing in Subic Bay, Philippines; he has amassed more than 10,000 open circuit and CCR dives over 27 years of diving across the globe.

He has published numerous diving magazine articles, designed courses for dive training agencies and tests/reviews dive gear for scuba equipment manufacturers. He is currently writing a series of advanced diving books and creating a range of tech diving clothing and accessories

Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize and Cyprus.

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