GUE vs PADI: What’s the difference?

GUE and PADI are two different organizations, right? Whose certification is more recognized internationally? Which is better?

At Living Seas, we’re often asked these questions when newcomers dive with us.

Yes, GUE and PADI are two different organizations that are unrelated to each other. GUE stands for Global Underwater Explorers, and PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

As a certification body, PADI is more well known internationally because it has been around for a longer time. It also spends a lot on marketing. GUE is a non-profit organization with the primary goals of advancing aquatic education, conservation and exploration. That being said, GUE is widely recognized as being the best in the industry because of its emphasis on quality control and stringent standards. Increasingly more people are beginning to know about GUE, too.

The PADI certification will allow you to dive around the world (within the limits of what you’re certified for, of course). You could think of PADI as a key that grants you access to the underwater world.

Once you walk (or more literally, swim) through that door, your dive education should continue. Going through a GUE course, in my opinion, is more about the skills and the knowledge that you acquire in the process. The certification that comes with it is secondary.

That’s why Living Seas offers both PADI and GUE courses. We believe in being qualified for the diving that we do, beyond being certified to do those dives. (If you’re curious about our diving philosophy, read our earlier reflections on what it means to be an “advanced” diver and the fundamental skills all divers should have.)

For those who believe in challenging themselves to dive better, I urge you to think in terms of qualification instead of certification. Forget chasing certificates, and instead focus on being more competent and comfortable at the dives you want to do!

True competency isn’t measured by the number of certificates you have or the equipment you own. It’s gained through time spent in the water, practicing and improving.

Leon Boey is a GUE, HSA and PADI instructor based in Singapore and Bali. He runs the dive education centre Livingseas in Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. Diving since 2005, he first fell in love with wrecks. He enjoys all sorts of diving, and loves being surrounded by fish.

Discussions — 7 Responses

  • Terry Forsyth August 24, 2016 on 12:07 am

    I’m sure you could have put a little more effort into this article. You make it sound as if PADI does’t do anything regarding advancing aquatic education or conservation, which I would consider as inaccurate. You also make it sound as if you don’t attain any skills or knowledge if you go through PADI.

    I have no issue with GUE, however you shouldn’t try to make them sound so much better, by making PADI to be inferior with false facts.

    • Leon Boey Terry Forsyth September 5, 2016 on 3:22 am

      Hello Terry,

      Apologies you feel this way, perhaps I didn’t mention what PADI does, however, I didn’t say that it doesn’t do much for the ocean. I think my main point wasn’t whether each agency is better or not, but rather to highlight the differences between qualification and certification.

  • Doug August 29, 2016 on 2:58 pm

    What is the maximum class size that is safe in open water? Are the existing standards adequate that the major training agencies have in place?

    • Leon Boey Doug September 5, 2016 on 3:21 am

      Hey Doug,

      Yes, there are standards that the major training agencies have in place, and these vary according to whether there are assistants present or not. Whether or not these are adequate I think depends on what the individual instructors can handle. This varies with experience level and the skill of the instructor.

      Personally, I think that 4 students per instructor is the maximum that should be done, primarily for safety, but also because any more than that and the quality of learning drops.

  • Pete Wallingford March 15, 2018 on 1:45 am

    Will divers fail to receive their entry level C-cards if they cannot hover for 3 minutes at 5 meters at the end of a dive (when the cylinder changes buoyancy characteristics) without holding or seeing a downline? Meaning, ‘free hovering’ with only their immediate gauges may be used do determine time, depth and cylinder pressure. I ask this due to the fact that statistics show less than 5% of all newly certified divers participate in continuing ed and receive further buoyancy proficiency training and testing.

    • Leon Boey Pete Wallingford March 17, 2018 on 3:46 pm

      Hello Pete,

      Good comment, I do believe that open water students shouldn’t be certified if they cannot do a free ascent.

      I definitely do this multiple times during the open water portion of the courses I teach.

  • Pete Wallingford July 28, 2018 on 6:01 am

    Yes, free ascent, multiple x’s…. if they all were your children how many x’s would you test if they could really stop for 3 minutes before reaching the surface. Once or twice in your diving career it will be a necessary skill to survive without injury. And when do you think that skill will be demanded of them? Right after getting certified? During an Advanced class when they are still ‘minnows’?