Best scuba diving specialty courses

By Julius
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Scuba diver looking up on reef

Have you ever wanted to have longer non-decompression times with Nitrox, dive in currents, or under ice?

Specialty courses are the best way to explore new areas of scuba diving.

This article gives you a list of the best scuba diving specialty courses you should take after your Open Water Diver course.

It will also answer the questions:

  • What are the best scuba diving specialty courses?
  • Why should you take scuba diving specialty courses?
  • What are the best places to take specialty diving courses?

The best scuba diving specialty courses

Here is my personal list of the best scuba diving specialty courses.

Of course, depending on where you are from, others might be more important. In addition, it’s always best to do what you are passionate about.

So if you are interested in a certain area of diving, it’s always a great idea to do a course.

1 Nitrox Specialty Course

Every diver should take the Nitrox Basic specialty course, no matter how many dives they have done or long they have been certified for.

Nitrox is also called “Enriched Air Nitrox” and means that the breathing gas during a dive has a higher oxygen concentration than normal air.

The lower Nitrogen content leads to higher non-decompression times underwater in comparison to the equivalent dive on normal air. At the same time, the risk of oxygen toxicity increases at depth, which is why a Nitrox specialty course is important to dive safely.

Nitrox is an abbreviation of the words Nitrogen and Oxygen, although normal air of course consists of the same components.

The Nitrox Basic course (sometimes called Nitrox 1 or just Nitrox) will teach you to dive with gas mixtures of up to 40% oxygen content.

Nowadays, most dive bases around the world offer Nitrox diving and it is especially handy when doing a liveaboard dive trip.

In my opinion, Nitrox Basic should be the first course every diver takes right after the Open Water Diver course. It usually only consists of a theory session with no dives and then you are certified and ready to dive on Nitrox.

2 Stress & Rescue

The Stress & Rescue specialty course is arguably one of the most important dive courses of all.

The topics covered in it include stress and rescue management, first aid, helping divers underwater, and much more.

Many training agencies like PADI or SSI have turned this specialty into a full dive certification for good reasons.

Advanced first aid kit
Stress & Rescue management are important for every diver.

The Rescue Diver is one of the best scuba diving specialty courses and can be taken anywhere as long as you have a good dive instructor.

They should be able to teach you proper skills and techniques and have enough experience to have encountered many of the taught scenarios themselves.

3 Deep Diver Specialty Course

Diving at depth is something many scuba divers love and actively pursue during their diving career and the Deep Diver specialty course will teach you how to do it safely.

Scuba divers underwater
The Deep Diver specialty course allows you to dive to 40 meters safely.

The Open Water Diver course certifies scuba divers to dive down to 20 meters (65ft) depth, while the Advanced Open Water Diver extends this limit at most training agencies to 30 meters (100ft).

Completing the Deep Diver specialty enables you to safely dive down to the maximum recreational scuba diving depth of 40 meters (120ft), understand the challenges and risks involved, and react to signs of Nitrogen Narcosis.

Even if you are a CMAS** diver with different depth limits, the Deep Diver specialty course is very useful and a great introduction to subsequent decompression diving.

4 Drysuit Diver Specialty Course

If you plan on diving anywhere in the world in cold water, the Drysuit Diver specialty course is essential.

Cold water is considered anything below 15°C, however, many divers start using drysuits at much higher temperatures. Here are my recommendations for the best cold water scuba gear.

In comparison to wetsuits or even semi-drysuits, an actual drysuit will keep you completely dry during a dive and subsequently much warmer than its counterparts.

Scuba divers in Silfra rift
Diving in cold water requires a drysuit.

The Drysuit Diver specialty course will teach you how to safely use a drysuit while scuba diving, how to pick the right type, material, and size, and how to connect it to your scuba setup.

A risk in drysuit diving is inflating it in the wrong way and hanging in the water feet up, similar to a kayak turned upside down.

The course will help you practice this situation and how to get out of this unpleasant situation.

If you ever plan on diving at altitude in cold mountain lakes, or even under ice, the Drysuit Diver specialty course is an absolute must.

5 Night Diver

Scuba diving at night is always special and the Night Diver specialty course will teach you how to do it right.

Whether you jump into a local quarry, dive from shore at a dive resort, or take a liveaboard dive trip, a night dive will show you the underwater world in a different way.

Group of divers at night
Diving at night requires a specialty course.

The course teaches you underwater communication in the dark, what equipment you will need, and how to plan your night dives safely.

The Night Diver is therefore definitely one of the best scuba diving specialty courses and one you should take as soon as possible after getting scuba certified.

6 Wreck Diver

The Wreck Diver specialty course introduces you to the exciting world of wreck diving.

You will learn why wrecks are special and require extended dive planning, how to conduct wreck dives and what equipment you need.

Scuba diver at Zenobia wreck in Zyprus
Wreck Diving is always special.

Be careful to pick the right dive school to teach you, as many instructors simply swim around wrecks with you and never actually dive inside.

This is a big issue since diving inside wrecks is very similar to cave diving and requires a lot of skills and practice.

In my opinion, any diving in an overhead environment (an environment where you cannot directly get to the surface by just ascending upwards) should require a certification which is not true for wreck diving.

A good instructor will show you the correct line management, silk-out techniques and introduce you to wreck penetration, the act of exploring the inside of wrecks.

Therefore, a true Wreck Diver specialty course will last at least 2-3 days and include 6-8 dives.

7 Altitude Diver

The Altitude Diver specialty course allows you to dive in mountain lakes and at altitudes above 700m (2000ft).

With one of our dive centers being located in Munich, altitude diving has always been special to me and we have taught many courses over the years.

Alberta Lake
Want this view when diving? Take an Altitude Diver course.

There is just something special about driving up a mountain pass to get to a crystal clear lake to dive in.

If you want to read more about that check out this ultimate guide to altitude diving and dive in the Alps with us!

I might be biased, but to me, the Altitude Diver specialty course is definitely one of the best scuba diving specialty courses!

Why should you take scuba diving specialty courses?

Specialty courses introduce you to new areas of diving and are important to keep practicing your skills as a diver. Some teach you new techniques, such as the Wreck Diver or Drysuit Diver specialty courses, while others improve your overall diving skills such as the Peak Performance Buoyancy course or Dive Control Management. Some specialty courses such as ice diving, shark conservation can only be done at certain locations.

If you want to get better at a skill, you need to practice it. Scuba diving is no different in this regard.

Therefore, it is recommended that you take specialty courses as a way to improve and extend your skills in a safe environment.

Diving with an instructor will also help you become a better scuba diver overall as they can give you useful tips and tricks throughout the course.

What are the best places to take specialty diving courses?

It is best to take scuba diving specialty course at a location where the course topic is most relevant and where the instructors have the most knowledge about it. As such, a drysuit specialty course should be done at a location where drysuit diving is done a lot, while a current diver specialty can only be done in the ocean. Nitrox is a notable exception as the course does not involve any actual dives.


This concludes the list of the best scuba diving specialty courses to take as a diver.

Make sure to pick a knowledgeable dive instructor and look to become a better diver instead of just collecting certification cards.

What was your favorite specialty course so far? Let me know in the comments!

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

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