Why is the Advanced Class Useful?
Why is the advanced class important? Does it create an expert diver? These are two questions that create a lot of controversy....Lets explore why....
The controversy, and answers to these questions, are intertwined in human nature. The controversy is related to the concept of an "advanced" diver being an "expert" diver. These are two different words that are used in two different contexts. The difference in context is often misunderstood. The word expert means a very high degree of competence associated with mastery of a set of skills. The word advanced means beyond elementary or introductory. It has been interesting to see the variety of opinions regarding the "advanced certification", what it means, and what it should mean. Many expert divers are offended that relatively new divers have the word advanced on their C-cards. Unfortunately for those who are offended by the name "Advanced Open Water (AOW) Certification", we are bound by the accepted meaning of these words and we can’t redefine them to be equal. It is not necessary to hold an advanced certification to be an expert diver, nor does an advanced certification indicate a level of expertise. Many divers that hold only Open Water (OW) certification have logged hundreds of dives and have become very expert by hard work and study.
Lets look into the purpose of the Advanced Open Water class. The Open Water class provides the new diver with a set of skills that are necessary to dive safely. We all understand the benefit of experience in developing skills and good habits as well as the hazards of developing bad habits. The AOW class is designed to provide skills beyond those presented in the OW class, and to provide experience after the OW class under the supervision of divemasters and instructors.
Consider our experience while learning to drive a car. Most of us completed driver’s education and got a driver’s license when we were probably capable of making a short trip to the store, but not capable of defensive driving. The advanced certification class gives the student a head start toward "defensive diving". If we take away the word "advanced" we have a very worthwhile program that hardly anyone would criticize. Lets not place the meaning "expert" on the advanced certification. The skills taught in the advanced course are prerequisite for becoming an expert diver. It makes sense that these skills must be taught sometime before the diver becomes an expert. Why not before the diver actually needs them! The AOW class introduces the OW diver to deep diving, night diving, search and recover techniques, additional navigational skills, and other activities that should be practiced with supervision the first time.
From my own experience, I took the advanced class because I wasn’t comfortable with my skills after basic OW. Fortunately, the divemaster assigned to me was the most experienced, conservative, and cautious diver I have ever met (good idea). Unfortunately, my buddy was his girlfriend (bad idea). After the weekend, I knew my limitations and my responsibility for my buddy very well. And, I had confidence after the DM told me he would dive with me any time. I remain firmly convinced I could have participated in any group doing recreational diving without being a safety hazard after my advanced certification. I think that is the ultimate goal and criteria for measuring of the worth of any advanced certification program.