The scenic view in La Paz, Mexico, might be incentive enough to get certified in open water diving.

Photo courtesy of PADI

Benefits of PADI

While PADI is about more than scuba education, that's certainly the meat of the organization. Its mission -- "to develop programs that encourage and fulfill the public interest in recreational scuba diving and snorkeling worldwide" -- sets the stage for the multitude of classes available to those looking to breathe underwater [source: PADI].

It begins with the entry-level certification course, called Open Water Diver, that allows beginners to get underwater and look around. That's the starting point, and with a PADI certification, you can go diving practically anywhere. With 5,700 PADI dive shops and resorts spread over 180 countries, it's not hard to find someone to take you out to see the sites and swim around [source: PADI].

That's just the beginning of the offerings. PADI offers more than two-dozen specialty dive courses for those looking to expand their knowledge and experience beyond the basics, including adventure diving, wreck diving, night diving, enriched-air diving, deep-water diving and rescue diving.

Those students who work through a prerequisite set of specialty courses can reach PADI's Master Scuba Diver rank, which is the highest diving level offered by PADI short of instructor status. Master Divers who find they have a particular knack for the sport, along with a craving for island life and a year-round tan, might go on to PADI instructor training.

Beyond classes and underwater action, PADI offers online training and materials, equipment, tools, dive trips and a community of like-minded individuals looking to share their diving experiences -- which brings us to the PADI Diving Society.

The Diving Society is a members-only organization made up of those like-minded individuals, and it offers PADI divers some significant benefits.