The Scuba Diver course

This is a beginner SCUBA course for those with no previous experience who want to learn how to SCUBA dive.

Course description

The Scuba Diver course is an entry level scuba course that provides the fundamental knowledge and skills to scuba dive. Upon successful completion of this course graduates are qualified to do open-water certification dives and earn their SCUBA diving certification.

The certification dives are kept separate because due the transient nature of our students, some people prefer to do their open-water dives in more tropical conditions or in a location closer to their home. In addition some people take this course just to satisfy their KINES requirement and have no desire to get certified.

You have 6 months from the time you complete this course to do your certification dives or you will be required to repeat all or part of this course.

Who can take this course

This course is open to any University Park Penn State student, faculty, or staff who is age 18 and older and is medically cleared for SCUBA diving.

The nature of scuba diving requires those who participate to be good swimmers. Therefore a swim test will be given during the first session and must be passed in order to continue beyond the third session on the course.

Required swim tests

  • 250 yard (5 laps) non-stop swim.
    • The first three laps must be overhand crawl stroke (aka freestyle)
    • All strokes used must be recognizable by the instructor
    • The "doggie-paddle" is not a recognized stroke
  • 60 feet underwater swim on one breath with no push off
  • 10 minute tread water

Swim test notes

  • A lap is defined as 50 yards or two lengths of the main indoor pool at the Natatorium on campus.
  • The 60 feet underwater swim is from one end of the main indoor pool at the Natatorium to the far set of flags hanging across the pool.

How much does this course cost

The cost of the course is around $250.00 (Actual cost will be announced with each course offering. This estimate is subject to change without notice.)

Participation and payment for this course DOES NOT make you a certified diver! You need to complete open-water certification dives to become certified. Opportunities are available at Penn State to do this.

The cost of the course includes a textbook and all instructor, pool, and equipment fees.

Unlike scuba courses at a dive shop, you are not required to buy any equipment. You need only supply a swimsuit and towel. We provide all the equipment. You are welcome to purchase and use your own equipment, although the instructor reserves the right to not allow you to use your own equipment if it is deemed inappropriate or unsafe for use in this course.


Full refunds are given during the first three sessions of the course if a participant is unable to complete the required swim tests or is found to have a medical condition that puts him/her at an increased or unsafe risk for scuba diving.

Full or partial refunds after the first three sessions are only be given in extreme circumstances and at the discretion of the Adventure Recreation Coordinator.

Where, when, and how long is this course

This course is only offered during the spring semester every year.

The course is offered in one of two configurations based on pool availability.

8-week course

This version is typically scheduled to start 4 or 5 weeks before Spring Break and it ends 4 or 5 weeks after Spring Break. The course meets twice a week; once in a classroom for an academic lecture and once at the Natatorium for in-pool skills practice. Each meeting is about two hours long.

Typically the lecture is held on a Monday or Tuesday evening from 7:00pm till 9:00pm. The pool sessions are typically held on Friday evenings from 8pm till 10pm with an optional social gathering afterwards.

4-week course

This version typically starts at the middle to end of January and finished before Spring Break. The course meets four times a week; twice in a classroom for academic lectures and twice at the Natatorium for in-pool skills practice. Each meeting is about two hours long.

Typically the lectures are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:00pm till 9:00pm. The pool sessions are typically held on Friday evenings from 8pm till 10pm and Sunday afternoons from 4:00pm till 6:00pm with optional social gatherings afterwards.

When is the next course:

  • There might be a course late in the Fall 2015 semester
  • Spring 2016

What will I be learning

You will learn to become one with the underwater world.

In the classroom

You will learn about the underwater world; what effects it has on your body and how we humans function underwater. You will be taught how to select, adjust, assemble, use, and maintain the equipment used for scuba diving. You will be introduced to the varying diving environments that you might visit and what things you need to consider when conducting your dives. The animal life that you might encounter while diving will be discussed along with how to respect it and keep yourself safe. Diving illnesses such as "the bends" will be explained along with how to treat and/or prevent them. Proper dive planning will be taught so that you can plan and conduct safe, enjoyable dives. During the entire course there will be great emphasis placed on safety and how to plan and conduct dives safely. Finally, opportunities will be presented for you to learn how to further your knowledge about diving because good divers never stop learning.

The lecture material will be tested with a 100 question mulitple choice test during the last session of the course. You must score a 75% or better on this test to successfully pass the class and participate in open-water certification dives.

In the pool

You will learn the various skills that are needed to maneuver around and survive in the underwater world. The skills start out with a test of your basic swimming ability and progress from there to snorkeling and then into scuba skills. All skills will be demonstrated by the instructor or a qualified assistant and ample time will be provided for you to practice and become proficient with the skills.

Qualified assistants from the Training Assistant program are used to provide examples of good diving practices and help increase the safety of the course.

The pool sessions are not evaulated for a grade, but you will be asked to demonstrate all of your scuba skills for the instructor on the last session of the course and he/she will make a final evaluation of your abilites and a decision on whether or not you are ready for the open-water certification dives.

Is this a Penn State course, can I get credit?

The official Penn State SCUBA course is KINES 45 and this is not that course.

We do have an arrangement with the Kinesiology department so that students who take this course and want the 1.5 kinesiology credits can obtain it. Part-time students will be responsible for paying the per-credit fee along with our fee for the course should they choose to take the course for credit.

We enroll you in a special section of KINES 45 after the course starts. You cannot register for this course through eLion.

Is this course offered online or in a shorter format?

SCUBA diving is an extremely safe sport but not one without risks. To help minimize the risk of serious injury or death, participants need to obtain the proper training and supervised practice to keep them safe in the underwater world.

There is no shortcut for becoming a safe scuba diver!

While some organizations offer online or accelerated courses, we only offer the 4 or 8-week course described above which we feel is the best way to turn you into a well-prepared, safe scuba diver.

NOTE: If you have previous diving experience from the military or commercial diving, an exception may be possible. Please contact the instructor (listed below) for more information on this.

Questions or concerns

To protect your own privacy, please do not email overly personal or medical-related questions. Email a phone number or ask for one to call.

Please direct any questions or concerns about this course to the instructor, Paul Rentschler. He can be reached via email at