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NOAA Dive Certifications

Trainee Diver
Scientific Diver
Working Diver
Advanced Working Diver
Master Diver
Observer Diver
Temporary Working Diver
Equivalent Certification
Scientific vs. Working: Which is right for you?

FormsCertification Forms


  • NOAA employee
  • Successfully complete the academic portion of the NOAA Working Diver Course
  • Logged less than 25 dives and/or failed to demonstrate diving proficiency required for certification
  • Not authorized to perform working dives, training only
  • Must accompany other NOAA diver also performing training only dive.

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Scientific Diver

Divers trained by other organizations requesting NOAA Diving Program certification may be certified at the level of Scientific Diver. The purpose of this certification is to allow NOAA and non-NOAA employees to perform scientific research tasks as outlined in the OSHA Commercial Diving Regulations scientific diving exemption. Individuals seeking Scientific Certification must be scientists or scientists-in-training and may only complete underwater tasks consisting of observation and data collection. Construction and trouble shooting tasks traditionally associated with commercial and NOAA working diving, is prohibited.

  • NOAA employee
  • Approved NOAA dive physical
  • Proof of scuba certification by a recognized scuba certifying agency above the basic entry level. Experience will be considered in lieu of an advanced dive certification. Substitution of experience for advanced certification will be determined by the LODO/FDO and DNDP on a case-by-case basis
  • Minimum of 25 previous open-water dives
  • Pass written scientific diver exam
  • Provide Copies Of:
    • Dive Training/certifications
    • Current CPR, First Aid, and Oxygen Administration
    • NDP Dive Activity Resume
  • Pass Swimming Evaluation
  • Complete Check-out Dive With UDS or Designee (only after all other steps have been completed and physical is approved by NDC)
  • UDS Responsibilities:
    • Assemble and review all documentation, submit to LODO/ NDC
    • Proctor examination, mail Scantron answer sheet to NDC for grading (Be sure to use the latest Scientific Diver Exam, currently version 1.1)
    • Conduct check-out dive of candidate

Forms Scientific Diver Certification forms

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Working Diver

Divers trained by other organizations requesting NOAA Diving Program certification may be certified at the level of Working Diver. The purpose of this certification is to allow NOAA and non-NOAA employees to perform working dives in support of program missions. Individuals seeking Working certification must have completed a NOAA Working Diver training course or an accredited commercial or military diver training program. Individuals with outside training must have logged a significant number of working dives as a commercial or military diver and are required to complete a NOAA sponsored or approved one-week training program.

  • NOAA employee
  • Successful completion of Working Diver Course or documentation of equivalent training and/or work experience

The following policy, guidelines and administrative procedures will be followed when evaluating individuals trained by other organizations for Scientific and Working Diver certification:

Regulation - NAO 209-123 Section (5.01g)

g. Personnel not under established reciprocity agreements. Non-NOAA divers not under established reciprocity agreements must complete the requirements outlined in Section 5.03 or in Section 6.02 of this Order before they may participate in diving activities covered under the scope of this Order.

NON-NOAA trained personnel may receive NOAA certification following successful completion of the following:

1. Verification of diving training and experience. See Diving Resume. Applicants for Scientific certification must be certified from a nationally recognized training organization, (NAUI, PADI, etc.) at a level higher than a basic. Applicants for Working certification must have Commercial or Military dive training.
2. Verification of current First Aid, CPR and oxygen delivery training, (DAN)
3. Report of Medical Examination (SF88)
4. Report of Medical History (SF93)
5. NOAA Diver swimming/watermanship evaluation
6. Appropriate NOAA Diving written examination
7. Check-out dive(s) with UDS or designee

Regulation - NAO 209-123 Section (5.03a.2.)

2. demonstrate to UDSs, or their designees, the following swimming exercises showing a reasonable degree of confidence and good water skills:

(a) swim 550 yards (500 meters), without aid, using two or more of the following strokes -- crawl, sidestroke, and breaststroke;

(b) swim, without aid, a distance of 25 yards (22 meters) underwater without surfacing; and

(c) stay afloat, without aid, for 30 minutes.


To be conducted without swimming aides or equipment in pool or open water.

Forms See Swimming Evaluation Form to be completed by UDS or designee (Acrobat PDF file).

Regulation - NAO 209-123 Section (5.15e)

e. Written Examination.
All applicants for NOAA certification shall pass a NOAA written examination. Passing score for each part shall be eighty (80) percent. Applicants failing any part must take a reexamination of the failed part and have a subsequent score of ninety (90) percent.

Written examination must be administered and proctored by the Unit Diving Supervisor or designee. Examinations will be sent to NDC for grading. Repeat examinations will be provided by NDC. The scientific examination is based on outside training agencies curriculum, (NAUI, PADI) with the exception of sections on the NOAA diving regulations and decompression problems based on the US. Navy Air Tables. The test consists of 100 multiple choice questions on general diving knowledge and 25 decompression problems.
The Working Diver examination is based on the NOAA Working Diver training program. The test consists of 200 multiple choice questions on general diving knowledge and 25 decompression problems based on the US. Navy Air Tables.

Regulation - NAO 209-123 Section (5.15f)

f. Diving Evaluation.
The prospective divers must demonstrate their proficiency and skill in diving by making a checkout dive(s) with the appropriate training course supervisor or designee.

Initial checkout dive(s) should be conducted in a pool or shallow (10-15ft) confined area. Subsequent checkout dives shall be conducted in open water with candidate wearing full equipment (gear to be used during unit/project operations). Test and evaluation results will be documented on Report of NOAA Checkout Dive form (Acrobat PDF file). The structure of the checkout dive(s) shall follow the review items listed on the form.

Forms NOAA Administrative Order 209-123 (Acrobat PDF file)

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Advanced Working Diver

  • NOAA Working Diver
  • Minimum of 150 logged dives as a working diver
  • Successful completion of NOAA Divemaster course
  • Complete 2 or more dives with UDS
  • Experience in diving and supervising diving in a variety of conditions
  • Endorsement of UDS, LODO/FDO, and DNDP NOAA employee

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Master Diver

  • NOAA Advanced Working Diver
  • Minimum of 150 logged advanced working dives
  • Experience is a broad range of diving activities and special expertise in several areas of diving. Examples include:
    • Mixed gas training
    • Surface Supply
    • Rebreathers
    • Saturation Diving

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Observer Diver

  • Applies to both NOAA and Non-NOAA personnel who have been invited to observe underwater activities for the purposes of familiarization, evaluation, or reporting on NOAA programs, but are not NOAA certified
  • Limitations:
    • Tasks are limited to observation or photography (i.e. light duty)
    • Limited to 6 dives per year
  • Ratio: 1 NOAA-certified diver to a maximum of 2 Observer divers
  • Requirements:
    • Scuba certified by a recognized training agency
    • A NOAA Diving Program "Observer Diver Medical History Report" has been completed, reviewed, and approved by a healthcare provider within 12 months of the date of activities.
    • Evidence of minimum dive experience of 10 dives, one of which was completed in the last 3 months.
    • Evidence of experience relevant to the type of dives to be performed
  • UDS responsibilities:
    • Review all documentation
    • Determine if experience and fitness is appropriate for dive to be conducted (i.e. approve or disapprove)
    • Inspect candidate’s dive equipment and replace with NOAA gear if necessary
    • Ensure candidates are familiar with NOAA Diving Safety Rules
    • Conduct in-water evaluation of candidate
    • Submit NOAA Form 56-62 (NOAA Observer Diver Report) to NDC
    • Maintain a file on all observer divers

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Temporary Working Diver

  • Temporary authorization may be granted to NOAA employees at the Working Diver level meeting certification requirements determined by the LODO/FDO and DNDP
  • Certification criteria will be based on review of diver resume and recommendation from the UDS
  • Authorization is valid for 6 months, but can be renewed for one additional 6-month period
  • Initial and extension requests should be initiated by UDS, through LODO/FDO, to DNDP for approval
  • Certification steps similar to Scientific Diver Certification

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Equivalent Certification

Equivalent certification was created to allow non-NOAA personnel to participate in NOAA diving activities. It is not intended to be used to gain access to other non-NOAA programs.

  • Eligibility
    • Non-NOAA employee
    • Must complete NDP training/certification requirements
  • Must maintain certification requirements
    • Dive proficiency (submission of dive logs)
    • Dive physicals (submission of exams as required)
  • Rights and privileges
    • Equivalent divers can use their certification to show proof of successful completion of NDP training/certification
    • If they have maintained NDP certification requirements, they may indicate that they are on active dive status with NOAA
    • They should make it clear to the non-NOAA organization that they are not NOAA employees, nor are they covered by NOAA’s Federal Employees Compensation Act (i.e. workmans’ compensation) or NOAA’s health insurance program
    • The NDP can supply the equivalent diver with a certification letter documenting their compliance with certification requirements

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