I came across a post on PADI’s blog this morning about the myth of the advanced open water course and just couldn't let it slide. In that post, the anonymous Dive Guru states one of the myths as: "I haven't been a diver for very long; I'm not ready to be an advanced diver."
The Dive Guru's response to that so-called myth: "The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course is for divers who want to gain more underwater experience while diving with a PADI Professional – or have fun learning new things. In addition to logging more dives, you’ll fine-tune skills learned during your open water diver class, such as navigation and buoyancy."
While not inaccurate, I think The Dive Guru missed an opportunity to address a bigger myth: that the advanced open water course makes you an advanced diver.
PADI's AOW course is designed to introduce more detailed skills and new skills to supplement what you learned in basic open water. What's truly unfortunate is the myth that PADI has never done anything to dispel: that the certification is not an award to recognize experience, that it is, instead, a recognition that a diver has made the effort to acquire new skills.
Expertise is never acquired through formal training. Think of your own job or profession, and this should be obvious.
Expertise comes from hands-on experience, which can't be bought and certainly can't be taught. The only way to get it is to do it.
Sorry about the preachy post, but I'm equally tired of the PADI haters who cite the AOW certification to support their vitriol and those who labour under the delusion that the AOW certification qualifies them to engage in dives that far exceed the limits of their experience.
This is a good time to remember an important caveat that PADI, to its credit, points out: your certification qualifies you to make dives in conditions as good as or better than those in which you received your training. Put differently, it's a reminder to dive within your limits. Frankly, it should be a basic survival instinct.
OK, rant over. :p