The SSI Advanced Open Water program is different from most other organizations, as they require not only training but they also require diving experience. To be certified as a SSI AOWD one needs to have 4 Specialty Courses and minimum of 24 logged dives.
The AOWD is the second level qualification in the American international system, following the Open Water Diver qualification (OWD). At the OWD level divers gain basic knowledge of skills, equipment and theory to safely explore the underwater realm to a depth of about 18 meters. The AOWD focuses on refining these skills, allowing the diver to explore a broader variety of diving to a maximum of 30 meters deep. Prior to entering an AOWD course, some organizations have logged dives prerequisites. The course usually contains some mandatory dives and knowledge whilst a certain portion of the course consists of free elective topics such as drift diving or search and recovery.
The European International dive education system CMAS recognises only three main levels of dive education indicated by a one star, two star, or three star system. One star indicates an ability to dive, two star indicates additional skill of rescuing divers, and three star indicates the additional skill in leading a group of divers.
The course usually covers most of the following topics:
In many training agencies, these dives represent introductory knowledge and skills that may be further refined in a speciality course.
In the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course, the student must do two mandatory training dives relating to deep diving and underwater navigation, and then must do three further dives from a list of approximately 18 possible specialities.
The name of this specific training level has been a topic of controversy within the diving community for many years. The crux of this debate is in the interpretation of the word Advanced in its title, and what is its proper application or use of this adjective.
One school of thought on the matter defends the use of the word Advanced, explaining that it is describing the training accurately as being more comprehensive (eg, more advanced) than the basic entry level training.
The opposing school of thought is that the use of the word Advanced is essentially deceptive marketing, as graduates of the class very commonly then refer to themselves as Advanced Divers (and/or AOW Divers), even though the training standard are not sufficient to raise a recreational diver (particularly the novice diver that the class is very frequently marketed to), to traditional expectations of holistic dive mastery, including the military definition, which is relevant because civilian dive training and standards essentially originated from the US Navy, and the diving community continues to equate 'advanced' with 'expert'. As such, while it is agreed that the training is indeed more than basic, it is insufficient to create an Advanced (eg, an Expert) Diver.
Another factor that relates to this controversy is that NAUI had previously not used the training title of Advance Scuba Diver, but instead used the term Open Water II, since they already had an existing Advanced training class (known today as Master Diver). NAUI reportedly changed their training name because of customer confusion, but that was likely a euphemism for the fact that they were losing market share to the significantly easier-to-qualify-for AOW class that was being offered and marketed by another Dive Agency.