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Utility Navigation

Diving Program

Diving with NOAA

Diver and jelly.

A NOAA Diver observes a Jelly at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. 

NOAA Divers are at the heart of NOAA’s mission: Ocean exploration, research, and marine conservation require NOAA to use diving and diving technologies to collect data, maintain its ships, install measuring and monitoring instruments, revitalize ecosystems, and test equipment.

Diving Tables

The NOAA Diving Program uses the following diving tables to calculate maximum depths and diving intervals:

Air Dives

NOAA No-Decompression Table for Air Dives

Nitrox Dives

NOAA No-Decompression Table for Nitrox Dives

A group of divers map the remains of a sunken amphibious vessel.

Divers taking the Maritime Archaeology Surveys Techniques course taught by NOAA Diver Hans Van Tilburg and instructors from the University of Hawai'i's Marine Option Program, map a sunken World War II era amphibious vessel near Oahu. 

Requirements for NOAA Divers

NOAA Divers are required to maintain a high level of proficiency, both in practice (in the water) and in theoretical understanding (academic learning) in order to continue to dive at NOAA. In addition, NOAA Divers must be medically fit to dive and are required to send their diving equipment out for maintenance as scheduled. If requirements are not met, divers may become unauthorized to dive or suspended

In order to maintain active NOAA Diver status, the following requirements must be met:

Annual In-Water Proficiency

  • Each diver must log a minimum of three (3) dives per calendar quarter. Calendar quarters are Jan 1-Mar 31; Apr 1-Jun 30; July 1-Sep 30; Oct 1-Dec 31.
  • Once 24 dives have been recorded, the diver will remain proficient for the rest of that calendar year.
  • Successfully pass an annual watermanship assessment.
  • Successfully pass a check out dive administered by the Unit Diving Supervisor, which includes basic diving skills and an in-water rescue drill.

Annual Academic Training

  • Adult CPR, including AED.
  • First Aid (American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or equivalent).
  • Oxygen administration.
  • Recognition and treatment of diving accidents and injuries.
  • Rescue techniques.
  • NOAA Dive Tables for Multiple Air Dives.
  • NOAA Diving Standards, Policies, and Procedures.

Medical Documentation

Since the following documents contain personal information, please use an encrypted method of transmission, such as Accellion or the Diving Medical Officer's secured fax (206-529-2759).

  • An initial physical examination (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) is required for all new applicants and for any former NOAA Divers whose authorization to dive has lapsed for 2 years.
  • Annually: either an Annual Medical History (NOAA Form 57-03-54) or a periodic physical exam (NOAA Form 57-03-50, 51, 52) depending on when your periodic physical examinations are due.

To check when your current physical exam expires, log on to the NOAA Dive Log and check your profile. You may need to submit additional documentation if the Diving Medical Officer (DMO) requires it before declaring you medically fit to dive. 

Please be aware that even when a medical form is not due, active divers should report any significant medical changes to the DMO, such as:

  • Any surgeries
  • Any illness that requires hospitalization or medical intervention
  • New medications (they can affect physiological response to pressure and the changing partial pressure of gases)



Equipment must be returned to the Standardized Equipment Program (SEP) office annually to be tested and/or overhauled. Failure to have SEP service your equipment by the due date posted in the NOAA Dive Log will result in suspension of authorization to dive.


NOAA Divemasters

In addition to the above requirements, Divemasters must also complete the following annual refresher training:

  • 5-minute neurological examination.
  • Diving accident management.

Students and instructor on the surface of the NOAA Diving Center training tank.

NOAA Diver students and a NOAA Diving Center (NDC) instructor prepare to descend into the NDC training tank to complete a check out dive. 

Suspension of NOAA Diving Privileges

NOAA diving certifications may be temporarily suspended or permanently revoked for cause. Temporary suspension of NOAA diving certification is typically issued for medical reasons or minor infractions of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures. Permanent revocation of diving certification is typically reserved for more serious medical conditions or violations of NOAA diving regulations, policies, or procedures.


Diving Fitness

Diving is a physically demanding activity that requires adequate physical preparation.

In order to become NOAA divers, candidates must first submit a physical to be considered medically fit to dive. After that, divers must complete medical documentation annually to maintain authorization to dive. To maintain fitness to dive, it is imperative that divers recognize the need for a continual and aggressive exercise program that exceeds basic health maintenance standards. 

At NOAA, immediate supervisors may grant currently authorized NOAA divers up to 3 hours per week of official time to perform aerobic and/or strength training exercises to help maintain a conditioning level sufficient to pass the annual watermanship assessment. 



The health, fitness, medical, and nutritional information on this site and in any accompanying media is designed for educational purposes only.  You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.  Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site.  The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

Developments in medical research may impact the health, fitness, and nutritional advice that appears here.  No assurance can be given that the advice contained in this site will always include the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular material.  Although we try to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, neither NOAA, the OMAO, nor any agency, officer, or employee thereof warrants the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, products, or processes disclosed herein, and shall not be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance on the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of such information.  Portions of such information may be incorrect or out of date.  Any person or entity that relies on any information obtained from the information or instructional videos herein does so at his or her own risk.

You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs.  This is particularly true if you (or your family) have a history of high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you have ever experienced chest pain when exercising or have experienced chest pain in the past month when not engaged in physical activity, smoke, have high cholesterol, are obese, or have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in physical activity.  Do not start a fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it.  If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath at any time while exercising you should stop immediately.

If you are in the United States and an emergency arises, call 911 immediately.

Neither NOAA, the OMAO, the individuals featured in the videos, nor any other party associated with this web site or accompanying videos accepts responsibility for any accident or injury resulting from the use of materials contained herein. 

The views and opinions of authors expressed on OMAO websites do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Government, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

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Reviewed: December 3, 2021. Contact us with page issues.

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