First, that's a really sick closing....
Second, it depends (kind of goes with your closing). PADI is strictly recreational diving oriented. In fact, their new Tech Rec program isn't even PADI, it's written by DSAT and requires similar qualifications as other more devoted technical diving agencies.
However, they are an excellent beginning to learning to dive and have many resources to present their brand of education.
What do you mean by moving up?? If you are thinking professional level, PADI has a decent program. However, all recreational cert agencies will be slightly different in the way they present things and their philosophies. PADI has clear standards that their professionals are required to follow in order to keep their liability coverage. If the professional violates a standard and something ugly happens, that professional will not last in court (generally speaking). However, if the professional follows every word of the standard (PADI's Bible per se), then something ugly happens, that professional is generally covered very nicely because PADI brings in the big guns. PADI programs are ACE accredited, meaning they are recognized by institutions are qualifying for college credit.
I can not speak to other cert agencies as I do not have experience with them. Shop around and find a philosophy you like. More importantly, many divers and dive professionals have philosophies too, so even if they are trained in one agency's philosophy, they may have personal philosophies that drive them to stick to standards or deviate and take risks. I don't believe PADI violates standards "just to get people through the program, " but rather the professionals decide what kinds of risk they wish to bring upon themselves and a reputable name.
If you are looking to "move up" in the way of different types of diving, you might consider TDI/SDI, IANTI, ANDI for a more technical flavor.
[This message has been edited by jmsdiver (edited 07-03-2001).]