If you’ve looked in to taking a USCG Captains License Course, you know there are more than a few decisions to make before choosing one. Course schedule, class size, and location are a few of the obvious things to think about but there is another important factor that is sometimes less considered …. course delivery method.
Should you take an in-classroom course or use the Internet? And what about the schedule? Should it be 3-weekends or 2-weekends? Or maybe a 7-day course? If you’re wondering about the pros and cons of these options, read on. The observations below might help you narrow down the choices and decide which one is right for you.
First, be aware that any USCG-approved Captains License Course, whether in-classroom, Internet, or blended format (a combination of in-classroom and Internet study) must consist of a minimum of fifty-six (56) training hours. This is a Coast Guard requirement that cannot be altered. Be wary of any provider offering a Captains License Course if the advertised training hours do not equal at least fifty-six. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at course delivery methods.
In-classroom, 3-weekend Courses
This is the preferred method of Captains Jack’s Boating School. Although we do offer other course schedules, this is the one that, to me, makes the most sense and here’s why:
This is not an easy class, but you don’t have to be a genius to pass. You do have to want to get your Captains License, be dedicated to learning, make time for studying, and of course meet licensing requirements (outlined here). The course material is high school level or below when it comes right down to it, but there’s a lot of it and to pass the final exam you need to master at least 80%. It’s a lot of information to absorb.
A 3-weekend schedule allows students two full weeks (a week between each classroom session) to study, work on plotting problems, and rest a bit (which is important since many students are working 8 to 5 or better Monday through Friday, attending classes on the weekends, and doing homework on the weeknights!) Students can feel anxious about advanced learning (that’s what this is, by the way) in an adult educational environment, and most of our students have not been in a classroom in many years. There may also be a fair amount of “test anxiety” causing minds to wander to things like “All my friends & family, and the guys on the boat dock, know I am taking this class. WHAT IF I FAIL?” The 3-weekend schedule is the best answer to these worries. This format gives students some extra time to grasp the material and provides for a less stressful learning experience.
In-classroom, 2-weekend Courses
These courses are usually offered during two consecutive weeks with classroom attendance for a few hours on Thursday nights, then Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for 8½ hours each day. (Remember that course training hours must add up to at least 56 and USCG regulations state no more than 8½ hours per day.) Using this format, students have only one week between classroom sessions to study and master their plotting skills. In my humble opinion, that’s just not enough time.
In-classroom, 7-day Courses
This format is very tough, and since it generally does not include attendance on weekend days, students will have to give up their day jobs for a week and two days! This can be a good schedule for a Fire or Police Department (and some other occupations), where students would go to the classroom rather than performing their usual work duties. Generally, students in this environment already have working knowledge of rules, plotting, etc.
Internet-based courses can provide good results depending on the line of study, but my personal preference for any Captains License Course is “in-person.” While much of the course material is well-covered by some online providers, there are major benefits to mastering plotting in a classroom with a teacher over your shoulder to answer questions. With an online course, picture this scenario: You’ve finally found a block of time to work on your Captains License homework. You’re in your kitchen with your chart and tools spread out on the table. You’re doing well to a point but then you become stumped for what to do next. You pick up the phone and dial your instructor but get no answer. Ditto on the email you send. Guess you’ll have to pack it in and wait for them to get back to you …. and then find another block of time for study. Not an ideal situation to find yourself in.
So, there you have it. A quick review of Captains License course delivery methods from this guy, and let’s just say I’ve been around the block on the subject a few times.
Other Helpful Information
Keep in mind that there are four components to a Captains License Course final exam –
Rules of the Road, which is basically rote memory but much better understood when you have a teacher lecturing on it and the actual Rules book (which Captain Jack’s Boating School provides to each student) open in front of you.
Deck General and Safety, which is a combination of common sense plus guidelines for firefighting, man-overboard, lifesaving, etc.
Navigation, which is basic navigation (red right returning, give way, stand on vessels, lookout, buoys, daymarks, etc.)
Plotting, which needs to be performed with the old “practice makes perfect” adage in mind. In other words, the more you plot the better you will become at it. At Captain Jack’s we spend almost half our classroom time practicing plotting.
Middlesex County USCG Captains License Class | Final Food for Thought
Final food for thought – no matter what course delivery method you choose, you cannot test out online. You must test out in person, under the supervision of a US Coast Guard-approved Proctor. If you opt for an Internet course, make sure there is a testing facility that is convenient to you. And be mindful that if you fail any part of the final exam you will have to return to the facility for retesting. At Captain Jack’s, we test our students out in the classroom on the last day of the course and if you need to retest, we have open retesting the weekend after every course end date (you can retest at any of our locations).
Captain Jack’s Boating School offers more classes, more locations, and more dates for USCG-approved Captains License courses than any other school in New Jersey. Plus, attending a 3-weekend, in-classroom course will help you retain more knowledge and be a better captain. In the big picture, this short-term investment of your time can bring a lifetime of reward!
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Middlesex County Captains License Class