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How do you go about getting the Captains licenses: The courses & tests

The Mariner's School course held in East Rutherford, New Jersey in December 2006.

In 1998, the Coast Guard realized that it simply could not educate enough mariners to meet the demand of the industry.  In an attempt to do justice to the needs, the USCG opened up the educational portion to private parties.  The Coast Guard would still issue the licenses and govern the requirements, but private vendors could submit courses and tests for approval by the USCG to deliver direct to the public.

A number of schools sprang up around the country providing broader access to the boating community.  No longer did students have to travel to one of few USCG sites for courses and testing.  They could now do it in relative proximity to where they lived.

The course material covered in both the private and Coast Guard courses is similar.  The topics and degree of difficulty, as well as the amount of time spent in class are prescribed by the Coast Guard.  What is different is that the Coast Guard database of questions used on the exams numbers in the thousands, while the private schools’ databases number about 600.  And all 600 questions are covered in the class!

We attended the Mariners’ School, based in Princeton NJ , which holds courses throughout the Northeast US and Florida .  The OUPV class is held on three consecutive weekends, Friday evenings ( 6 - 9 pm ), Saturdays ( 9 am - 6 pm ) and Sundays ( 9 am - 6 pm ).  This satisfies the 64 hour requirement for classroom instruction.  It’s not an easy schedule but it does go quickly.  You may not miss any classes.  You can make up a day in another class if you need to.

Mariner's School provides everything you need, including course books, plotting instruments, charts, pencils, eracers, a sharpener, pens, notepads, and a calculator, all in a nice "captain's" briefcase.
The OUPV test is held about a week after the course ends in the same location, but the tests can be taken in any location at any time as long as your prearrange to do so.  A word about the exams. There are four parts to the test: Rules of the Road (COLREGS), Deck General, Navigation and Chart Plotting.  Rules of the Road tends to be the most difficult and you must pass it with a score of 90% or better so we decided to take it first, while we were fresh.  The other three you can pass with a grade of 70% or better.  The Chart Plotting takes the longest, so we left that for last.  We had a period of four hours to pass the tests, which was more than enough and actually more time would have been made available if we wished.

Any test you pass is done.  Any test you do not pass, you can take again.  You have three shots total at passing each one.  That’s pretty good.  And it doesn’t cost any more to take the test over with Mariner’s School. 

You can also study on your own using published reference books such as the ones available through Landfall Navigation. Charlie Wing 's book is quite good and has a CD-ROM with the USCG question database on it (or a good % of it anyway). There are also some community colleges offering similar training. 

The Coast Guard began charging user fees for licenses in 1993. The licensing process is broken into three phases; the evaluation phase, examination phase and issuance phase, each with separate associated user fees. For the OUPV license, the fees are Evaluation: $ 100.00; Examination: $ 110.00 (not charged if you take a private course); and Issuance: $ 45.00. These fees are paid directly to the U.S. Coast Guard. License applicants will also have to pay for a First Aid/CPR course.  For more information about the USCG licensing process, please visit http://www.uscg.mil/STCW/new-begin.htm.

Why take a course versus going to the USCG Regional Examination Center ?

Good question. The REC charges an examination fee of only $110, plus other licensing issuing fees, which you pay no matter where you take the exam. However, the RECs select from a pool of 22,000 questions, many of which can be challenging and ambiguous. Private schools develop their own questions for USCG approval, which tend to be easier to understand, yet test the knowledge required.  As such, each school has its own set of test questions.  

It is also far more convenient to go to a local site for many people than traveling to one of 17 nationwide USCG sites.  For a list of RECs, go to: http://www.uscg.mil/STCW/mmic-regions.htm. Below is a sampling of private school offerings. As you can see, each varies in pricing, regional coverage, and scheduling. With all the different options, you should be able to find one that meets your scheduling and financial needs.

Sampling of Schools Providing Approved USCG Captain’s License Courses:
It pays to shop around!

Name

Territory covered

OUPV Course configuration

Mariner’s School

CT-NY-NJ-PA-MD-DE

$795 (Offers boat show discounts)
3 consecutive weeks, Fri 6-9, Sat 9-6, Sun 9-6

Boatwise

ME-MA-RI-CT

$945 Tue, Thu 6-10 pm Sat, Sun 8:30-5:00 pm

Suny Maritime College

NY

$795 Sat, Sun, Tue, Thu, for several weeks

New England Maritime

MA

$1095 Tue, Wed, Fri or Tue, Thu, Fri 6-9:30 pm weekdays for 4 weeks

Explorers Guide

WI ( Midwest )

$595, Thu 5:30-10:00 , Fri, Sat, Sun 8:00-5:30 for two weekends, free towing endorsement

Maritime Professional Training

FL

$495, 8 days or nights & Saturdays, free towing endorsement; offer additional training for every possible endorsement and upgrade available

Tidewater Community College

VA

$800, 10 weeks, evenings twice a week

Modern Sailing

CA

$895 for OUPV, $1095 for OUPV/100 ton combined

MITAGS

MD/CA

$1258 for OUPV, $1682 for OUPV/100 Ton combined, Use Wing’s textbook and CD-ROM

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