One of the first questions asked by mariners as they contemplate furthering their qualifications is, “Should I go to school, or do I challenge the exams?”.

Let’s take a look at it. Challenging exams can be a test of discipline. You decide what exams to write, seek out study materials, decide when to write the exams, book with Transport Canada, set up a schedule to self-study and finally go and write the exam. A great deal of discipline is involved. While this may be easy for some, the decision to either challenge or go to school could be a complex one. Maritime Institute Classroom

However, as we contemplate this question, let’s look at some of the things to consider when making this decision:

Doing it alone means focusing on studying for exams. Most individuals would agree that gaining experience and a sound knowledge base is limited following this route. It is the classic example of studying for an exam, writing it, then forgetting everything and moving on. Some call that the “Upload and Download” method.

If that’s the case, what benefit is it to go to school instead?

Going to school ensures the following:

    1. You are guaranteed to cover everything in the Transport Canada Syllabus extensively. For every course, there is a schedule. Course schedules are purposefully designed to include objectives, assessments, and instructional strategies. These three elements are organized into a coherent and organized whole. What this means is that in a classroom, courses are delivered progressively to ensure that students are guided toward objectives.
    2. An instructor’s objective is more than to deliver a course. One of their main functions is to anticipate and identify deficiencies and rectify those deficiencies immediately. For students, this means they can always rely on their instructors for guidance and only focus on one thing: acquiring knowledge in the least stressful way.
    3. Instructors at marine institutes have varied levels of experience. They can provide guidance based on their experience. A course schedule or curriculum does not include individual experiences, but individual experiences are an integral part of course delivery. Stories and experiences help to drive home concepts and provide deeper understanding. Instructors can also mentor students as they progress and if necessary, more than one instructor can be utilized if there is an issue with learning.
    4. Designated institutes stay current with the rapidly changing maritime industry. Changes in technology, processes, safety initiatives, and government policies are updated so that each student enters or re-enters the workforce well-informed.
    5. Schools allow students to network. The networking potential that is available in schools is immense. Between classmates or students from other programs, it is not uncommon to have job offers pop up during casual lunchroom conversations. These networking activities are part of the overall schooling experience.
    6. There are some courses where you must attend school. Marine Emergency Duties (MED) courses are the prime example. This is because these courses include practical training components which cannot be either challenged or completed online.

The question remains, should we challenge exams or go to school? Truth be told, challenging an exam is relatively more cost-effective than going to school. However, with all the many benefits of going to school to take courses, it is the best alternative to progressing successfully in the Maritime Industry.