Guide on How to become a Merchant Marine

how to become a merchant marine

Merchant Marines, or mariners, serve as majors on civilian ships to safeguard the protection and safety of U.S. transport and goods. While measured part of the U.S. military, merchant marines have no active fighting role. They work on a variety of ships. Know how to become a merchant marine.

Few of them operate large deep-sea container ships to carry refrigerated cargos and manufactured goods around the world. Rather, they serve as mates, captains, seaman, and pilots on ships sailing on lakes, oceans, and inland rivers. They can be custom-built as officers or serve as an uninhibited seaman. As a Merchant marine, you will have to travel continuously and away from home for longer periods of time.

You can join the merchant navy from age 16 onwards as a marine apprentice or officer cadet and train as a deck rating. Training and education requirements differ with the kind of job. There are no educational necessities for entry-levels but officers and engineers usually must have an endorsement certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard. Merchant mariners are an important part of the economy, keeping worldwide shipments flowing smoothly and vessels sailing safely.

Merchant Marine Education Requirements

Some corporations hire merchant marines as sailors or oilers with little experience, letting them work their way up through the company; however, you will have a better chance at a good paycheck if you follow education first.

To enter the labor force above entry-level, you’ll require to secure a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. Coast Guard-approved program. You’ll also receive a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) with authorization in your specific area of studies like engineering, operator or a deck cadet or officer.

After you earn your bachelor’s degree, you’ll undergo practical training for about seven months to a year, depending on your kind of job as well as the size of the vessel.

All merchant marines must have a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) authorizing U.S. nationality and completion of security screening. The TWIC should be renewed every six years to remain working as a merchant marine. Most marine transportation workers require to pass a written test conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard to obtain the MMC.

For those who are more academically oriented, there is also the US Merchant Marine Academy, which provides a bachelor-level degree upon graduation, with the requirement of five to eight years’ service. USMMA graduates enter the workforce with the endorsements and credentials needed to become a third mate.

[Also Read: How to Become a Freelance Oceanographer]

Merchant Marine Jobs

  • Schedule and coordinate workflow for a navy of vessels.
  • Works with administration agencies to offer leadership for environmental protections related to port facilities.
  • Supervises maintenance and operations of mechanical and electrical systems
  • Handles client requirements from industries comprising storage, refineries and transportation companies.
  • Oversees the safe operations and activities of a fleet of vessels.
  • Pilots cruise vessel for traveler events and trips

Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job view for merchant marines is scheduled to raise approximately 9 percent over the next decade. This rate is similar for all occupations over the following 9 years.

The job growth tendency can be accredited to an increase in riverboat voyages, in the production of goods and trade and increases in the gas and oil industries. Job growth will also depend on the world’s budget as production and trade of goods differ importantly from location to location and year to year. High demands for huge loads of commodities determine the market as more demand means more workers required in these areas.

Merchant Marine Certificate

To complete the MMC application, applicants must submit forms that show they passed and medical exams and drug tests. The medical exam contains physical ability, vision and hearing tests. Medical conditions that can cause prohibition to comprise psychiatric illnesses, heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea. For gaining marine certificate applicants must also provide proof of American citizenship and the sea service experience.

Merchant Marine officer training is similar to that of the Navy, Mariners traveling in overseas waters must meet Watchkeeping (STCW) requirements and Standards of Training Certification. To get an STWC certificate, mariners must finish their training programs, like the 6 day Basic Safety Training course.

Many colleges and universities offer job placement assistance. Many corporations also look for entry-level workers to start working from scratch and work their way up without any experience obligatory.

Merchant Marine Salary

According to the BLS, marine sailors and oilers have an average annual income of $30,900, as of 2018. Although the salary differs with the size of the ship and the circumstances it works under. Mates and Captains had a medium-income of $70,180, as suitable their increased duties and experience, and engineers, with their more precise knowledge requirements, made the most, with a median income of $71,130, according to 2018 BLS data. There is also a strong presence in the marine industry, and that can result in dissimilar wages and profits than non-union businesses.


Those looking for a thought-provoking yet satisfying job can find it in the marine industry(1). Depending on which kind of vessel you work on, the atmosphere can be stressful. The sea opens opportunities galore for exploration and beckons you to an adventurous voyage. If you would want to see the world through the sea, then the merchant marine industry is best for you.