About Maritime Careers
Maritime careers are diverse, ranging from entry-level jobs to positions that require advanced degrees of years of experience. Jobs in the maritime industry fall into four main categories:
- Mariners work on boats and ships that travel the world. There are many positions available on vessels, from doing routine maintenance to captaining the ship.
- Ports are bustling hubs for vessels coming and going and require a lot of workers to stay operational. These include longshoremen, maintenance workers, engineers, and business professionals.
- The cruise ship and recreational boating industry hire officers, engineers, stewards, deckhands, and more. They need a variety of skill sets, from entertainment to cooking.
- Shipyards are where vessels are built and repaired. They hire laborers, electricians, welders, pipefitters, and many other skilled workers.
When most people think of maritime careers, they imagine mariner positions, working on vessels that sail at sea. Other careers in the industry might require skills you can get from a trade school or apprenticeship and then apply to port work or shipbuilding. But, to be a mariner requires a different path.
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Entry-level jobs are available on ships, but the best way to ensure you have options and the right skills is to complete a maritime education program. There are several options, including maritime academies, traditional universities, and apprenticeships.
Some people want to start working right away and are best suited to apprenticeships. Others have time to earn degrees first. College and academy programs suit these future mariners. When choosing an education path, consider several factors, such as the type of job you want, skills and training requirements, availability, and tuition costs.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA)
The USMMA trains people to become officers in the maritime industry. Although it is not a military academy, this is a federal service academy. Graduates are licensed Merchant Marine Officers who are also qualified to serve as Armed Forces officers. The academy is located in King’s Point, New York.
As a graduate of the USMMA, you can work in civilian industry, but you also agree to serve in the military. Graduates have two options:
- Serve five years of active duty in any branch of the military
- Serve eight years in the reserve unit of any military branch
One of the great things about the USMMA is that costs are low. Tuition is covered by the federal government. Graduates of the USMMA have essential skills that open up multiple career paths and a college degree.
The potential downsides include the obligation to serve in the military. Another issue is admissions, which are competitive. Only about 16% of applicants are accepted.
Other Maritime Academies
In addition to the USMMA, six other maritime academies train students to be Merchant Marines. They differ from the USMMA in that there is no obligation to serve in the military. Graduates earn university degrees and have diverse career options. Students can also opt to enter military programs, such as ROTC or Coast Guard Reserve.
California State University Maritime Academy
Cal Maritime is located in Vallejo, California, and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. Some of the programs are global studies, business, oceanography, mechanical engineering, and facilities engineering. The campus includes a 500-foot ship, the Golden Bear, used for hands-on training.
Great Lakes Maritime Academy
Located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy is a Midwestern hub for maritime training. The campus includes the State of Michigan and smaller vessels as hands-on Lake Michigan classrooms.
The academy offers three programs for undergraduates: Deck Officer, Engineering Officer, and Power Systems. Students can also enroll in the U.S. Naval Reserve through the academy’s Strategic Sealift Midshipman Program.
Maine Maritime Academy
The Maine Maritime Academy is located in Castine, Maine. It offers several undergraduate majors, including marine engineering, coastal and environmental science, international logistics, marine transportation operations, and more. The academy has two floating classrooms and offers graduate programs.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
This academy is located in Buzzard’s Bay, on scenic Cape Cod. Massachusetts Maritime Academy offers undergraduate degrees, graduate studies, and programs in responsible and renewable energy. Undergraduate programs include facilities engineering, marine engineering, international business, marine transportation, and emergency management.
The academy has several training ships and smaller boats and the option of a semester spent on board a ship called the USTS Kennedy.
State University of New York Maritime College
SUNY’s Maritime College is located in Fort Schuyler in the Bronx. Undergraduates can choose from eleven majors that include electrical engineering, marine engineering, maritime studies, international trade, and naval architecture. Graduate programs include international transportation management and maritime and naval studies. The campus is home to a maritime museum on a historic fort site.
Texas A&M Maritime Academy
Texas A&M’s academy is located in Galveston. Students can choose from degrees in marine transportation, marine engineering, marine biology, and marine sciences. All students spend three summer semesters aboard a training ship at sea. Students may also choose to join the U.S. Navy Reserve Graduate students can earn a maritime administration and logistics degree.
College and University Degree Programs
Maritime academies are highly focused on training future Merchant Marines, but they are not the only schools that offer degrees that prepare students for maritime careers. Some of the options include ocean or marine engineering, naval architecture, logistics, and marine technology.
Some colleges and universities with maritime programs include:
- Florida Institute of Technology
- University of New Orleans
- Webb Institute of Engineering
- University of Michigan
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Stevens Institute of Technology
Another option for entering the maritime industry is to complete an apprenticeship. Maritime apprentices begin working and earning right away while receiving training on the job. This is a good option for anyone who needs or wants to start working immediately or does not learn well in a traditional setting. Keep in mind that admissions can be competitive.
One example is the Maritime Apprenticeship Program (MAP) at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS). MITAGS offers graduate and continuing education. Programs are located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, and Seattle, Washington.
MAP is an alternative to an undergraduate degree. It is 28 months and includes 28 weeks of classroom learning and 360 days of hands-on work and training. MITAGS matches apprentices with industry positions. Apprentices can choose from two programs:
- Workboat Mate. Apprentices in this program work on smaller vessels, including salvage vessels, small cruise ships, and tugboats.
- MAP Mate. MAP mates train on larger vessels, including cruise ships, ferries, containers, and tankers.
Another program is the Alaska Maritime Apprenticeship Program, which includes deck, engine, and kitchen training options. Those who complete the program are qualified to work as a mate, assistant engineer, or chief cook.
Entry-Level Maritime Jobs
The maritime industry is diverse and includes careers that require education, technical skills, and experience, as well as many positions that are entry-level. One way to get into a maritime job is to find an entry-level job and start learning as you work.
These types of jobs often do not require any education beyond a high school degree or equivalent:
- Ordinary seaman
- Inventory clerk
- Forklift operator
- Freight Mover
- General laborer
Entry-level jobs are quick ways to get into the maritime industry. There is some potential to work your way up to higher positions. On the other hand, entry-level jobs can be limiting. You might still need a degree or skills training to get into the job you really want.
Graduate and Continuing Education Programs
If you earn a degree in a maritime field, you might want to continue your education with a graduate degree or certificate. Many of the academies and universities with maritime programs offer graduate studies.
Some of these programs do not require a bachelor’s degree. If you have the right training and a certain number of work experience hours, you could qualify for an advanced certificate or continuing education course.
These programs include a wide range of subjects and career types and skills. They are a great way to stay up to date in your chosen field or to advance your career to a higher position.
The maritime industry has many exciting careers to offer anyone willing to learn and train. It also offers diverse and varied educational pathways with something for everyone.