A lost young soul trying to find answers for this new path

As an individual who aspires to make a newfound career at sea I have some questions, and could use some input from experienced individuals who have made their way into and through the maritime industry. I’ll try to keep this short and concise.

Quickly about me and then a few questions: I’m a 29 year old male with a bachelors in nursing from a California State University, and have been working for a few years in a critical care unit, but currently despise my career trajectory and everything it entails. Long story short I have realized with much self reflection that up until this point I have always done what I thought or was told what was the “right” or “safe” thing to do in terms of career and trying to build a family, but truth is I fucking hate where I’m at now. I have always had an affinity for the sea, have never been a homebody, and am currently single (ended a serious LTR 6 months ago). I know people say this is tough on families but honestly I have no plans to get married; I think it’s a horrible deal for men in today’s world. Nor do I have any desire for children. While I do love my immediate family we have never needed to see each other more then a few times a year.

A big part of the appeal of a career in this industry is that I’m under the impression I can do honest hard work as opposed to the corporate drone ass kissing to move up the ladder, and with my time off live in cheaper countries and explore the world for months at a time (I LOVE backpacking and being a minimalist) as opposed to taking two two-week vacations a year as is the case with a shore side job.

My questions are:

  1. Do you foresee this being a worthwhile career knowing everything you know now and the future of shipping/sailing?

  2. If you are a deck officer/captain (the roles I would be genuinely interested in) are you satisfied/fulfilled with your career?

  3. I’m a huge proponent of self improvement through weight lifting for bulking up, reading, and other productive hobbies for the soul such as learning languages or music. Is there time for these sorts of things when out at sea as a deck officer? I want to always come back to land a more mindful stronger man then when I leave.

  4. How are the people’s attitudes in this industry? I’ve always been the personality type to make the best of a shitty situation and use humor to embrace the crappy parts of life. I’m all for bantering, but also understand when it’s time to get serious to achieve the task at hand. Would I fit in to this world?

  5. Education for a degree and license seems expensive in the states (especially for a masters). If at all possible would it be worth it to try and go to another first world country for the education and come back to the states and do whatever’s necessary for licensing?

  6. At 29 I would be nearing 32-33 years old by the time I got out of school, and my net worth would probably be almost zero if I have to pay tuition. Are salaries good enough that one could create a nice nest egg within 20-25 years of being a deck officer and working their way up? One day I’ll be old as some of you reading this, and since I don’t plan on having kids than I need to make sure I can afford to pay someone to wipe my ass.

  7. Are my expectations about working hard and the way time off work even reasonable? Am I fucking crazy for even entertaining this idea? My family all seems to think so, and my brother is trying to convince me to get into programming or the tech realm as he currently works with some big names in San Francisco. But I’ve seen the world he’s in and I just know I would be completely unfulfilled if I had an office job working towards the house with a white picket fence and a wife who probably secretly hates me and is fucking my next door neighbor while I’m away on business trips and then one day serves me with divorce papers and takes half my shit and the dog she hates only to spite me! (I’ve clearly thought this through)

If you’ve made it this far and put in the time to answer any of this or just give me life advice in general, I do genuinely thank you!


A lost young soul

lost doesn’t even begin to describe you and your situation…to be thinking like you do at 29 is not normal

might I suggest


and let me just say that as far as your questions about the US maritime industry are concerned:

  1. the industry is dying and has vastly more qualified people in it that there are jobs to be filled
  2. I am a master, when I was young is was awesome but as I aged I learned that it is a thankless job which gets no respect from anyone including all those who want something from you
  3. you work 12hour days at sea and if in port more like 18hour days…you will have no time when you are off for anything other than to shit, shave and sleep
  4. mainly everybody bitches 24/7/365 and nobody is happy with anything about their ship, company, union, position, future, etc… that is why guns are such a popular topic between shipmates. happy people are soon crushed when they get on their first ship
  5. STCW courses must be taken in the USA to be creditable for a US license
  6. and how do you know when you reach 32-33 that there will be a job for you on a ship? do you have any idea how many brand new third mates out there who have never sailed on their license they paid tens of thousands to obtain?
  7. go back to the beginning and find some help

I’m a licensed marine engineer, and an EMT basic who is a volunteer rescue squad member in a busy 911 system. I wish I went into pre-hospital medicine long ago, but that’s a tale for another day.

So yeah, you’re lost- but you have a good foundation in medicine- so if you like medicine, why not work that angle, go back to school and get your PA? Or Master’s in the nursing specialty you are interested in?

Have you ever been to sea? Any seagoing experience (being a passenger doesn’t count)? You want to be a deck officer- do you personally know any?

Why not engineering? There’s a shitload of parallels between engineering and working on the human body. That’s no accident, by the way.

Let me guess; someone somewhere in a bar told you that ship’s engineers are a bunch of troglodytes. Surely you did the right thing and dosed their beer with two drops of phenolpthalein when they were wringing out the python…at least one can pray.


Lol I forget sometimes sarcasm doesn’t translate well through text. The only part of what I said for point 7 that’s true is that’s I would not be fulfilled by office work. The rest is just talking out my ass, although I still don’t believe in marriage in today’s world.

That’s cool;

You’re searching and that’s ok. But don’t jump into something just because the grass is turning brown under your feet. You took a wise step by posting here. Did you think you’d encounter a mariner who is also in medicine? LOL. You did. Surprise.

Review your situation; ask yourself some hard questions about why you are unhappy where you happen to be and what you can do to change that. You may realize that happiness is not from a career change, but from an attitude change. Or you may be itching for a lateral move. It’s all in your hands.

It’s tough to be in shipping even now, and you don’t seem to have a background. Hey, you and I both know that medicine has a lot of different avenues- so find what really makes you excited and own it- geriatrics, trauma, cardiac, etc. Get that Master’s degree- go into solo practice- look into all the ways you can practice nursing and be YOU. Wish I did this 20 years ago, but hey, nothing wrong with being an engineer either. I am just suggesting that you have reached a point in your life where you feel things aren’t moving. That’s ok. Don’t make any rash moves. Just think and contemplate your situation at this point.


Changing career is a good thing, only if you really love the work that you will do in your new career. Having served as Master of several very large ocean going merchant ships I don’t regret one bit that I moved over to a career in Investment Banking and Financial Institutions. The change wasn’t easy. You have to start at zero and learn everything from scratch. And while you’re at it, you remember that nobody gives a shit what you were in your past career. Many of your colleagues will be mean to you and you have to learn to ignore them. Simply put, there are no angels in any industry who will hold your hand and teach you the ropes. But if you work hard and educate yourself continuously, you’ll soon realize that you are getting better every day, at everything you do at your new job. Believe me, there is nothing that you cannot learn. All you need is passion and grit.
On the other hand, if you simply choose a different career that you don’t feel passionate about, and you’re changing only because you hate your current job, I would say, think again.


I used to work on a yacht that belonged to a nurse. She combined her sailing/outdoor skills with nursing and did things like to Antarctica on contract nursing jobs and then come and sail a couple of months. Unless you really hate medicine and/or really suck at it, do not throw away a unique advantage. There are any number of expedition/travel/adventure gigs that would LOVE a qualified medical person. Deck crew on a tugboat - maybe not so much.


Cruise ships, drilling rigs and some large CSVs etc. have nurses on board. Why not combine your ambitions with what you already know.
You will need some safety training to be allowed to work on ships and offshore, but it doesn’t have to be USCG approved unless you intend to work in the US, or on US flag ships.

Here is a link to a company that supply Medics to a lot different companies around the world:
Their HQ is in Singapore, but they have offices and affiliates all over the world.

PS> They also hire nursing staff for their emergency evacuation planes that flies all over the world.
If you like travelling and don’t mind urgent calls at all hours and can handle pressure, that may be more of an adventure than to be Captain on a rust old ship with no shore leave.


I’m with Ombugge on this one. Check around to see if you can combine your skill set with a sea going job. That will at least give you a chance to see what it’s like.

Thank you everyone for the professional advice and ideas. I will definitely be looking into some of these options for plotting my course. If anyone has any other ideas and would share, that would be much appreciated.

I don’t recall the term for it, something along the lines of geography of the imagination. Some places occupy a place in people’s imagination even though they have never been there.

For example Alaska, to a lesser degree Maine and Texas. The Arctic, in the past the “wild west”, “the frontier” or" the new world".

People often imagine escaping to Alaska or the like to begin a new life, however the ones that actually move soon discover the reality is much different than imagined

For people in a dull profession dreaming of going to sea is little different then someone living a dull, monotonous life dreaming of moving to Alaska. Not knowing anything about it allows the imagination to fill in the blanks, dreaming of going to sea becomes an escape from dull, dead end job.

In both cases reality likely will not match imagination.


I can’t believe this is my job :smiley:
I can’t believe this is my job :frowning:


I’ve got a doctor friend who has a brand new BMW M5 and a beautiful house on the water. I can see your point as both of those things would suit me just fine. Then we start talking about his business and his poking at peoples eyeballs all day and I’m whisked back to reality and happy to sip coffee looking out the window and muttering my displeasure with the company under my breath for half of the year.


I have relayed to a number of people that we live other peoples dreams. But those dreams are not based on reality. That is not to say I don’t have many fond memories but what we do is mostly routine. We live a schedule that is very different than most.


My wife used to pester me when I was sailing deep sea wanting letters telling her what I was doing. I told her more than once there was nothing to write about and that my schedule was so repetitious, she should think of it as a monk living in a floating monastery.


this thread has some good responses. The idea of combining medical with travel stands out to me.
I believe it was generally better for the victorians and ascending cultures when the kids knew what they were going to be doing from the time they were young. admittedly many didn’t excell and no doubt many were “unfulfilled”, a understatement no doubt !!
Anymore your chances of success lie equally with sticking with the grind, investing and trying to do the right thing but if you need to find your way in more dramatic fashion I don’t see anything too wrong with stepping out. You may find “IT” out there someplace. I guess we all do … eventually, either way !! (ha ha)
you could probably make it going to sea, my guess is while “cruising” out there you’ll be wishing you were “back in the world” like most of us. Ironically The best days were putting into port, then, shortly thereafter, Making ready for sea. a no win ha ha.

How about get on with MSC as an MSO?

1 Like

For once I have to say Ombugge is spot on. You are entering as all have said a challenged industry from the US flag perspective and proposing to leave a highly sought after medical career. I get it, I would hate working in a hospital for a multitude of reasons or in an office setting which I have for several years in the past, but marrying sailing with your existing medical license is the ideal solution, or flying for emergency transport is good option. waiting in a SUP or SIU hall as a C-book seldom getting a ship and living in a flop house or going the academy route for at least 2 years (assume you have most prereqs completed) is tenuous. I will not say that the US merchant marine will be totally gone in 10 years but will remain stagnant at best.

Yup or as a Medical Dept Rep (MDR) on contract MSC ships!_

To most people who have not sailed on a merchant ship, a sailor’s life can seem very appealing, and Captain’s even more. So, I thought I should provide a glimpse into a Captain’s life on-board a large merchant ship-
From my 25 years at sea, I learned that a Captain’s life can be very different depending on the types of ships you command and the geographical areas you trade in. If you are commanding a Cape Size vessel on short trips between ports around North Sea, or around South China & East China Sea, your day-to-day schedule is all screwed up. You are either preparing for arrival or departure, or navigating in very busy seaways. Your ship is almost always loaded to the deepest draft allowed for entry into the ports of discharge. That puts you under pressure to beat the next high-water for crossing the bar into the port. If you missed the tide, you lost your turn at the berth and you have an angry charterer who lost money on that voyage. Navigation on these short trips isn’t fun either. On short passages between European ports, you get heavy coastal traffic of smaller ships and cross-channel ferries who will insist on crossing your bows just a tenth of a mile ahead of you in shallow, congested waters. Those ships don’t know that you are drawing 25 meters under water. In South China Sea near Hong Kong, or East China Sea on your passage to Shanghai, you will encounter reckless coasters who don’t follow the Rule-of-the-Road. Besides the coasters, you can count on meeting large swarms of countless fishing trawlers spread over a wide arc across the bows ahead on your course, leaving your deep drafted vessel very few choices of actions to avoid collision. In Malacca Straits, the threat of pirates makes your navigation potentially dangerous. In the Malacca Straits, a loaded deep-draft vessel must slow down to navigate the sharp bends along the deep-water route. A slow-moving, loaded ship with low freeboard makes your ship a promising target for the pirates on speed boats lurking in the dark, just outside (and sometimes, inside) the deep water channel with their lights switched off. You spot these boats as blips on your radar, but not visually in the dark. And you have questions in your mind that no one can answer- Is this an ambush? Or just a bunch of fishermen drifting at night? Then, suddenly, the blips on your radar start closing in on you. As Captain you are left to choose between the bad and the worst outcome. You can’t speed up as you have to safely negotiate the sharp bends in the narrow channel without running your ship aground. Your focus is on navigation and your hope is that they will not hurt your crew if they board your ship. And, by the way, in those distant waters there is no U.S Navy to come to your rescue. You wish there was a U.S. Naval ship around. Mere presence of a U.S. Naval ship would deter the pirates from launching their attack on a merchant ship of any flag! But your experience teaches you to assume that you are on your own. These are just routine situations that I have experienced. Nothing out of the ordinary. Heavy weather and tropical storms are another story, but again, nothing out of the ordinary.
By comparison, if you are on long-haul voyages, like from the east coast of Australia to Europe via Cape Horn or, from Brazil to Japan via Cape of Good Hope or via Suez, you are on the high seas most of the times during these voyages. There is nothing to look at, except a huge expanse of water and occasionally, dolphins or whales that you see in northern passages like off Quebec. But there will be plenty of free time on these voyages. It is on these long haul voyages that you can prepare for a career change and learn another trade, prepare for an academic program of your liking.
That’s the life at sea. If you think it is exciting, go for it. But soon you’ll look forward to those long-haul voyages to prepare for a career change.