Advice: Aviation (Pilot) to Maritime Transition

Good evening all. First, let me thank everyone in advance for your acceptance and patience, for a seemingly, outsider. I am a 20 year career experienced Pilot, with a degree in Aeronautical Science (and Aviation Safety) who is considering a possible change from aviation to Maritime Operations.

I have a very good acquaintance in Passenger Maritime Operations (Cruise Lines, etc) who has been recommending I follow my passion for this field. My question for the experienced group of professionals here, is what options other than re-starting an Undergraduate Degree program do I have to progress through the experience requirements to achieve an ultimate goal of Ocean Unlimited Commercial Ops? Also, I will share with you that we are in an unprecedented age for pilots, whereas there is a looming major shortage of pilots (ex, 20 years ago a BS Degree in Aviation Ops/Sciences was required with significant experience to be even looked at by a Regional Air Carrier, now this is no longer required to be competitive). This is due to many factors well outside of the scope of this thread, however I am interested in the state of the Heavy Ocean job market?

Many concepts in Navigation Theory, Navigation Equipment, Safety, Crew Resource Management, SMS, etc are similar to the two fields, very similar actually. Unfortunately, credit cannot be given for ay of this knowledge, skills, or abilities (which is completely understandable).

Any insight, recommendations, or wisdom is appreciated. Clearly, this will require significant sacrifice, and at this point, having an understanding of what that looks like, from best to worst is where I am.

All the best, and be safe.

Let me put it this way… What do I need to do to become an airline pilot for one of the majors? Sounds like things are better in the air than for us on the sea.

Your question though depends on a lot of factors… each country has their own way of doing things, so in order to answer your question properly, what nationality are you so we can point you in the right direction.

US, Living in Southern New England/New York Metro area.

all your aviation experience is of no creditable value as far as the USCG is concerned.

you need to start at the bottom and work your way up through the ranks just like anyone else earning seatime and taking the required courses (and no, your aviation courses are not applicable even if similar)

just retire like all your fellow pilots and play golf or collect classic cars or dabble in real estate ventures or whatever it is that retired pilots do…we just don’t need more someday wannabe ship captains in our industry…we have too many real captains looking for work as it is.


If you want to follow your passion, instead of starting from the complete bottom, consider going to an academy. If there is no age restriction, you would probably be one of the older students. Your prior schooling may make your course load a little more manageable if you can get credit for it.
Either way you do it, you are starting from the beginning at a late age. If it’s just a mid life crisis, consider buying a motorcycle. Good luck.


I suggest that you consider becoming a yacht captain. Your background as a pilot may make you a good candidate. No USCG license is required for yachts under 200 GRT (about 130 feet). After you acquire enough seatime you’ll be able to get a USCG license.


Here you go, ill give you my masters unlimited and all my certs, you give me your pilots FAA license…Enough said


Sometimes having a dream of something is far more better than having the reality of something. Spending over $150K & 4 years of your life to be an underpaid, barely employable middle aged 3rd mate wouldn’t be a pleasant reality. Going from a 6 figure earning airline pilot that is used to the responsibility & challenging task of transporting thousands of souls across the country everyday to working with antisocial dimwits cleaning toilets, cooking & painting rust buckets is probably a worse option. Keep flying, buy a boat & sell it when you get through whatever midlife crisis you are going through. Your “good acquaintance” is only yanking your chain.


Hey now… I resemble that.


Stay in the aviation industry. You are better off there than starting fresh in this industry.

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You know I was just thinking the same dang thing.

My old boss was a pilot with American and a graduate of KP… He explained that you’d spend years making crap $$ and hoping that you’d get on an overseas spot to boost your last year’s to get a decent pension… After 9/11, the airlines gutted everyone’s pensions to fully fund management pension before things went south … management walk away with solid pensions while everyone else got pennies on dollars…