Advice on maritime academies?

To preface this, I’m American, and 19.

I was considering applying for a maritime academy. Is Great Lakes Maritime Academy a good choice? Is employment currently good? Between engineer and deck officer, if I have no preference, which should I choose?
My other option was to go for teaching and try to get jobs at international schools, which I’m guaranteed to get a job in, with what seems like a smaller pay check.

Any advice on what the best choice would be?

Yes GLMA is a good as are any of the others. As far whether to go deck or engine, it really depends on what you enjoy doing. If you like working on stuff and figuring out what makes something tick engineering is a great career choice.

Thanks for the info! Yeah I was mostly looking at engineering.

Are job prospects good right now for those graduating from a maritime engineering program?

Can’t speak for the American domestic jobs market, but internationally: seems pretty good.

Do you like being on the water? I gather you’re not afraid to leave home, which bodes well for your future employability, but if you’re not into life at sea then I’m not sure I’d subject myself to a four year pseudo-military experience for a license I didn’t intend to sail on.

Also, you’re asking to project four years into the future, and that’s a tall order in any industry. We could well have a recession and recovery in that timeframe.

I would advise you to select the most science-y degree that you enjoyed; STEM people don’t usually have trouble landing jobs in any economy. And don’t put yourself into a massive hole of debt to get it from an “elite” university; most of how far you get in life is based on your work ethic, not the school you go to.

Finally, if you do like international travel, a military experience, a free college education, and going to sea, I would be remiss if I didn’t plug my own organization. Good luck!

Are you still in high school, and how are your grades? While it may get short shrift in this group, don’t forget KP. If you qualify, it is far cheaper than the other academies, and the training is good if, like anything else, you pay attention. A LOT of BS, but kind of like life on the outside, too.

I went to Great Lakes, graduated in 2015 Engineering program. I’ve remained gainfully employed since then, so I’d recommend it.

First, it’s small. You’ll start with 60 cadets, around 20 Engineering Students and 40 Deck Students. Over the course of the study, I’d say about 1/3 drop out. I wouldn’t say this is due to difficulty, but rather due to the younger students not really being sure what they want out of life, and getting cold feet about the maritime industry in general.

The Engineering Progam is very small, I graduated with less than 20 other people. My entire engineering curriculum was taught by two professors. Kind of a negative, not getting a breadth of experience, however I think the pros out weigh the cons. After 3-4 years with the same people/professors, you get pretty close. Plus the curriculum itself can flow more smoothly. Most of engineering has principals that can be applied acrossed multiple fields. So it became helpful when our professor taught a refrigeration course and could say “Remember when I taught you about superheat back in Steam Engineering…”

As for which program to choose, that’s up to you. I was a deck cadet for one week then made the change. It seemed that the deck program was more about learning rules and regulations (memorization) where as the engineering program was about learning scientific principals and then applying those principals into actual hands on tasks. That said, the deck side ship handling classes looked like they were having a blast; and to this day I’ve never seen a deck officer prespire from actual work, whereas I cannot remember a work day that I haven’t sweat through a shirt.

They’ll tell you at the academy that engineering students have much more options working shoreside, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Many deck cadets get shoreside jobs, I know many that work in auditing, insurance, bunkering, and even ship building. I think engineers have better options if they get an actually engineering degree (ie ABET certified). GLMA does not grant ABET certified degrees, some of the other Academies do have that option.

I’ve talked to other graduates from other schools about which one was the best, and I think we’ve developed a theory called the Cost/Bullshit Ratio. Kings Pointer’s have to put up with alot of military reg bullshit, but their education is virtually free. If I’d known about KP when I was 18-19 I would’ve applied there rather than enlisting in the Navy. So Kings Point has a low monetary cost, but a high bullshit cost. Great Lakes and California Maritime have a high dollar cost, but it’s pretty relaxed as far as military regs go. The people I always felt bad for were the Texas A&M and SUNY guys, it seemed they had a very bullshit experience and took out large loans to pay for it.

The worst part about GLMA is probably the location. Traverse City, MI is a great wonderful place, tourists flock there… in the summer when you most likely will be cadet shipping. For about 6 months out of the year it’s basically Siberia, and everything that caters to the tourists shuts down. All in all though, it’s actually a pretty great town, and with the right group of people you can always make your own fun.

As far as getting a job in the maritime industry, I’d say overall it’s not bad. In years past it was booming (high oil prices) and things were easier. Nowadays, I’ll say if a person wants to work (as a licensed officer) they’ll find work. The classmates of mine that had trouble getting work when I graduated were the picky ones. They couldn’t get on this ship or that ship because “I have a wedding I’m in” or “I really wanted to be home for Christmas this year”. When you first start off you get the bad schedules and the lower pay jobs, that’s just a fact of life. When you start learning how the game is played, you can position yourself for better schedules and better pay, but at the end of the day someone has to be on watch on Christmas Day on the low paying ship, just a cold hard fact.

Lastly, it sounds like you may have a little wanderlust in your blood judging from your post. I’ll say this job has taken me all across the Middle East, SE Asian, and Northern Asian, and i’ve only been doing it for 3 years. When I’m off the ship I’m a vagabond, traveling to Thailand, Dominican, Mexico and Europe. The lifestyle suits me for now, and you might like it too. Only a few professions can allow you to travel like this one does, while also mantaining a decent salary. On the flip side though, I’ve had classmates who were the complete opposite. After 6 months at sea all they wanted to do was be back home and drink beer on the porch. Well this job supports that lifestyle too.


Engineering or deck? Don’t spend $130k+ & 4 years of your young life going to a glorified vo-tech school where you have to wear a uniform & hop around like a boy scout. In other words, don’t go the deck route if you choose to go to a maritime academy. If you graduate 5 years from now with a deck license/degree & the maritime industry is even more in the dumps you pretty much have a lousy management degree that you could have earned at a local state university for a fraction of the price & half the trouble. It’s the same thing if you graduate with a deck license/degree & later find out the maritime field isn’t for you. Become an engineer, the world has too many managers & not enough do’ers & hiring managers know it. The stuff you have to memorize going the deck route isn’t that important in any other industry.

Another thing, don’t be dumb! I’ve worked with too many new deck officers over the years who were good deck officers but couldn’t get a single question correct on Jeopardy or fill in a single line on a crossword puzzle. In the late 2000’s I worked with 2 SUNY deck grads who graduated with zero transferable skills & they told me SUNY didn’t even offer a foreign language course. Always have a solid plan B. Don’t think of college years as a time to learn a trade that you might or might not like. Use this time to lay some building blocks that will be a foundation for the rest of your working life.

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Nothing wrong with GLMA. Like it’s been said it just as good as any state school. You will earn a license and that’s all anyone wants.
As far as deck or engine? Really only you can answer that. I enjoy turning a wrench and solving problems so I went engine, but you have to do what you enjoy if you plan on making a career out of it

I currently go to Mass. Maritime and am about to graduate a semester early in the International Maritime Business major. You stated that you wanted to go deck or engine which historically are the traditional majors at maritime academies, but you should know that there are other options. I will not receive a license when I graduate, but since I’ve been at the academy I’ve done 2 great internships and receive multiple job offers. However if you do want a license I believe KP does officer a business type major that you get a license with.

As far as deck or engine, MMA is definitely facing thinning numbers in the deck department due to the current job situation

All of the maritime academy provide a good education, your best bet would be to research each one and see what works best for you.

Put the academy’s names together on a wall and throw a dart at them. Wherever it lands go to. You’ll come out with the same license and book knowledge. From there you’ll sail as a 3rd and start getting real world sailing expeirance.

If you wanna work the lakes, go to GLMA. Engineer? Maine churns our a lot of them, Texas not so much. You come out at the end of 4 years with same credentials and hire-ability as everyone else. There’s no real advantage of going to one academy or another.

Pick one closer to home if you wanna make trips home more, or pick the most afforadable option. Just don’t pick King’s Point.

They’re all pretty good, but cost could vary wildly depending on where you live. If you’re really serious, go and visit A few in the fall when school is back in session and see how it looks. If I were you I wouldn’t go to a maritime school if I wasn’t interested in getting a license.

The same license but not quite the same degree (book knowledge). You will get an Engineering degree from all the schools except GLMA. At GLMA you get a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Technology (BSMT). I do not wish to detract from the education one can get there but it is not the same thing.


Not all academy engineering programs are ABET accredited. An ABET accredited degree will be viewed more favorably ashore.

You can check which programs are ABET accredited here.

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Thanks for the information!

Man… I’ve been a chief engineer for twenty plus years already and never knew it. Time to head down the passageway and tell the chief to move over.


Get the HELL out of my cabin!!!