Any advice for a separating Navy E-6 interested in the field? I am currently interested in MITAGS apprenticeship program

I served at sea for 3 years but I only pushed paper. My ultimate goal is to become a deck officer but with no relevant experience I would be starting from the bottom if I go the unlicensed route.

I have a family so attending a 4 year university will be hard financially and found that the 2 year program for a 3rd mate license to be my best bet.

Any advice for the program itself? Pro/Cons? Any other programs I should look at?

I have 2 years left active duty and can knock out classes but I’m not sure where to start. Thanks.

You don’t mention your rate, but would it be possible within the next two years of active service to be qualified on any bridge watches?

I’ve seen mention of the chance of getting a 3m license through MITAGS, but honestly I’m not sure what kind of voodoo they’re working over there. Even with an academy, my understanding is that you need to be in the cadet regiment for at least three years for the license, so transfer credits from other schools won’t even get you as far ahead as one could wish. I sought clarification on the MITAGS program and never heard back… They must be doing okay.

I’ve known a few people that have been happy with workboat academies, but usually you come out with a 500 or 1600 ton mates license, which is not unlimited but still nothing to scoff at. Also, I’m told that they have great job placement rates. Maybe your GI bill will help you out if you go this route. The only downfall I see with this one is that you’ll be spending way more than you make in the short term.

Also, on the unlimited/limited decision, I’d consider the fact that there aren’t all that many ships in the deep water American fleet anymore, so finding your first job could prove difficult. Ive no expirience here, just relaying what I’ve heard.

Another route would be to just get on a boat and start working. A lot of companies appreciate veterans so you may have a leg up there. This will probably be the most immediately rewarding route financially, especially if you come down to the oil patch, but long term it could prove more difficult and take a little longer to work your way up the ladder. Far from impossible, though. A bonus with working on most Gulf boats is that the USCG will usually allow you to count a 12 hour day as 1.5 sea days which can speed things up.

Honestly, if I were starting from scratch and not wanting to drop the coin on an academy, I’d give a serious look at SIU’s tradeschool at Piney Point. That will get you on unlimited tonnage ships fairly fast, won’t cost much, and will get you some preferential treatment from the union. Coming from a guy who started out in the Gulf of Mexico on right to work boats, union representation could save you a lot of nights of wondering just what in the hell you’re doing with your life.

Which ever way you go, there will be pros and cons. The people here tend to be a wealth of information and I’d pay attention to what they tell you. They’ve helped me out many times.

And finally, treat this seriously. Study your ass off, be eager to get hands on expirience, notice the things that others are missing, dress well for interviews, and treat your shipmates with respect and deference. You’ll get get noticed for doing so and a good reputation is worth its weight in gold in this field.


One more thing, if you do go the start working now route… Get on with the biggest and the most advanced boats you can find. Don’t spend much time on anything below 100 GRT if you can help it. DP (dynamic positioning) time can mean real money in a few years as can time on tugs. If your company is paying for your training, take every class you can get. And whatever you do, don’t get stuck on a fucking crewboat (ask me how I know).


I’m on shore duty as a YN1 which is manned at 140% at sea. I’ve tried to get back to a boat but it isn’t possible.

The requirement for a regiment is for state maritime academies administered by MARAD. It is NOT a Coast Guard requirement. You can get 3rd Mate by completing an approved program. It does NOT have to have a military-type academy, and it does not have to be 3 years. It can be the same type of program as the so-called workboat academies, i.e. training, sea service, and STCW assessment are all provided /arranged for in the same program from the same entity.PMI/MITAGS has a 3rd mate program. It does not have a regiment of cadets. It is essentially the same as their Mate 1600 program, the notable difference being the tonnage of the vessels students are placed on for training.

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Thanks for the clarification, jdcavo! I was always curious about what the checklists were talking about in regards to the USCG approved programs outside of the academies.

Since the STCW endorsement for both Mate 500/1600 and 3rd Mate is the same (OICNW 500 GT or More), the requirements for an approved program are essentially the same. Both require at least 12 months of shipboard training, the main difference is the tonnage of the sea service, 3rd Mate requires time on vessels over 1,600 GRT. You were partially right on 3 years. That was part of the requirement prior to the STCW regulation change in 2013. Now it is just to complete a program. Bit, considering the scope of the training needed, and the requirement for at least 12 months shipboard training,these programs probably need to be at least 2 years long (e.g. the academy and workboat Mate 500/1600 programs).

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To the OP. Take this advice, but stick with the original plan of MITAGS/PMI if you are interested in actual union representation after you have completed the program. On that note, things may have changed with that MITAGS program but I remember it being an on the job training for those seeking to move up to the wheelhouse on contracted tug and barge companies. I believe you had to be employed by the company and accepted for the program by them before starting, but that was over a decade ago when it started and things have probably changed.

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I understand there is a difference between unlimited and limited licenses but can I go for my unlimited and then decide to work on a tug if I can’t find work on a sea going ship?

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“Unlimited” is generally used to refer to a national endorsement (license) that does not have tonnage limits. You can work on a vessel of any tonnage, within any limitations on the endorsement. Limited usually refers to having a tonnage limit, usually 100 GRT, 200 GT, 500 GRT, or 1,600 GRT. You cannot work on a vessel of greater tonnage than the limit on your endorsement.

Towing vessels are different. They have their own qualification requirements. You either need a specific license for towing vessels, or have a 500 GRT, 1,600 GRT or “unlimited” license and meet other requirements.

Licenses are also valid for specified routes with a defined hierarchy. With the exception of towing vessels on the Western Rivers, having a “superior” route allows you to work on an “inferior” route, e.g. with an oceans license you can work anywhere (except a towing vessel on western rivers).

The above is a very simplified explanation.

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Would I be more marketable if I geared toward inland ships such as tugs instead of larger sea going ships? I pictured myself working on larger ships since i’m an Aircraft Carrier guy but i’m open to whatever gets me on the water.

I’ve only been on this forum a few days but it seems the general consensus is that it’s difficult to get a job on a sea going ship.

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For an American. Foreign flag has plenty of work in the deep sea fleet but you’d be better off working at Taco Bell for what they’ll pay, if they’d even chance to hire an American. We have a bit of a reputation for being litigious.


To say the least. . . .

I make a good living in the Navy so I can’t go back to Taco Bell money haha. It seems Hornbeck Offshore and ConocoPhillips hires American 3M but with the regular tanking of the oil market i’m not sure how I feel about job security.

You’d also need a Tankerman endorsement, so your path to mate with them would need to be on tank vessels.

Hornbeck does offer a free OS to 3M program. Their website says it takes 5-6 years to complete, likely because of the equal time schedule. Once finished, you owe them a year. Not terrible if starting out, I suppose.

As a representative of the MITAGS-PMI Apprenticeship programs, I can verify that this is still on-the-job training in which you are employed by a partner company for the duration of the 2-year program that provides your 360 days of required Apprentice Mate time. You are alternating these sea phases with the classroom work required of the STCW OICNW 500GT or More license. The tonnage qualification on the license you earn (500GT, 1600GT, 3rd Mate Unlimited) is defined by the partner company you are working with and the size of vessels they are sailing you on over the course of the program.

Is the route to the school getting hired by a partner first? Or do I apply for the schooling first?

You are selected by a partner company as part of the application process for the program, which begins with the school. I’d be happy to discuss the process in more detail at any time, if you’d like to connect directly: I am the Student Services Manager, based out of our West Coast campus.