Becoming officer without academy


Backround long story short. I have been a teacher since graduating college. No strings attached now, just parents and brother, no kids wife etc. I finished my courses for oupv and master license and am confident I will qualify for 50ton near coastal at least. Along with towing endorsement and the courses for my STCW already completed.

Recently, the idea of joining ISU in Fort Lauderdale has become very appealing to me. I want the high level, intense, real deal experience ships and various duties provide to become the best seaman possible. and personally at the moment, having nothing holding me to land, along with several other solid thought out reasons I believe merchant Mariner would be just perfect for me at 32 years old changing careers from education but with significant amount of experience doing all kinds of work on the water from deck hand on a tug with a 150ft barge behind navigating the Miami river and off shore jumping from tug to runners and back, working winches, keeping watch, wiper duties basically as well, to legal bare boat charters of all kinds, barge operator for restaurant barges, sport fish mate in world class tournaments etc. I just love being at sea, sword fishing for days at a time on a center console 30 miles off shore and fishing the canyons up north on a 20 foot Grady for 3-7 day trips have been some of the times I felt my most present, happy, and “alive.” Im well aware of the work load involved with being a Mariner, no problem working , 50 hours a week to me is a light week.

I’m waiting on TWIC card and want to learn more about requirements in Merchant Mariner field as I am weighing my options, which are many. From tow boat to charters of all different kinds, ferries , there’s just so much in South Florida where I could earn well and lead a “normal” life. Like I said previously, the prospect of working on a ship of that caliber, the variety of positions aboard, ability to stack up sea time past boundary line with serious tonnage and just getting away for a few years at least with decent time off in between to me or stacking, I think would be perfect right now. I really am genuinely interested in this career path.

I have been researching, watching videos, etc and everyone seems to say a maritime academy of one kind of another is necessary. Is this the case if I already possess sea time for masters license, Past the courses, have my stcw, etc? Would it be possible to make officer without academy? If so what would the process be? Clearly getting mmc, I see the check box for AB I would qualify for I believe. Is there an exam for that in addition to masters captain/mate exams and courses? Would I start as OS or AB? Or would having the masters endorsement even though for smaller tonnage boost me at all?

Also, I see numbers that are all over the place every where I look and in every different video. I know allot depends on ships over time, hazard pay etc. What should I reasonably expect monthly for different positions I can get into?

when I was at MTI for the Stcw courses several guys there were currently on ships renewing or in the union and my age just starting out but have been on a few already. They told me all I need is the stcw courses we were taking and my basic mmc to join union and they are kind of desperate for solid guys after covid. I have no problem working my way up, but is it possible and timely to do so and will my added licenses have any bearing?

any and all wisdom, info more than appreciated.

You have lots of options and now is a good time to make that career switch. I did the same about 14 years ago, at the age of 40, after nearly 20 years as a professional in a completely unrelated field.

I am not an expert, but I am a hawsepiper and over the past decade have worked with a wide range of folks who have taken pretty much all the available paths to the wheelhouse (or engine room).

My observations are:

  1. It will be laborious, time-consuming, and expensive to hawsepipe to an unlimited STCW OICNW/3rd mate. A better bet may be to enroll in a license-option, 2-year master’s program at SUNY Maritime, Texas A&M, or another academy that offers that. Bonus: in addition to the license, you come out with a graduate degree that would make it easier to transition to a shoreside management position later.

  2. An alternate route would be to test for AB, get a job with that credential, and then to start prepping for mate 500/1600. Just this week I saw a post here for multiple AB positions at $500/day. You would have your pick of towing companies at a slightly lower rate, but could still expect to make $40k-$50k on even time while stacking sea service and learning the trade from the deck up. After 360 days of service, including some as a bridge watchstander, you can test for National Mate 500 GRT and continue from there. Assuming you have an additional year of sea service (it sounds like you do). That, plus a TOAR (done with your company, usually) will get you into the wheelhouse of a tug at around six figures per year on even time. Check the NMC Checklists for exact combination of days and other requirements.

The good news about the mate exam is that 500 GRT through 2M unlimited is, I believe, the same test. You won’t have to test again, merely increase tonnage and scope with sea time, unless you are adding STCW endorsements, in which case some may be able to be done as you sail but others will require taking yourself off to a school and paying money.

There is no path from mate to master without testing again, and there is no direct path from master 500/1600 to Chief Mate/Master unlimited.

However, there is a very limited “crossover exam” from 3M Unlimited to Master 1600 after a relatively short period of sea time. See option 1 above.

Hope that helps. Hope my information is still current and mostly accurate. Good luck!

The fastest and most cost effective path to a 3rd mate unlimited license with STCW OICEW is probably the MITAGS apprentice program. Call/email them for more info, but I think the cost was around 30-40k all in when I inquired a few years ago.

Is that unlimited or mate 1600?

Also, some folks I’ve talked to said it’s about break-even, cost-wise, with cadet shipping pay.

Okay, I followed the link and see there is an unlimited 3rd and the workboat program option.

So … why would anyone go to an academy?!

THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! honestly this is all so confusing and I’ve spent hours upon hours searching the mmc website. Can anyone help me understand the different levels of STCW? I was unaware of that. Also, I was told by my “rabi” in the field , I don’t want above 1600gt and master of towing or I will never see land again lol not sure how true that is but 1600gt and master of towing I think would be my goal atleast for now. What is the difference between the mate and master/ captains exams as well? I know my next up is 200 ton after appropriate hours according to classes offered and what the captain of the tug I worked told me I should of just taken. I know tonnage rating is dependent on the vessel your service is on but would my AB still count even as AB limited or something from regular vessel sea service like what counts for a % of the 100 ton master license if applicable? Sorry lots of questions there. Just kind of hit me how competitive I would be a few years from now with say a 1600gt, master towing and experience as officer on a significant ship and how much I would enjoy just having time at sea right now, not even concerned about time in ports, just think it would be very sort of character building and great for making my next step in life here after being stuck in a cinderblock room for so many years. Plus a great way to get a nice bank account to make work for me as I paid off everything I own and only have insurance, utilities and phone bill. As long as there are tests and especially classes, I can Ace them no problem. The whole multi year academy thing though I just know I would thrive learning as I work and studying on my own throughout the process and would like to if possible skip that at my age. I am blessed being a fast learner, I am dedicated and professional in all aspects of my career, and am very eager for this to come to fruition. I just know I have a lot to learn. Specially about larger ships from my time on the tug and all the ins and outs of the field legitimately and not how things worked in South Florida. Things are done different in Miami, it’s the Wild West it seems at times. I survived learning the tumultuous, sink or swim fast track to maritime 101 there working many different jobs without incident and it opened my eyes to the array of possibilities to make a good living for myself following my dreams and living for me for a while after doing my time giving back as a successful and dedicated teacher. I really appreciate all the feedback and anymore to come as I am soaking every bit of it up.

TBH I wouldn’t even worry about 100 GRT/200GRT master right now. Just get the AB (special, limited or unlimited doesn’t really matter at this point, so long as it is not OSV or fishing) and get on with a good company that can expose you to a variety of work; if possible, someone who does ship assist, barge work, and wire boat, or some combination of those. Get your 240 12-hour days on deck as an AB, test for mate 500, get your TOAR done …

Seems you are hung up on those <200 GRT master tickets, but if your goal is 1600 GRT mate or master, they probably are not the fastest or most useful route . I dunno, maybe pushboats (where there do seem to be a larger number of folks with <200 and master or mate of towing) is a different ballgame.

Just do basic training for your stcw for now nothing else apply to tug company’s non union everyone is in need and hurting bad for people

This is all very good info. I assume you already have a Bachelors, so I would suggest looking into this option if you’re serious. The roadblocks for trying to hawespipe up to an unlimited oceans license are getting worse every time you turn around.

1 Like

Figure out where you wanna be. Oil patch, deep sea, tug and go from there. Get your MMC squared away too. And be prepared to work on deck unless you want to go to an academy…

You guys are the most helpful forum I’ve ever found. I have the courses for basic STCW. Did a number of barge jobs off Miami for fire work shows. Pay wasn’t really anything considering the hours though. What is the typical day rate?

Day rate for what?

Rates change mostly depending on license held and extra endorsements on that license.

Across the industry as a new hire I’d estimate:
OS/wiper - 200-300
AB/QMED - 300-450
1600 ton mate, 3rd mate, DDE, 3 a/e - 500-700
100 ton master - 450-600
1600 ton master, unlimited master, C/E - 850-1000+

This is just a rough estimate of common positions and can vary greatly depending on experience, sector, company, and endorsements

This is the truth, for engine and deck. I think SUNY is the only academy to offer the masters program that grants a unlimited 3rd mate license upon completion…and I don’t think a comparable program exists (2yr masters) for engineering).

Somebody that has a bachelors degree already spend 4 years in university. Presumably, this person already learned how to read, write, follow directions, and “grow up”. If the goal is an unlimited license, then one should concentrate on the fastest way to get there. I know of no faster/cheaper method than the MITAGS apprentice program for mates.

Traditional hawsepiping will require more seatime AND you still will pay to take all the required STCW courses. This is a multi-year endeavor, and you must also find the work to get the sea-time.

2 year masters program at SUNY is probably some big money (50-100k, I’d imagine). And then the opportunity cost of not making any money for two years.

I think strategically, it’s best to aim for an unlimited license. If you end up on tugs later, that’s fine. But it’s much harder to go the other direction.

1 Like

I always like to post this, not my words but sums up the industry pretty well. I like my job and all but it’s a job like any other…

“I hope you covered all of these points before making your move - just to ensure there were no surprises with your decision. Particularly for those aspiring to be a drillship Captain, do this first beforehand… If you like it, you’re in the right place.

Buy a dumpster, paint it gray and live in it for 6 months
Run all of the piping and wires inside your house on the outside
of the walls.
Pump 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your basement, then
pump it out, clean up, and paint the basement “deck gray.”
Have your oldest kid perform a weekly disassembly and inspection
of your lawnmower.
Yell at your neighbor if he walks outside without a hardhat and
Have your family eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find
for three days straight, then yell at them for spending too much work
time in the bathroom.
Make your family complete an OJT before they operate any
appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician,
Tell your wife that when the car is moving your in charge, while
stopped or in park she’s in charge but if it catches on fire while it’s
parked your in charge.
Tell your son to empty all the garbage bins in your house, and
sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not. Give the
task a stupid name like “policing main deck” or “AM trash run”.
Repaint your entire house once a month.
Disconnect all your neighbors’ phones and install a phone booth
on the street.
Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch
Fox News and the Country Music station.
Have the family vote on which tv channels to watch and then pick
different ones.
Sew reflective strips to the front of all your shirts.
Expand your vocabulary. For this task watching Larry the Cable
Guy is the best way to git 'r done.
Reprogram all your phones so that you have to dial 99 the number
and # to call anyone outside your neighborhood. When you do call wait 3
seconds after every question before speaking.
Needle gun the aluminum siding on your house after your
neighbors have gone to bed.
At 10:15 Sunday morning when your children are in bed, run into
their room with a megaphone, and shout at the top of your lungs “Fire,
fire in the galley, ALERT team muster at…”
Buy $50,000 worth of radio equipment “in case” there is an
emergency and hire a qualified radio operator to “man the station”…
then make them pay your bills, arrange your travel and answer all your
phone calls.
Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without
checking the pantry and refrigerator.
Paint every room in your house powder blue.
When your daughter asks for an iPod fire up the old commodore 64
computer, make her type out the request, deny it 3 times, then call
fedex and tell then to keep it in their warehouse for 3 months after it
When your kids come home with A’s on their report card buy them
a camouflage hat with flames down the side and the family name
embroidered across the brim.
Yell at your wife if she cooks anything but fried chicken for
lunch on sunday
Call the restaurant five hours before arriving and then tell the
cook to start heating up the steaks
Each Christmas when your aunt jane and uncle jim visit make them
stay on the porch until they have watched a 2 hour video of yourself
pointing out all the fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in your house.
Make your kids pay 50 cents for each soda they drink.
Never call a local repair man when your stove breaks. Instead
call someone in the UK and pay for their flight. When they arrive call
the taxi company and give them strict orders not to pick the repairman
up until the stove is fixed.
Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with
a curtain. Have you wife whip open the curtain about 3 hours after you
go to sleep. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble
“Sorry, wrong rack.”
Designate a room in the house as “The Control Room” then make
your kids sit their in front of a computer screen for 12 hours. Tell
them that if anything turns red they could cause the family millions of
Tell your neighbor to call you when ever they see a thunderstorm
in your area.
Put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
Leave the lawn mower running in your living room eight hours a
Every other month buy green or red marine primer and put it in a
paint sprayer. Have your 2 year old spray it over the roof of your house
onto your neighbor’s car. Ignore his complaints.
Head to the local dive bar and ask the first retired guy you see
to sit in your home office scratching his nuts. Make him a plaque
reading “company man” and tell him to “remind” you daily about every
squeaky floor, dripping faucet, late mail deliveries… Tell him to
invite his friends over and when they show up move your kids into the
garage so they have a nice bed to sleep in.
After shopping rent a cherry picker offload the groceries.
Each morning jot down the wind speed/direction, barometer
reading and the amount of fluids in your hot water heater, gas tank,
lawn mower… convert the figures you get into whatever unit of
measurement you did not use and write it down in 6 different places.
Have your kid monitor the police scanner 24 hours a day "just in
case there’s an emergency.
Pay the editor of your son’s middle school newspaper an
undisclosed amount to deliver his paper by helicopter to you each
morning. When he arrives throw some leftovers into a Styrofoam box and
offer it to him.
Find a bridge simulator with 360 degree views, enroll in ship
handling class then spend 1/2 of your time looking behind you. Spend the
other half of the time on the phone explaining why the main deck lights
are out, why you don’t know/care what the water depth is and performing
unit conversions in response to the question “Can you give me that in
something I can use??” …do this one every hour.
Once a year throw a huge bar-b-q. Buy crawfish, steak and shimp
then overcook them and offer your guests only O’Douls and soda pop.
Go to your local elementary school and ask the principal to send
you a weekly list of the stupidest things the kindergarteners have done
that week. Call a meeting with your family every Monday and read the
list with a straight face.
Place toohpicks, picante sauce and a can of Tony Chachere’s on
your kitchen table.
Call 911 and tell them to send a helicopter each time your son
falls off his bike.
Eat only at all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants that specialize
in fried foods. Bonus points if you have a view of the cooking area from
your table and the place primarily employs nose-pickers and
Twice a day (or more if possible) get everyone together in as
small a room as possible (a closet or bathroom should do) and have a
meeting to listen to someone tell you what you did all day. Bonus points
for reiterating statements multiple times (i.e. “Like Joe says safety
Buy a trash compactor, but use it only once a week. Store the
garbage on the other side of your bathtub.
Walk around town with safety checklists. Each time you find a
city employee doing something stupid write it down on an index card,
tell the person he screwed up then give the card to the mayor to read
off at the town council meeting.
Explain to your wife why you don’t know how to calculate tides
250miles offshore. Once the lightbulb comes on spend at least one hour
answering questions like “Well why do you have a tide table book if it’s
useless?”, “Can’t you get the computer to tell you?” and “Don’t you have
a depth sounder like on a bass boat?”
Set your kids alarm clock to go off at 10:15 every Sunday
morning. Make them jump up and get dressed as fast as you can making
sure they’re wearing a plastic hat and metal in their shoes. Have them
run out into the backyard and uncoil the garden hose.
Install a toilet in every room then leave your door open so that
everyone walking down the hallway knows you had chili-con-carne for
Each time your family does something you think is unsafe or just
plain dumb take a digital photo of it and send it out to everyone you
Install a fluorescent lamp under the coffee table and then get
under it and read books.
Give your wife a CB radio and tell her to call you each time she
turns the car, fills up the gas tank or it starts to rain.
Install speakers and a telephone in every room of the house.
When you want to talk to your kids announce it over the speakers and
give them the phone number of your room. Repeat at lease once to make
sure they heard you,
Take hourly readings on your water and your electric meters.
Go to your children’s school and yell at the teacher for
allowing them to use blue ink on their homework.
Surround yourself with people you would not choose to be with.
Suggested choices are those who: chain smoke, fart loudly and often,
snore like a steam locomotive on an uphill grade. Also, they must:
complain incessantly, seldom shower and/or brush their teeth. Lastly,
they must use expletives in speech like children use sugar on cereal.
In-laws will do nicely.
Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of your front and
back doors so that you either trip or bang your head every time you pass
through one of them.
Every so often, throw the cat in the pool and shout “Man
overboard, starboard side” Then run into the house and sweep all the
pots and dishes off the counter. Yell at the wife and kids for not
having the kitchen “stowed for sea.”


“ Upon program completion, the Apprentice will be eligible to sit for their Mate’s license and will also hold their AB Limited. In addition, all STCW requirements and assessments are met so the mariner will also receive their Able Seafarer-Deck and OICNW credentials to sail internationally. The tonnage of the vessels the apprentice sails on during the program will determine whether they receive their Mate of 500/1600 GRT vessels, or a Third Mate Unlimited tonnage license”

So help me understand. If I qualify for the AB already, is there any way for me to help persuade what ships I am assigned for tonnage? And can anyone clarify what “sit for their Mates license?” Does this just mean test? I have over a thousand days at sea already is an academy still recommended? What are some ways they make hausepiping more difficult now? Thanks for all this info otherwise very difficult to understand going in alone.

1 Like

What type of vessels have you worked on? That is going to determine what credentials you can get right now. A thousand days on a charter boat is different than a thousand days on a tug, OSV, etc. you’re talking about getting a very big license and unless you have significant experience working on larger vessels your current sea time isn’t going to put you much past a national AB endorsement or an OS plus a smaller tonnage master/mate’s license. But if you don’t want to sail deep sea it doesn’t matter…

keerimany … and if more of us participated you haven’t even gotten started !!!

If I’m not wrong, I think it’s an unlimited third inland license, not an oceans.

It’s oceans. You’re thinking of a different program, see pages 498 and 483.

1 Like

Crowley will hire you in a minute tor a Lake Charles boat as AB then move you thru their pipeline of deckhand to mate same if you want to go engineroom you have to join SIU houston look up crowley jobs on line and apply they will get back to you