Best College (Mass vs Maine vs Texas A&M) for Career Capt - International Unlimited?

My youngest son decided to become a ship captain at a very early age. He grew up in North Texas, is now a senior in high school and has been accepted to Mass, Maine & A&M so he must make a hard decision. He is leaning heavily toward A&M. When we visited these schools his mother & I were extremely impressed by Mass & Maine (she picked Mass, I picked Maine) but thoroughly disappointed with A&M. The marine trans division of A&M was small, appeared insignificant, unfocused and lacking discipline. It is our humble opinion that Mass would make him a better leader and Maine would make him a better mariner. The cost of these schools is about three times what we’d pay for A&M but, like any parent, we want the best for him. We realize that the NE is a long way from home for a Texas boy and his pickup truck. The weather is harsh, girls are scarce, politics are different though we think four years of sacrifice compared to a career of forty years is a small price to pay. Please let us know if these NE schools make a difference in the training/preparation and opportunities for placement after graduation and for the remainder of his life. Which is the best and why? Also, let us know if we have misjudged any of them. We know a lot has to do with the individual. Our son will face many challenges when he goes away to school. He needs ever bit of help he can get. Thanks for reading this post and a happy New Year to you all!

[QUOTE=Bill Davidson;45363]. We know a lot has to do with the individual. [/QUOTE]
I guess you have it all in a nutshell! To put this in perspective, an individual must excel first in drive and ambition, then may find the time to succeed in their career. Whatever university is likely to provide any candidate with some direction and suggestion. Any of the schools mentioned (MAY) provide the atmosphere and training for your son in the marine field. However much depends on him.

I have met and sailed with several from every maritime academy over the last 30 years. There are examples of stellar success and bland mediocrity from all. As you said it is NOT the school but the individual. Best of luck to your son and his future.

Have your son become a resident of that state and the rate will drop. I went to Maine, did my share of screwing off, got kicked out. Sailed as OS for while then went back because I wanted to be a tug capt. Well I did it, sailed for 12 years. I left it and moved shoreside and will never sail again even though I still keep the license. The previous post is right, had a lot of classmates I would and have sailed with, and glad that some of us did not sail together either. I disagree with the school’s on many things to this day, in the end it’s a prep course for a test and for your first job. Going to this school or any will not make you a good captain, it will give you a base. It’s how you learn after will make you a good captain. I sailed with many people domestic and foreign, and hopefully the people I taught learned from me. The two best things I learned are this 1. only when you have done a job so well that you can a mistake before it happens are you ready for a promotion, because the people below you now look to you to train and keep them safe. 2. This I learned from capt Pete Brewster who so much better than me, when start sailing you only have 2 things a bag empty of experience and a bag full of luck. Make sure the experience bag is full before you run out of luck.
Lastly now as a resident of Texas, get out of Texas. If you want to hunt and stuff Maine is the place, if you want big city life SUNY is the place, not a fan Mass, but Cal looks very tempting as well.

Hi Bill,

I am not an academy man but I have worked with several academy mates and ass’t engineers. I don’t see how the school could possibly make any difference unless there is an old boys network that I don’t know about. If it were me, I’d save the money and go with A&M. I’d say you have dodged a bullet since that is where he wants to go. For me it’s a straight up economics question. Do you think there is any way that he would ever recoup the extra 200% in tuition?

The Texas A&M program provides opportunity and insight into the Offshore Oil & Gas industry. This sector is the fastest growing and best paying in the US Merchant Marine. A&M maritime grads get a strong foundation in traditional Merchant Marine ocean-going jobs as well as the Offshore industry. A&M is unique in that regards, as no other academy offers both opportunities for all their students.

I am a Great Lakes Maritime Academy grad. Most new Third Mates & Third Engineers hired aboard DP Rigs that I worked, come from one place: A&M. Annual salaries for those positions can start at $120,000 a year.

I agree with your assessment of TAMUG and their apparent casual attitude. I have spent a fair amount of time on the campus when I used to survey the TEXAS CLIPPERs. Of course my attitude is stained by my academy experience at Kings Point. If you are concerned about tuition, have you looked into the KP program? Since your son is a senior and is already going through the process of choosing a college, it may be too late to start the same thing for KP for the next class. That said, if his grades are good and he is fairly physically active, it might be worth his and your while to consider saving some money and getting into KP. While there are some that give the Academy short shrift (including myself from time to time), one cannot argue about the real world experience that it affords with the sea year training program. It will also supply all the discipline one may want. There is also one hell of a network once the program is completed. In all honesty, though, like Cappy wrote, and I have written in other threads. It is up to the individual to make what he can from the program offered. Some of the best and worst folks that I have sailed with graduated from Maine, Mass, TAMUG, CMA and KP.

I think you’ll find the political/cultural concerns more intense at Mass. Maine is remote and the education is on par with the others but their cadets seem more focused on the end goal, not impressing those around them.

There are many great A&M grads out there but, you’re right, the campus leaves a lot to be desired. Their lack of a training ship should also be a concern.

Did he not apply to Schuyler or KP?

The Texas A&M program provides opportunity and insight into the Offshore Oil & Gas industry. This sector is the fastest growing and best paying in the US Merchant Marine. A&M maritime grads get a strong foundation in traditional Merchant Marine ocean-going jobs as well as the Offshore industry. A&M is unique in that regards, as no other academy offers both opportunities for all their students.

Yes, A&M helps steer cadets toward O&G and yes, the payoffs are real but the O&G sector is open to anyone… I don’t think A&M has the market cornered by any stretch of the imagination.


I think at the end of the day, it’s where your son is going to feel most comfortable with the surroundings, as well as his peers. Each school has it’s own character - being a hawsepiper myself, I feel I can say objectively that I know many a great mariner from each of the traditional Maritime Schools, but each one has it’s own “feel”. I noticed, as did some of the other posters, that there were a few schools worthy of consideration missing off the list - USMMA, SUNY Maritime, Cal Maritime, Great Lakes - all of which in my humble opinion should be considered before you whittle down the list to one that’s going to fit best.

I’ve migrated from shipboard life to a shoreside position some years back, and I can tell you that the quality of education amongst our mariners that attend an academy today is pretty top shelf - and a lot of times it just comes down to personalities and attitudes when it comes down to a hiring decision; but, and I’m sure you saw this coming - much as you find in the Uniformed Services, there is a bond and brotherhood that is developed in each of these academies that is lifelong, and unless you were a complete outcast during your attendance, a bound that is as strong as any that you will see. Give that some consideration - your gut will tell you which of those schools has an intact esprit de corps, and which ones lack it.

One of the posters mentioned giving KP a look - I would wholeheartedly agree with cmakin. If your son has the grades, some athletic skill, and some drive - the value is hard to beat. A congressional appointment is required, much like our other service academies, and the education requires a reserve commitment - which in my experience is fairly accommodating, and launches him into yet another grouping of brethren that is thicker than water. A Navy career, a Merchant Career, and bond for life…it’s certainly worth more than a glance.

I’m a Boston boy, but I would tell you that my second choice would be Maine Maritime. Their Engineering Officers are a tough bunch to beat as are the Deck Officer’s they all eat, live, and breath Maritime from the day they pull into Castine, to the day they graduate - and that regimen sets them apart as seafarer’s right up to the day they hang up the oars. I am sure that there are a few people that may disagree with me, but, as I said in the beginning, I’m trying to give you objective answers.

Third Place - I am going to piss a few people off here, but here it goes - In my book it’s a tie: Fort Schuyler (SUNY Maritime) and Mass. Maritime. Both tremendously solid schools in all regards, and they produce solid mariner’s with a good business background - which is part of the reason you find so many adapting to a shoreside job early on in their careers. I know you mentioned that you paid a visit to Mass. Maritime, but it might be worth catching a Southwest flight to Long Island and checking out SUNY while swinging in to check out KP as well.

One more thought that crossed my mind as I was writing my thoughts on these schools - please, please, please sit and take a long hard look at the curriculum, as well as the majors offered at any and all of these schools. A degree in Nautical Science is not a degree in Marine Transportation and Logistics - so this will require a bit of homework from your son on where he wants to be in 20 years, and where he thinks the industry will be at that point. Just food for thought.

If you have any other thoughts you’d like some clarification on, by all means fire away - I don’t crop up here very often, but, the diversity of the industry that is represented by most of the posters answering your question is second to none. Oil and Gas, Drilling, Ro-Ro’s, Subsea Construction…the industry is literally changing on a daily basis.

I wish all of you the best of luck in your decision making process, and I’m confident that with a bit of homework all of you will make the right choice - more importantly one that you are comfortable with.


Being a Cal grad I will always recommend it first, but it really doesn’t matter which school he goes to when it comes to sailing. He will get out and get a license and that is really all most companies are looking for. I have also seen good and bad from all academies. to me cost would be the biggest factor

Most of the academies are very well matched in education. When it comes to hands on stuff I recommend Maine Maritime. If your son wants to sail deep sea ships then it doesn’t really matter but he may decide he wants to do tugs instead and MMA has a real tug and barge unit they train students on and it is possible for him to spend his afternoons learning how to drive small (34’ plus) boats. It is a matter of drive and applying himself, no one will force you to go that extra mile. There is a class that forces you to learn to run them but it is cursory. If he spends his afternoons down there running them he can be training students on them by his junior year. Real hands on experience makes a big difference when you go to work on small vessels like tugs.

I am happy to hear the young man decided to be a ship captain at a young age, I thought they quit making kids like that. I thought they all wanted to be either rap artists, rock stars or investment bankers.
My personal experience with maritime school graduates has been primarily with the engineering department guys but I have also had many years of working with mates and captains. It really doesn’t matter that much which school you go to, it’s what you do when you get out. College has always been a way to get a diploma/license which is nothing but a beginners permit. After you get the beginners permit it’s up to the individual how to progress and learn management skills. That being said any young prospective captain or chief engineer should realize that they will be competing with excellent well trained officers from India, Denmark, Holland, UK, Phillipines, Croatia and many other countries. The days of being a highly paid US merchant mariner operating on US ships is drawing to a sad close. The up and coming mariner is going to have to compete with the extremely well educated mariners from other countries. The current required regime at the US maritime schools is not really competitive with those of some other countries. The required engineering courses for graduation in the maritime schools are laughable in my opinion. Sure there are advanced courses one can take but the advanced electives of today were the required courses of 20 years ago. They have dumbed down the requirements and most multinational companies know this so I’d highly advise any prospective maritime student to plan on attending graduate school in order to be competitive in the world market.
That being said I hope this potential future master makes a go of it !

What does the job involve that they paid so much? Are they paid that much right out of 4 year Academy, and out of a graduate class how much % gets the job?

[QUOTE=Sailingday;45738]What does the job involve that they paid so much? Are they paid that much right out of 4 year Academy, and out of a graduate class how much % gets the job?[/QUOTE]
The job involves doing research, understanding how to do a job, discovering what is involved IN the job, and trying to do it as good, or better than anyone else. The tools and equipment is around 150 to 200 miliion dollars worth of stuff that they aren’t going to just let any kid come in and ‘run for them!’ They don’t pay that kind of money for someone to learn the job.

The pay is entirely dependent upon whether the candidate is GOOD at the job, whether they are a 'quick study" and If they have relevant experience to actually be considered to get hired for the job.

The jobs are filled purely on an as needed basis, with no regard to where the candidate is from, which school (if any) and usually with GREAT concern for the actual experience of the individual applying for the job.

Since we are in a TIGHT job market they are NOT hiring off the street for upper level jobs like this. An applicant MUST have several years training, experience, and/or formal education to command these wages. And I am not referring to time clerking at ‘best buy’ or walmart!

All kidding aside, You really should go out for a walk in the quad, and pace off an area about 200 feet long, by 75 feet wide. Walk around this area. Now think how long you would last living, working, eating, sleeping, and existing in that small area. All the while this would be out in the ocean, and you CAN’T leave… EVER. Until it is time for you to go home in a month (or two)

I just read the other posts you have put on here. You should really be googling these names, phrases, and titles to find out more info. The responders on this website can’t do your ‘homework’ for you. You must dive into and get the info for yourself. As mentioned the website has its own ‘search’ button. ALL this info has already been discussed, gone over, and explained before.

I think any of the academies would be an excellent choice. As a graduate of Maine I’ll try to at least give on opinion of that school and what I can of the others. As far as the academics and training, Maine is a fantastic school. While our reputation is based more off of the engineering program, the deck program also seems to be rigorous and worthwhile. The faculty at the academy is dedicated and highly experienced. I think you’ll find that many of his leadership skills will come from learning from teachers/instructors rather than his participation in the regiment, although that can be what he makes of it. Being such a small school, the faculty and students develop very personal relationships which I think translates into a much better education. The hands on aspect of the training is exemplary as well. The resources at Maine are also great. A good friend of mine started school at Mass and transferred to Maine for his last year and a half. He really didn’t seem to draw much distinction between the two, but he was a Mainer so I think his money and state loyalty pushed him towards Maine. The weather may be tough for a southerner, but being right on the water does temper that a little bit. As far as a Texas boy and his pick-up truck, I think you’ll find that he’ll fit in perfectly, maybe more so with the engineers than the deckies. The girls aspect…well, Maine is not the place. I’m sure the other academies are pretty similar. The University of Maine is only an hour away if he’s really interested in the social life, but other than that the social aspect of MMA isn’t too bad at all. He’ll definitely develop a bond with his classmates. I work in the GOM and haven’t travelled to work down here yet in three years without running into a school mate. With respect to the politics, the NE may be a little more left leaning, but I think you’ll find that the attitude at the academy doesn’t necessarily follow along those lines. He’ll get a taste of the liberal side with the “non-regimental” students at the school, but the regimented kids, those pursuing an unlimited license, tend to lean a little bit more to the right in my opinion. Plus the staff leadership of the regiment is mostly retired military. Right now I think job opportunities for all deckies is a little stressed. Classmates I’ve talked to on the deck side are having a little bit harder of a time finding a job than their engineering counterparts, but as a whole, the job prospects for graduates from MMA are huge! The academy has an outstanding reputation within the industry and there are innumerable contacts out there via alumni and satisfied employers. Hopefully this explanation has helped a little bit. I attended a regular liberal arts college before attending Maine Maritime, but you can probably tell I’m extremely happy that I decided to attend the academy. The distance from home may be a little rough, but Castine is a beautiful town for visiting families too. Good luck to you and your son.