Best path to 3rd Mate Unlimited license?

I’ll be graduating ASU in May with a degree in Interdisciplinary studies. At 27 years old, I would prefer to avoid another 4 year program at the academy to get my 3rd Mate license, if possible. Are there any faster alternatives? Masters program? Trade School? Apprenticeship? What about hawsepipe (certainly not faster, but is it viable?)

Thank you

Update: I’ve been accepted to the SUNY Maritime graduate ITM/license program, and will be starting this August. :slight_smile:

Thanks for all your help!

1 Like

If seeking an engineering license, the AMO has an excellent “off the street” Engineering apprentice 2 year program culminating sitting for your exam and sliding into the AMO Union, perhaps even w/o an initiation fee, unsure about that. On the deck side I would suggest joining the SIU. You will see a lot of hate speech directed against the AMO and SIU, disregard. After having sailed non-union in the oil field for years, both unions are great, and the AMO is a blessing without reservations. SIU has a very limited deck upgrade program, I know one AB currently enrolled, but there again oyu must pay your dues. You could go through some Washington State and similar sponsored programs through their labor department or check out the website link from Mr. Robert Konrad. Best wishes future shipmate.

When finishing the SIU apprenticeship, do you go into the field as an AB, or how does that work? Once going into the field, would it be easier to climb the ranks to eventually get to 3rd Mate Unlimited?

Actually, since you already have most of your core curriculum classes, I’m guessing some of the maritime academies would work with you and get your through in 2, maybe 2 1/2 years provided you can get your sea time in. Definitely faster then going the unlicensed to license route, starting from scratch?

I’ve only spoken with Cal Maritime thus far, but they said that even though I had transfer credits, I would still be required to do the curriculum over the course of 4 years (just with less coursework each semester). Come Monday I plan on reaching out to the other academies to ask if the same applies there. If it’s like you say, which I really hope it is, then the academy will most definitely be my default choice.

Definitely gonna look into this one. I’d like to see how many of the courses I’ve taken will count towards the pre-requisites for the program.

1 Like

You can do a 2 year program(Texas A&M) and get your masters in Maritime logistics and 3/M. Then you can get on a boat with absolutely zero experience and boss all the deckhands around and make 100k a year. It’s great.

It seems to me if you went the hawsepipe route you would get paid and learn on the job. If you’re not sure what that means, you start as an ordinary seaman and after a certain amount of time you can test for your able seaman ticket. Once you have your AB, you get a pay raise and when you are getting close to having the proper amount of sea time for a 3rd license, take the mandatory classes (advanced firefighting, etc) When I was preparing to test for my license I went to a school that helped prepare me for the test. The entire process including mandatory classes can cost between 10 and 15 grand. I might be a little slow minded but the entire process including the classes I had to take ended up taking about 7 months (took classes in between work rotations). My license is the up to 1600 but i think its about the same test. Let me know if you have other questions about this route. I’d be happy to help you can email me at


If I were to try to hawsepipe it from OS to 3rd mate, what would be a realistic time-frame if I put in the work? Would it be possible at all even? I’m beginning to get the impression from reading around forums that reaching an officer position through the hawsepipe is next to impossible. And if it is possible, I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons of hawsepipe vs a Master’s program in terms of both time and accrued debt.

I chose the hawspipe route…it’s definitely do-able with a lot of discipline and motivation. I took all of the required courses and then taught myself everything I needed to know to pass my exams, with the help of pubs and software such as lap ware etc. The pros? You make money while doing it. The cons? Be prepared to take all your classes on your time off. I did everything in about just over a yea(including studying) I started before I even had enough sea time to upgrade. I was mentally and physically drained but as I look back at it I’m glad I did it. All in all with the proper seatime which included getting my AB/lifeboatman etc. it was about 4.5 years.

I will say this…I’m noticing a trend lately(particularly in my company) that most companies will choose an academy grad over a hawsepiper. I’ve seen it a countless number of times where an academy grad will get hired to fill a position rather than the hawsepiper with the same license be promoted. On the contrary many smaller companies don’t really care, if you got the license the position is yours.

Hope this helps.

1 Like

This is one of my main concerns with going the hawsepipe route. I’m worried if this trend will only get worse in the future.

That being said, 4.5 years for 3rd mate through hawsepiping sounds fantastic. And although it would take longer, I would (as you said) be earning rather than spending during that time, and wouldn’t be accruing debt with the academy. It’s a tough call, especially considering my age and the fact that pursuing a Master’s would put me at over 30 years old before entering the workforce.

Yeah not bad however 4.5 years was working at times a 2-4-1 schedule and basically being in class every time I got off for the last year. I also worked on OSVs and large ATBs so 12 hour days equals 1.5 sea days for every day worked.

The time frame is just whatever the minimum amount of sea time you need. The USCG website has the checklist that tells you how long you have to sail as AB before testing. When you are within 3-6 months of having the minimum amount of time, take all your mandatory classes. Once you have the minimum teatime and all your classes done, submit your packet to the Coast Guard. Once it’s approved you have a year to test. If you are self disciplined it can be done. I went to Crawford Nautical School in Seattle for the test prep classes. The entire process for me once I started the classes to testing and passing my exams was 7 months. My license is smaller(1600 ton-the actual test is about the same)and i work at smaller companies As to getting hired with a 3rds at a larger company I cant say.

1 Like

That’s a shame. All else being equal, I would hire a hawsepiper with a license over an green academy grad. By definition, the hawsepiper has already shown initiative and a desire and ability to adapt.

The advantage of hawsepiping in this case might be not having to go back to school after already doing it once, yet remembering your study habit requirements when the time comes. For me there was an awfully long time between school and then going to the classes for my license. I had to relearn how to study. Instead you can start earning money in your chosen profession. I have worked with academy graduates and I think there is value in doing it both ways. There are advantages and disadvantages.
I talked to one crewmember a while back and he said his first trip with the SIU happened right away and they had you work in all departments to see what you liked. Although it sounds like you have decided on the deck department maybe getting your credentials and getting on a ship for a trip would help you decide which route you want to take.

1 Like

Do you want STCW OICNW? If so, beginning in 2017 a lot more requirements came into force for a hawespiper to get OICNW (and OICEW). Many past hawespipers won’t be familiar with all the classes and assessments that are now required.

1 Like

The requirements are described here.

Here is an article I wrote listing the graduate and double bachelors programs that are offered by the 7 maritime academies.

In your case, you have proven that you can compete at the collegiate level. If you don’t have a burdensome amount of debt I recommend you pursue the masters or even a double bachelors.
The study habits you have built over your first degree will give you an edge over 18 year olds fresh out of high school.
In addition to having an edge over other freshmen, professional administrators file your documents for you. They will ensure that all your paperwork is in order which saves you time and the cost of having to consult a licensing professional when it’s time to upgrade.

In addition, the 3 year masters is faster than hawsepiping. 1080 sea days are needed to take the 3rd mate classes and exam at nautical training schools such as PMI. The fastest you could possibly accomplish the sea time requirement would be in 2 years sailing non-stop on a vessel granting 1 1/2 days of sea time for every calendar day. A more reasonable time frame would be 4 1/2-6 years allowing you to take time off every year. After getting the seatime you would have to spend weeks in classes in order for you to be certified to test for your license.

The only viable circumstance I would recommended hawespiping would depend on your current financial situation. A master’s degree will likely incur costs between $90,000-$120,000. Your post-baccalaureate loans are likely to be interest bearing.
If you already have interest bearing debt, that debt will grow while you are in college. You could very well have a 3rd mates license and 6 figures of debt at the age of 30.

This could mean that you could be spending $3500-6000 a year paying back the interest alone. Assuming you netted $50,000 after taxes, you would be spending over 10% of your take home pay on your loans. These loans may take decades to pay off at that rate. At 30, you may want to buy a house. This will be much harder with such a high pile of debt hurting your credit score.

In summary, post baccalaureate canidates can get their license fastest through a 3 years master’s or double bachelors degree program. However, you should consult a financial advisor on your financial health and determine wether or not graduate education is a sound investment.

As @john mentioned, SUNY Maritime has a graduate/license program that gets you a Master’s and a license in 3 years. Maybe 2 1/2 if you’re aggressive with your course load.

My concern would be the cost incurred vs. the reward. You’re already 4 years in and looking at another ~75k in tuition probably to get the Masters, and for what? Yes a license and yes a Masters, but nobody at sea cares about what degree you hold. I was on a ship recently where 4 of the 5 deck personnel (Captain, 2/M, and both 3/M’s) had a Masters degree. We were all still just Mates onboard…

If you plan to work shoreside it will hopefully be helpful. That’s why I got mine - but it only took me an extra year instead of 2 1/2-3.