Complete Novice, 33 and wondering about the fastest/cheapest way into the industry

Greetings Seafarers,

I have a particularly complicated situation, and I could really use some advice. For starters, I am a US citizen but currently living in Europe, moving back to the US would obviously be a financially daunting task but I have decided that I want to be a Seafarer. At 33 my work history is primarily marketing and public relations work, and it’s been poorly paid and overall extremely boring.

What I am trying to decide now is how best to get into the industry. I fully understand that I will need my MMC and TWIC (Already have a passport). I don’t wish to go to any 4 year academies as that seems far too time consuming, as well as exorbitantly expensive. What I was looking at were either the two year academies (Kingsborough and San Jacinto College) are the only ones I know about. MITAGS also looks interesting but once again price is an issue.

The SIU Academy seems like a possibility, but I have heard that essentially a single mistake means I have to completely restart the program, so I really want this to be a final option.

How realistic is hawsepiping? And what would the best location be for me to start hawsepiping? To add to the complexity of this situation, I don’t have a drivers license as I have always lived in a Metropolitan area and thus really haven’t had the need to get a car.

My current plan is to get physically in shape, then by march-april try to have a few thousand saved up and likely move to a state with a large amount of Ports like Texas. Focus entirely on acquiring my MMC and TWIC cards and then applying for entry level OS positions. Is this even possible, are the schools a better option? How the heck do I pay for this and also cover rent/insurance etc?

To clarify I would love to instead go to a school/program and acquire either an AB or a 3mate license within 2 years, ideally something with stipends so that I could afford to attend.

Really sorry for the barrage of questions but I am very serious about getting involved here, my life has lost any meaning.
EDIT- Not sure if relevant but I have 56 study credits within the NYC CUNY system if this would somehow reduce time at some academies, or make me more likely to be accepted.

There is a two year program leading to an endorsement as Mate 1,600 GRT at SUNY Maritime College. MITAGS/PMI also has a two year program for this endorsement.

For 3rd Mate, there are none. That requires 3 years of sea time, ort a 4-year program. Theree are programs for AB that are shorter, but a 1,600 Mate program might be mosy suitable for you.

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I don’t think you fully understand how much money this is going to cost you. You talk a good game but dude you have no idea. Yeah you want 3rd or even 1600T that does not mean you are going to the wheel house right after or even ever.

Do it yourself I would say 30K. Maybe more I am at 20K ish and need just a few more classes. An OS job pays 80$ to $100 a day. And you want to live in a somewhat nice place we’re your shit won’t get stolen.

See what you can get from the government in terms of loans

Good luck

Thanks Menizzi, fully prepared for taking out loans and/or hawsepiping it to match the cost.

You can discourage me,but heres the thing. I am 33 years old and have constantly been discouraged from every profession I have ever taken an interest in. So I did 13 years of marketing and I am completely miserable.

Money I can get, even if it means going into debt. But giving up on this just leads to more hardship in the next coming months/years with no relief.

Thanks so much JDCave, the 1600 GRT at Suny Maritime seems very decent. Do you know where people live when going to this school? Might have to travel via Staten Island and/or Jersey.

I think on campus housing is available, it may be required. If not, southern Westchester county like New Rochelle would be the most convenient

There is a temporary shortage of seafarers due to Covid. Right now is a good time. Spring will be even better.

Get your TWIC and MMC as soon as possible. No idea how long that takes now, the MMC is probably months, and the TWIC two weeks.

Then go get a job. Any job. Tugboats, OSVs or ships.

OS pay will range from $100 to $400 a day.

Please tell us about your education, cooking skills, foreign language ability, and whether you are fit or fat.

Sure thing tug, so in other words hawsepiping might be a fine idea?

Cooking Skills: Non Existent
Foreign Languages- Pretty Decent, I am fluent in Portuguese and I know enough Spanish to have a conversation/understand a conversation
Education: Some College (53 Credits)

Not fit but I am more than able to get there, that’s why as I make the transition back to the states I am also taking on a major diet change and exercise routine

Thanks JD, I cant seem to find the 2 year deck but I do see a 2 year engineering. Any idea what this would be called on the site?

Have you ever worked on the water? Been away from friends and family? Given your age, I’d go get a job on a boat for 6mo before applying to school if you can answer no to any of the questions above. School is a big financial commitment and not worth it unless you plan on being in the industry long term (5-10yrs at least) Enrolling in a program like SUNY or MITAGS is going to cost over 30k so you better make sure you like the actual day to day and not just the romanticized version. There are times when it is the absolute best job in the world, other times the worst. It’s just like anything else. Become a good cook, or someone that can follow a recipe. Be agreeable, easy going but not lazy. Get used to living in close proximity to people you otherwise probably wouldnt hang out with. Don’t worry about getting in shape, at least on the deck side of tugs, there are probably just as many unhealthy, overweight people out here working as incredibly fit. It’s not a super demanding job physically. Just focus on getting your MMC and TWIC. Then pick a location to base yourself out of, I’d recommend the east coast. More companies and opportunities for an OS. Almost everyone needs people so you can probably negotiate a decent rate for yourself and paid travel. Once you get a few hitches under your belt, if it’s for you, start filling out applications for school. That is by far the best way to set yourself up for success at your age. Hawespiping is doable but certainly a challenge. Good luck.


Try Marine Operations, Small Vessel Operations, or “Limited Tonnage”

Reformed this is by far the best advice I have seen so far. My only real worry here is that it won’t be as easy to get an OS (Entry Level) as it used to be 20-30 years back. Also considering I have 0 experience. When you mention East Coast, can you give me an idea of the top 3 ports on the east coast for jobs? This really seems like the best option all things considered.

Thanks so much JD, got the information on this as well and am currently talking to admissions. I may take ReformedSailors suggestions first however and then move onto SUNY Maritime. Doing some OS may also allow me to save enough to cover some monthly rent while in NY.

33 is relatively young. It’s not uncommon for most, if not all, of the crew to be in their 50’s and 60’s.

We like to do video calls with applicants to make sure that they are not so fat that they cannot do the work. Most guys are fat. That’s a given. Being fit is an advantage, but not a necessity.

If you learn to cook reasonably well, order food, keep a clean galley, etc. even as just an OS, you will always be able to find a good paying boat job.

Some people have a knack for cooking, some don’t. Some can learn, some can’t. Some are willing, some are not.

I’d rather have a green OS that can cook, than a good seaman that is a bad cook.


You can get a job at Washington State Ferries with no experience. Just need a MMC and twic. Though it’s probably nowhere near your idea of maritime. They pay for all your upgrades too. Lots of people older than 40 have been starting their career at the ferries. Not the most exciting thing but it’s an easy way to get in the industry and can always head off elsewhere after some time

Most every company is looking for help. My company can’t find people to work, so now is a great time to get on a tug. New York/Newark, philly, Norfolk, Savannah etc doesn’t really matter. A general rule of thumb is the further South you go the less you’ll make. Don’t worry so much about being near a port as a couple hrs drive to one. Ship assist will be more competitive and lower pay than dredging or marine construction. I’d pick an area where you want to live and go from there. Google companies and call them up. You don’t need an MMC to work on inland push boats if you wanna get going now… Just don’t be too fat to not fit in your PPE. Having to constantly help other boats due to that gets old after a while…

The Gulf is hiring too. Less consistent work, but some of the larger companies will train you and pay for certs…

That sounds largely like work offshore except here there are no weekends to get a break from it.

They’re are no “two year academies”. That’s a specific term for the 4 year schools that graduate 3rd mates. The others are just training schools.

That’s the worst option in licensing terms since you don’t get a license out of it, but it’s free if you work for the union afterwards.

If you ship SIU it’s very realistic since all your upgrade classes as free from the union.

Apply to Transocean. They are hiring entry level drilling crew with no experience right now. The pay is good and you get to experience being away from home for weeks at a time. I’ve seen a lot of new people quit after their first hitch because being away from home is too hard. (Also, from what I’ve seen the ones that are in a relationship before they start working out here that don’t quit have a very high rate of that relationship ending. The relationships that work best are the ones that start after your career is in place.) Don’t pay for school until you know whether you’ll be able to stand the schedule.

If you work for Transocean save as much as you can and during the next downturn, if you get laid off and want to go deck side instead of drilling, go to SUNY Maritime. With your prior credits you might be able to do it in only 3 years.

You also might be able to get OS sea time while working as a Roustabout and Transocean would pay for the schooling necessary to get AB. Then you can start getting AB sea time for a 3rd mate upgrade and save yourself all that college tuition.

Great points

Fluent Portuguese at a time when the upper middle class in the US is bailing out to remote work from Portugal because of their cheap golden visas? You can make a lot more money if you find an angle there than you ever will at sea.