Considering the industry

I am currently 28, considering a career change, and doing research into the maritime industry. I’ve been looking into both MITAGS and SUNY Maritime’s 3 year program, but would want as much information as possible before making a firm commitment. The information I have found through these schools has been helpful, but I get nervous that the career prospects they pitch are best case scenario upon graduating.I also notice that it is fairly general (they will say a 3rd mate can be expected to earn X amount, but do not really specify what segment of the industry -ex. Tug, Cruise etc.). I am willing to work hard and put my time in to get a foothold in the industry, but would be apprehensive to go into debt in order to take a possible pay-cut for a significant period of time. Can anyone give me any insight into what a newly minted 3rd mate can expect? From what I have seen from job boards pay and schedules vary wildly (some will be equal vacation - days worked, while others will be 6 months on, with 10 weeks off, which I consider to be a significant difference). Is there any resource that anyone could recommend for me to research specific industry sectors, to get an better understanding of what they are like?

Looks like you’ve done a fair share of research. Most of what you mentioned is accurate. There is a large variance in schedules, pay, work type, etc. between companies. The job market isn’t what it used to be. Not saying that there isn’t any jobs, you just can’t be picky. Other things to consider are being away from home, family life, and other things of that matter. I’m an academy grad and there are some days I wish I would have hawsepiped, while other days I’m grateful for the education I received. With that being said, you won’t know unless you try it. I would recommend giving the industry a shot at an entry level position to see if you like it before diving into an academy (deciding on an academy a whole other discussion). There is a lot to think about but for me, I am overall very happy with my career the maritime industry.

Agree with Laker 16. You have done some research, and that’s a good thing. It all, in my case depends on the company you get with. Pay is all across the board, but the benefits matter more, much more in the long term. I hawsepiped my way up, my son took the Academy route. What’s the difference you may ask? There is a very small market for retired Tugboat Captains without a college degree. I wasn’t looking for a job when I retired from a really good company, but if I were , a degree in something other than basket weaving would have helped. My son sailed for a few years and had an unfortunate medical condition. His education and degree saved his bacon. You can make a very decent living going to sea, but have a backup plan. Good luck sir.


In today’s world of STCW it’s far more time and cost efficient to go to the academy than to attempt to hawsepipe. Plus, OS/Wiper jobs are scarce

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Capt Phoenix, you are absolutely correct. Perhaps I used too many words. But that is my story and sticking to it. That great company I worked for? They were the largest Jones Act oil carrier in the nation at one time. They thru many mistakes in management have systematically reduced this great fleet of almost forty boats and barges to about 4 high quality rigs, thus my advice. Get a degree, pay yourself first , and have a good back up plan. Your wife and children depend on it, The companies, as much as they say they care, don’t. The Maritime industry for me was rewarding, but the ups and downs were very challenging. There is always another company waiting in the background to take that coveted spot. Be ahead of that. It can be very costly if you sit on past laurels. As I said to the young fellow before, get a decent degree that is marketable, and sail if you like, you can make a nice living but beware of what it may cost you,

The MITAGS/PMI 3rd Mate program is for 3rd Mate and OICNW, it’s a larger tonnage version of their “workboat” program. It’s 3 years (maybe a bit less), the academies take at least 4 (3 for the master degree program). The MITAGS/PMI program isn’t really traditional hawsepipe. It’s more like an academy without the regiment or college degree.

zapbrother, only consider hawspiping if you want to work on smaller vessels or on inland pushboats AND if you have a degree in something else already. At 28, I’m sure you know how important a degree is if you don’t have one. If anyone who was close to me told me they wanted to make this their career with only a H.S diploma I would do my best to talk them out of it & tell them to focus on a degree in something first.

Do not overlook AMO’s - two year - third engineer unlimited program.

I appreciate all of the responses

When you say that I should try get some sea time before I apply to or enroll in an academy/mitags, how long would you recommend I do that for? Would time skippering a charter boat or working on deck at on a super yacht count? I have limited experience in that area, and think I would be able to earn a few dollars more than what I have been seeing O/S would make - my top priority prior to paying any tuition was going to be saving as much money as possible.

And can you provide more insight into industry job prospects? The mitags website makes it appear as though people on the industry are hitting retirement age, and that younger people are needed in the, and could work there way up - is this not the case? I can be skeptical when I read admissions info, because they are trying to sell something, so I’m hoping to get a more honest assessment here.

Once again, thank you to everyone who answered for your time and help

The Marine School here are by far the best way to go if you can. Not everybody can.
Not sure what the Market is in the US, I’m from North of 49. The sales pitch sounds accurate for here.
I did the marine school back in the day out of high school no degree just a licence, I don’t know what you need to be a basket weaver. I might be qualified as a Wall mart Greeter. If I could learn not to scoul and swear at people.
Still I had a Mates ticket in less than 4 years. I was young 17 so I could get by with little or no money for a few years.
My son is doing the engine room program. he makes less than minimum wage but he will come out as An Engineer this summer. he is young and its not a problem. The experience he has gained was well worth it.m

How’s it fit your life, it will cost some, His program was 8g for the first year 5 each for the next two.

I don’t know the US market, I know here we take Cadets on pay them peanuts and they get about half the sea time required, Some go on to crus ships or the lakes or where ever.
We do this in the hope they will go see a bit of the wider world and realise what we offer is pretty good. Come back with some experience.
We get some your age and even a couple 10 years older.

We also encourage our own guys to climb the hawespipe. It will take 10 years longer, You will get an entry level job relieving on call seasonally when we are short, We are short more now so couple of seasons you might get full time. DH. Your going to need 3 full 365 year days . Before you are eligible for a licence, Half the time you will be on restricted vessels where the sea time doesn’t count for STCW. But you will make 25 or 30 bucks an hour. You can live on that support a family.

I think we pay less than the US, 3rd Mate ball park 35 an hour. You will make a bit more on the Lakes or in the Oil Patch.

Cruise ships pay less than us, Mostly Europeans, Most of them get big tax breaks. They say its fun when your single. Wouldn’t know never did it.

Is it worth it.
Old saying “Kind of like being in jail with the added risk of drowning”.

I been doing it for 40 years. I still like it.

Most of the cadets who did some of thier time with us would get hired in a second if they apply. One or two didn’t work out so well.
The only problem is they get good offers from the other companies as well.
This last couple of years some deck program guys have had trouble getting placements. The engineers all got placed.

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Seatime on a yacht or charter boat might count, might not, depends on sise and where. You would have to check.
I know people who have worked yachts. Not sure how much it would help decide if it’s a life choice. I suspect life on a yacht is a quite a bit different.
Some marine school guys drop out, it’s not a life for everyone.

I don’t remember anyone I knew regretting it even when they dropped out. As life’s experience goes. Most though it was good to have tried even if it wasn’t for them.
I dropped out myself, or quite deep sea, for lunch bucket, when I had more reason to stay home.

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If I had to do it all over again the 4yr maritime school is the way to go, you can hawsepipe it but its getting tougher. I started end of 2001 and have seen a lot of change in the industry, both good and bad. Ask yourself if you want to be away 200+ days a yr, its tough on families / relationships. The money is ok but if you start looking around theres still a lot of shoreside jobs that with a 4yr degree smoke a 3rds salary.

It depends on what you are using for a “3rds salary”. Few jobs will make 100-130 a year working 6 months a year ever, let alone 1-3 years out of college. Granted, this is most likely a union job.

What degree do you have, original poster? SUNY’s program gives you a masters, and I know two mates that have done it. You can save money if you are from the area and can live off campus. MITAGS gets the same license, but no masters degree (which may be useless anyway).

AMO has the engineering program, as mentioned above.

I know a few marine engineers that ship that are often disappointment by the salaries they are offered to work ashore compared to what they make in the unions shipping.

Most of what a sailor gets paid for is being onboard and away from home.

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Right. If an office job is 8-hours a day, and a 3rd’s job means he’ll be onboard for 24-hours a day, that 6-months-a-year equates to 540 office days.

Thank you again for all of the replies.

I have an accounting/business degree. I travel quite a bit for my current job, and have gotten used to being away from home and working more than the standard 40 hour work week. What I found appealing about the maritime industry, other than the fact that I’ve always enjoyed my time on the water, is that when a person who has been away on a ship comes home they get to spend their time ashore off of work and doing whatever they would like (not in a home office). I have no dreams or expectations of 100-130 as a 3rd, as someone referenced above, but what worries me is that websites like will post listings for tug captains (not mates) for $50,000 a year, who are expected to be on the ship 8 months a year. I have nightmares about sinking money into a maritime degree/apprenticeship, and coming away in a position like that, and haven’t been able to find what realistic salary/schedules recent graduates can expect anywhere.To me there is a fairly big difference in being away 6 months vs being away 8.

As far as PMI/MITAGS vs. SUNY:

From what I have looked, it appears that apprentices at PMI/MITAGS, are able to earn at least a few dollars back when at sea, and Baltimore definitely has a lower cost of living than the Bronx. Would it be naive to think that it would be possible to break into the industry with a MITAGS apprenticeship, and get the 34 masters credits during my time off of the boat once I start working, if I were to want to go back ashore one day? I definitely get the appeal of getting a Masters degree, but does that come in handy when you are not working ashore? Is pay higher for a mate if they also have their masters?

I know that is a long read, and poorly written, but if anyone was able to get through and give me some advice I would be extremely grateful

Most of the people that make these comments that I have run across have usually not worked a 100k+ salaried shore side job.

Getting the pay for “being onboard and away from home”…there are very many jobs that require being away from home. I worked an industry where I was gone 3-4 months at a time working 7 day, 12hr days. And I had to commute 1+ hours each way from a crap motel, worry about washing my clothes, pay/prep my food (I did get some per diem). Working on a ship with a 3 minute walk, no food costs, etc is a pleasure compared to it.

Or take the supposed 9-5 job, salaried…that really isn’t 9-5 but approx 50-60hours a week, plus phone calls/emails at night and weekend. 2 weeks of vacation a year, no pension, and 2-3 hours in a car/bus/train commuting each day, gotta pay for lunch (and breakfast/dinner). And the pay is 90-100k.

I know multiple people that went to sea from land (mostly engineers) and they love it, because they know what it’s like on land. Also, I’ve met a few people wanting to go shoreside that are shocked they get job offers at a power plant for 80-95k for 50weeks a year when they are a chief earning nearly double that at sea with much better benefits/retirement.

For the orig poster, I think you will likely enjoy the different lifestyle at sea. But I heard getting into MM&P union as a mate is pretty brutal right now. And the union deep sea jobs tend to be the high paying jobs.

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Doesn’t mean a thing on the water. At one point, I was on a ship where 4 of the 5 deck officers had Master’s degrees. The payscale is the payscale. Doesn’t matter what degree or school or license you held, it’s whatever license you’re signed on as.

This doesn’t meant the Master’s degree is useless shoreside. I have one, but am still sailing, so it’s doing me no good at this moment. But if you want to go shoreside, it definitely looks better. I wouldn’t waste time by doing both the MITAGS program and then going back for the Masters. Pick one and stick with it.

Having been shoreside and sailed I have seen both sides and it all depends on where one is in one’s career. After sailing for many years it was not very difficult to get a shoreside job in the shipping business that paid as much as sailing but it meant I was away living at shipyards. With the per diem, living expenses paid for and other benfits it actually paid me more than shipping. However, I’m not sure that is repeatable nowadays especially for a young engineer. Unless you are in one of the ever shrinking union protected jobs you will be competing with people from other countries with the same or better qualifications. Many people from European countries enjoy tax free income once they are away from home for a few months so they can afford to take a lower salary than someone from the USA which does not offer the same benefits for their mariners thus the net income for them does not have to be as high to be competitive. Sailing as an engineer does expose you to more experience than you’d likely get shoreside and you can accumulate a lot of money if you are wise and have a wise mate or are single. My suggestion to any new person entering the marine industry is do it only if you think you’d enjoy the work. There is little ‘see the world’ opportunity unless you like seeing airports and no foreign port time to speak of any more unless you work for MSC and that’s an entire other can of worms.