I sent an email to all but one of the Maritime Academies to get their take on my age, BA and MS degrees, and desire to enter the Maritime Industry (and I’m still keeping my SIU apprenticeship program option open, too). I know this is potentially death by analysis, but at my age I really want this to be “it.” Anyway, got this back from Texas A&M Maritime Academy, and it sounds well though out and reasonable:
Is a master’s degree possible at age 57 through our campus? Absolutely. To pursue the license, you would need to enroll in a graduate program here at the Galveston Campus. You’ll apply to be a graduate student at Texas A&M University- Galveston Campus AND apply to become a cadet in the Texas A&M Maritime Academy. Given your education and professional background (unless you’re looking to move away from computers and/or software engineering), I would encourage you to consider the Masters of Maritime Business Administration and look for courses in cybersecurity that you could take as directed electives. Someone with the understanding of what the threat environment looks like from an attack or prevention perspective, as well as how that could manifest on a vessel in operations, would be a real boon to an organization. As someone with the master’s degree that I’m recommending (the cyber courses weren’t available when I graduated), this is EASILY accomplished for someone with your background.
As my wife points out, while the pay is a lot better than unlicensed OS/AB, there is the cost of not working during the years of study, and likely substandard health insurance throught the school.
Anyway, I’d like to get your all’s thoughts on their suggestion. Thanks!
I’ll give it a shot. What is driving your actual desire to enter the industry? A master’s degree is not an insignificant investment in both time or money. Is your interest in the industry derived from a need for better income, or just a pure desire to spend time on the water?
Read what you received from TMA again. Is a master’s degree possible at this age? Sure. But there was one sentence about the license, and the rest was about the course of study that leads you to a land-side job working business/cyber for a maritime company. It may be easier to land that land-side job with some operational experience at sea, but completely not required. Honestly, TMA probably highlighted this aspect of their program because if you are looking for a real return on investment, the higher pay would be behind a desk in the office than as a mate at sea. But is that what you are looking for?
I don’t know if I really agree with this admissions person’s perspective. I’ll give gem bonus points for being an alumni of their school which means they have a ton more understanding of a maritime academy then your run of the mill admissions counselor. So say you go through this program, MS degree, license and all, at that point in time you are now 60 when you finish. What do you want to do next?
Option 1) Get a job on a ship: I know ageism is protected against discrimination HOWEVER, this may come into play. Someone hiring you is going to see you as a green third mate, who they also have to worry just how long you’ll be around. Do you have any medical issues? It’s none of my business, but it may hinder you from passing a medical exam. Even if you pass the medical exam you’ll still have to meet various assessments by showing that you can perform certain tasks. Some of these can be physically challenging like firefighting and swimming for BST. Don’t take any of this personally maybe you’re in great shape for your age, maybe better shape then me, I can only go based on what I see as the “average” 60 year old. Now another job hunting problem after going to school, what if you can’t find a mate job right out of school, would you take a deckhand or AB job? A tug company might hire an academy grad as a deckhand or AB, put him on deck to see if he can bust his knuckles for a few months(or a few years) before moving him into the wheelhouse. Would you want to do that? Would the hiring manager want to do that(vs the dozen 21 year olds who sent in an application.)
Option 2) Get an office job at a maritime company leveraging your IT skills: You can already do that. In this case you might be better off working for some type of IT consulting firm. I don’t know of many maritime companies that have dedicated in-house IT security people. Either it doesn’t pay much as a regular entry level IT Job, or it pays well, but the “cyber security” part is a very small part of the broader Safety, Security, Environmental Management because it’s not really an IT job. Safety Managers in these positions usually have experience in the maritime industry, in some case sailing for the company for a few years before being promoted to an office role. In that case someone has to have a much better understanding of marine safety, environmental compliance, regulatory compliance, etc., rather then just IT security knowledge.
Is any of this doable? Yes everything is possible. Is it statistically likely, in my opinion no. Are there better options with similar work? Absolutely. For similar work that you could obtain right now without the degree and license rigamarole you could get a facility manager job for a company, school, hospital. If you really want to work on a boat, you might be better off going and getting a deckhand job anywhere rather than going to school. I encourage many people, even later that if they want to enter the industry or switch careers, that the MS degree with the license is a great option. I highly recommend it to people that come here and ask. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, and in your case I’m not sure if it would really benefit you.
I can echo LI_Domer - it has been more than a minute for me - but going to sea ( at least on tankers ) is a physical job. I am a bit older than you, in good shape. And not sure I could still do the job - at least as i remember it.
But not one to deny anyone their dream - if you want it bad enough - give it a go and dont let naysayers like me talk you out of it.
If it doesn’t work out, the future in shipping is on the IT/Information management side it is booming - this company is a good first call -Veson Nautical
Lil Domer is spot on. If it were me, I would seek ways to advance/enhance your present employment/education. . Not to discourage you, but perhaps a much easier path. Your lack of experience in the maritime industry will hinder you.more than you know or expect…Starting out as a green mate with degree is tough enough as a young person. At your age,it will be much tougher. No diiscrimination at all kind sir. I am of similar age, but retired at age 48.
We all know about “no age discriminations” law and all of that. On job interview nobody will ever say “you are too old to be hired as a 3rd mate/AE, because we prefer young guns who we train to our standards”. But all of them will think that. I am not saying you’ll never find a job, but it’s not going to be easy and quick.
Meanwhile, 57 or 58 is not a big difference. Maybe it makes sense to go to SIU program for now? In a few month they will send you to sea and by the time you graduate you’ll know for sure if Merchant marine is for you and have much more understanding and perspective.
That is always a good question, and one I think about often. Better income just isn’t going to happen, with a TS clearance and 25+ years as a software engineer, I have no complaints about that (and a fair about of imposter syndrome!).
Early on I started a list of pros/cons to try to figure out why this relatively sudden urge to “go to sea,” and I’m pretty sure some (a lot?) of it is romantic notions. But knowing that, I still am intent on it.
Only up to 3 or 4 months with same people/ship. <<< edit for thread: I really am pretty introverted. I can handle interpersonal relationships, friendships, etc., but that takes a ton of energy for me to do well; I am generally happier on my own.
Ability to see exotic ports of call, albeit without much time exploring them (couple hours at most, if at all).
Relatively mindless labor where I can daydream and still get the job done. <<< edit for this post: I am not making fun of the skills necessary, I am talking strictly from a complexity standpoint where I work on mentally hard things all day long, and remember my army days of physical labor requiring skills, but not deep complex problem solving. I truly am not saying what this might come across as!
Potential for month(s) off each year. <<< edit for thread: maybe not if in MSC, see my other thread
Away from home, although depending on length this is a con, too.
Excitement of doing something very new/different
When not working, can pursue creative things without being “mind-numb” and wanting to just watch TV until I pass out.
Physically demanding. Can my body handle it?
Wife potentially not having health insurance that is necessary for her problems.
Daughter potentially not having health insurance that is necessary for her Crohn’s.
Substantial pay cut.
My mom is older, and I might not be home if anything happens.
Our dog is older, might not be home if anything happens. <<< edit for thread: dog was just diagnosed with Cancer, told maybe 6 months with good quality of life left
If deep-sea and something happens to me, might be a long time before I can be taken to hospital. <<< edit for thread: I’m 57, so likely 58 on Phase 2 cruise if I go SIU apprenticeship, so health thoughts are starting to creep up on me
Not being home for months at a time, although depending on length this is a pro.
That is really keen observation on your part, thank you! It is definitely something for me to think about.
If I go SIU Apprenticeship route–provided they accept me and I pass–I’ll be getting a fair number of sea days, working towards unlimited AB. After the AB, is it possible to self-study for 3rd mate license? I’ve heard about hawspiping (sp?), and am very confident in my ability to learn on my own, but would the coast guard allow me to self-study for the license exam? Or is that not how that all works?
I had emailed a rep at MITAGs, too, and they did bring this up. Of course, they also told me a number of their graduates are working as ABs, so there’s that, too. If I put myself in a company’s shoes, I would have doubts of hiring an “elderly” gentleman like myself (good gods that sounds strange to say, growing old is very odd ); however, if they are hurting for licensed folk, then I’d hire me to at least have someone else, albeit for a shorter period of time. I wonder how many grads they get fresh out of a Maritime Academy who doesn’t stay very long?
No worries, I try not to take anything personally, and it is a correct consideration. I have other questions in other places about what work is really like on a ship for unlicensed deck positions. Answered ran the range from “it’s mostly sedentary” to “it breaks younger men!” to a woman chiming in saying she has no issues she just has to work smarter and not try to use brute strength for everything. So, pretty much no consensus.
Only reason I’m looking at MS degree is less of a chance of common core courses, and can concentrate on things of interest to me right away. Corps of Cadets makes me nervous, and I can’t imagine how that leadership would handle me in their ranks. Try to break me 'cause I don’t belong? Unfairly go easy on me? Or just treat me like everyone else?
The main reason I am looking into the Maritime Academies is to try to keep my salary at least somewhat close to what I’m making now. I’m definitely not looking to make more money than I am now, but I’d like it to be not laughingly less. My wife’s stuck with me for over 27 years, and I need to make sure her quality of life doesn’t suffer while I’m gone. It will be nice when I am home, I am really home, and not thinking about the next stressful workday, or what’s going to happen on Monday, etc. I can be fully in the moment with her every day without worry.
Thanks for your feedback and thoughts, I really appreciate it!
Yeah, 56k + housing/food, plus loss of salary while I’m doing it, is a really tough sell. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing it for a return on investment, but rather a different life, different experiences. If I was thinking about money, I would definitely not make a change at all.
I’m married, dude! (j/k of course ) I follow “Retired and Working For You” youtube channel about expats living in Thailand. Sounds like friggin’ heaven. If Martime doesn’t work out, I might push hard for job change to fully remote from anywhere in the world, even with large pay cut, and just become a nomad.
The damn youtubers never show you the super hard-on-you stuff! I’m positive there’s a lot of physically demanding stuff that needs doing.
Where you engine/deck/steward? Licensed?
My thought is my skills/experience as a software engineer would likely make me pretty employable if Martime doesn’t work out. It is a legitimate fall-back plan, I think.
Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look up Veson Nautical! I’ve also subscribed to a number of digital Maritime subscriptions, and look at the ads throughout and look into those companies to see what shore-side positions they offer. Most seem to be on-sight, though, and moving is likely out of the question.
A masters was a way to get my license, and it seems like the Maritime Academies might have a better outcome than MITAGS. The MITAGS person I had chatted with said a number of their graduates are sailing as ABs, which gave me pause.
I really wasn’t looking at engine for various reasons. Why do you say do not consider it?
I’ve seen new software engineers fresh out of college who really had no idea what they were doing. And the ego on them, OMGOMGOMG, so irritating. I totally understand what you’re saying!
Hehe, never thought I’d see the day when I’m called that! Too funny I barely got my BA decades ago, horrible grades, lazy, etc. I definitely wasn’t ready for the discipline it takes to excel at school back then. Decades later, many many years after being an Infantryman, I got my MS with a 4.0 GPA, so I guess I did finally get my act together, thank goodness.
Yeah, HR trained me back in the day of what questions/statements to avoid. I know they’ll never say anything that can come back to bite them (unless they just like talking).
I’ve known software engineers older than me who either shave off their beards or dye it and their hair, because ageism is really prevalent in the tech industry. Once you’re at a place and show you can produce, everything’s cool (of course).
I am really thinking hard about this. You are right, a year of my life getting trained in the apprenticeship program, and the Phase 2 and 4 ships, would likely give me a really good idea if this is how I want the rest of my life to look like. And it won’t have the $56k + room/board cost associated with another degree.
I wanted to thank everyone for your thoughtful replies. It has really helped me, although not to the point of having an answer for “what do I want to do when I grow up??”
For young folks following along and chuckling/laughing, pursue life and passions like it’s your job, because you blink and suddenly you’re “old” with potential regrets. Gods I really do sound old now
On tugs? The MITAGS program for Mate 500/1600 GRT has a bIt of a towing vessel focus, and it would noT be uncommon for a towing operator to put a new hire with a new mate license on deck for a period before moving them to the wheelhouse as Mate. I would ask why they are on deck, and for how long. It may be for a relatively short duration.