DPO - how to start?


I have been reading this forum and other sites about DP jobs and I’m confused. I am a computer science graduate. I found DP operators to be better paid than software engineers while working much less time. Is that really true? I am thinking now about moving to this profession. Please tell me what is the approximately salary a DPO can earn? Is it difficult for someone like me to get into it?

We have a computer science grad come to us from IBM and he seems to be doing an excellent job. Getting hired is all about contacting the recruiters at the right time. Staying on is all about opening your up to learn a new profession. The fatal flaw I see some make is coming into a DP room with a degree like yours and being too vocal about your abilities. You background will serve you well 2+ years down the road but your primary goal upon arrival should be to learn how WE do things.

I don’t mind learning. I know that I am a total greenhorn right now and I have to learn a completely new profession. That’s not a problem, I am willing to learn. What I am most interested in is, is this profession really so lucrative that I should resign from my current job and launch myself into seafaring?

I don’t mind long periods at sea. In fact I find it better than evenings and weekends in office when the system I code doesn’t work because there is some bug in a component created by someone else and I have to stay until I find that bug.

In fact I know a little this profession since some members of my family work on bulk cargo and container ships. The pay is good, comparable to what a good software developer gets. Before college I considered seafaring but computers seemed better then. Now I see that seafaring can be a really cool job and even better paid than what I chose.

I would like to know the opinion from the IBM guy as well. This is a great company. After IBM you can get very good jobs in IT. Everyone would be impressed if I had such an experience. Why did the guy choose DP?

Hey Wanabe, these links should answer your questions:

[Hawsepiper Jobs and Pay

[URL=http://gcaptain.com/maritime/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=138" title=“Jobs with Edison Couest Offshore]Edison Chouest Jobs](http://gcaptain.com/maritime/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=30” title="Hawsepiper Crossover)

I suspect he joined for the same reasons you’re considering moving from IT to a life at sea? He is a member of this forum… so I’ll let him answer you directly.

Thanks for the links, John.

I would really like to know the opinion of the IBM guy.

So, how to start this? Which courses should I go? Can I go directly for a DPO assistant, JDPO or DPO position or should I get some sea experience first as an ordinary seaman?

Thanks for your inputs.

DPWannabe-What kind of money are you thinking you would get paid? I do not know much about the rigs or drillships. I know they have some unlicensed DPO’s working, but in my opinion not having a Coast Guard license narrows the number of companies that would hire you. All DPO’s should have a Coast Guard license. I am not debating whether this makes you a better DPO or not, I am just saying this is the way it should be. If you can stand possibly breaking out and working as an OS and then AB and then Mate. That would be my suggestion. The deal Transocean/Santa Fe with their DPO’s seems pretty damn good too. I am just unsure what their willingness to hire someone to be DPO with no prior MARINE experience at all. There are only two weeks of classroom training involved in being a DPO. You complete the basic DP class. Then return to your vessel for at least 30 days of supervised training during which time you complete seagoing familiarization training. i.e. setting the vessel up on DP, alarm monitoring, reference systems, power failure, etc. After being signed off on each level you attend the advanced DP class. Then you return to the vessel and complete I believe 180 days then send your book in to the Nautical institue and BAM!!! You are a DPO. Not much to it. Ridiculous, but that’s it. If you were to go OS to AB to Mate to Master, depending on type of licensing you are looking at about a 6-10 year road respectively to get to the top of the licensing scheme. That is being ultra aggressive. One screw up, and I mean one screw up and you are history. I know that is being melodramatic, but sometimes there is a lot at stake. Either way you go, if you are going to want to make this a career you WILL have to get a license of some sort. If you do this at a minimum you will have to get your MMD (Merchant Mariners Document) and a TWIC (Transportation Workers Identification Credential). So you could start there. Talk to some companies. This should get you started. You will find out the more questions you ask, the more questions you will have.


Lee, you should be a preacher!!! Hallelujah, praise jesus!! Lee has spoken. A guy with a four year degree, and your suggestion is to start out as an OS…LOL. DPwannabe,just be lucky that you’re not a astronaut 'cause Lee would have you in the galley roll’n up napkins.


" I am just unsure what their willingness to hire someone to be DPO with no prior MARINE experience at all." for better or for worse the answer is Pretty High

Thanks for the inputs guys.

So being a DPO is not as easy as it seems. Ok, I have to think about it again.

I am just curious how the IBM guy mentioned earlier by John got into the DP world. Was he an OS too for a couple of years?

We can write some sort of FAQ for people who want to start seafaring. I thnik Capt. Lee’s information about licensing and career levels can be very valuable for newbies (N.U.Bs?).


N.U.B. synopsis,

From start to finish if one really applies oneself it can be done in 10 years from bottom to top [Unlimited Master or Unlimited Chief]. You can spend 4 years in a maritime school and come out as 3rd engineer/3rd mate or you can go the hawsepipe route and start at the bottom, studying on your own and passing the exams as you qualify for them. The USA is the only country I know of with a “limited” license which will allow you to progress quickly to a good paying job in a few years with relatively little formal training; this can be a good way to go and you can move up from there. So the bottom line is; if you want to make a career at sea you should be prepared to make a long term commitment and be willing to put forth quite a bit of effort. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it! No one is going to feed you everything you need to know with a spoon but most are willing to help you along the way. We need committed professionals badly and the demand is going to go up as global trade increases.

Guest Engineer

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In Capt. Lee’s post: “Not much to it. Ridiculous, but that’s it.” Well the part he left out is getting a company to agree to hire you as an “OJT DPO” and pay for that schooling and pay you while you are not filling your own slot on the watchbill but rather under instruction on a qualified DPO’s watch. Am I correct??

I’ve got a Master 1600grt/3000itc, Second Mate AGT, both Upon Oceans. I’m willing to pay for the training, but that still doesn’t make me a qualified DPO and that is what the job announcements are ALWAYS asking for. As I search and search for jobs more and more I see companies wanting their Masters/Mates to be DPOs. I read something about future cargo ships and tankers having DP capability so as to do position moves up to and away from the pier and on Discovery Channel I see that the new Virginia Class Fast Attack Submarine has DP - in 3 dimensions! Probably why the Navy converted all the Submarine Quartermasters to Electronic Techs - sort of like having an unlicensed DPO in the civilian world.

Anyone who knows a drillship company willing to throw me a bone, please share.

Jeffrox- I was referring to the classroom training to become a DPO. The real training is on the vessel. I totally agree with you and have no idea why a company would want to hire someone not only with no DP experience, but no experience being a mariner.

Guest-Yes I do suggest that he start as an OS even with a degree. I think he may have the potential to be a great DPO, but I think (Which my opinion counts for crap. I know that) he would have a better career path if he were to have or be willing to get a USCG license. That’s all. If he wants to be a DPO cool. I feel like being a DPO without licensing is like being a cook. No where else to go. OK I am a DPO and welcome to the next 30-40 years of my life as a DPO, until he gets outsourced to a professional indian DPO who has a PHD in electronics and works for 50 bucks a days.

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Wana, transocean does and will hire non mates as dpo’s. They have too because they are too big of a company and have too many open slots not to. This will get worse when the newbuilds start coming out late this year. So call them up, tell them your experience and ask for a DP job. If they say no then as for an ET job, if they still say no then ask for a seaman’s job. Once you get aboard ship as a seaman spend at least 2 hours per day in DP reading the manuals and I guarantee you’ll have the dpo jpb in 6 months. There are just too many new ships coming out not to hire you.


Great! Thanks for the information guest. So there is a possibility to get into DP world without starting everything from scratch.

However, I think Capt. Lee is right. If I want a successful career at sea , sooner or later I’ll have to get a license. It will give me more opportunities. But I will try your suggestion guest. Thanks.


Here I found interesting sites about offshore jobs. However, most hiring companies are European.





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“So being a DPO is not as easy as it seems. Ok, I have to think about it again.” “I found DP operators to be better paid than software engineers while working much less time. Is that really true? I am thinking now about moving to this profession.”

DPWannabe - If all you are looking for is the easy way out and a big check please don’t come to the offshore oil industry. Not only are there skill requirements for the job of DPO but the responsibility level is tremendous. If a DPO isn’t doing his job he can rip a well head off the ocean floor on a live well and cause a massive oil spill thousands of feet below the surface. Causing a disconnect with incompetence may only cost you your job but it will cost the oil company millions (maybe even billions) of dollars. Disconnecting at the right time can save the same. You can kill people by not doing the job properly in an emergency. A professional DPO makes the job look easy because he’s aware of what’s going on and trained to react immediately before things get bad. Whatever course you decide on for a career think about how it will affect others and not only your bottom line.


My motivation is not easy money. I don’t find DPO profession as being easy. I know that there is a huge responsibility because of the millions of dollars and people’s life involved. As I wrote in my previous posts I am willing to learn and I am aware of the fact that I am a greenhorn. I know that beyond theoretical knowledge, DPOs have to posses practical skills that they acquire only through experience. If I decide that this is what I want to do I will definitely put my effort to be a good DPO if not best.

I am interested in seafaring in general and in offshore jobs in particular. I find this profession attractive because you have long holidays, non-static (like in office) duties and you don’t have to chase the technology like I have to if I want to be competitive on the market. It really can be frustrating when you learned one design methodology or one complex programming framework but in a few months there is yet another better, faster, more advanced framework and you have to learn almost everything again. What is more frustrating, you know that if you stay in this kind of job you will constantly be learning yet another technology or programming framework in order to be competitive and attractive to the employers - all your life. I would even accept that (because I am really interested in technology) if it wasn’t changing so fast leaving my skills outdated if I don’t keep up. There is a constant progress in dynamic positioning systems as well DP1, DP2, DP3 but it is not at such a pace like in IT. Besides differences between DP1 and DP2 are not so dramatic and hard to learn comparing to changes in new releases of programming tools or APIs.

There is obviously money factor which I find very appealing in offshore oil industry. You can earn much more than an experienced software developer. Combining all these factors you can clearly see why I am considering a career change.

DPWANNABE- Don’t be discouraged. I wish you the best of luck. All you need is to find a company willing to take you on as a trainee. You need to be convincing. To do that I think it would be more effective to do the convincing in person. Good Luck!


It’s funny to me, really, how those who have a Coast Guard license are so adamant about DP operators having a deck license. Where was this when everything was done on anchors? DP is only an electronic version of being anchored, but I didn’t see captains crying when it took a walk out of the bridge to the winch house…lol!!!
I didn’t want to be a DP operator. Some executive made it my job to save cost. Not my choice, but some welcome this with open arms while cargo and stability calculations are put on the back burner…funny.
A DP operator should be a stand alone profession with the technical background needed to troubleshoot circuits and PLCs.


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<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt]<font face=“Times New Roman” size=3>The Full Bug</font></P>
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<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt]<font size=3><span style="font-family: Times New Roman;]<span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>You can enter the DP field, but it will be hard unless you know someone. DPO positions are starting to spring up everywhere, but most of the companies want experienced hands. The good news is that the Oil Field is starting to churn out DP rigs left and right. They are going to require new people. So while you may be able to get in as a trainee, your salary will be less. I suggest shooting for an E.T. slot first. They generally make the same salary. Currently my company is paying us just over $100k/yr. Most companies are close to this figure. If you go overseas, there is a 25% bonus. You receive compensation for travel and training. The schedules can vary from 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off, to 3 on, 4 on, depending on which company and what location. Typically you work a 12 hour shift. This varies from company to company. A good point is that it is a permanent position. There are not many places to move up, unless you have a marine license. </span></font></P>
<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt]<font size=3><span style="font-family: Times New Roman;]<span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>I have to agree with the statement about marine licensed personnel wanting DPO’s to have Mates licenses. Most Mates want to be Masters, not DPO’s. This leaves companies having to constantly train new people and well as leaving them with lack of experienced people. It takes years for a DPO to gain real world experience. A Mate moving up the ladder is not going to stay in that position for any given amount of time. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>Sorry, but I worked for a company that put Mates in DPO slots. Every drive off we had was with a mate at the controls. I fault the company because they did not give them adequate training or bother to see if the particular person had good computer/electronics skills. Another factor was they were thinking with their nautical mind and not their electronics mind. </span></font></P>
<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt]<font size=3><span style="font-family: Times New Roman;]<span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>A DPO is a system control technician. While a good foundation in nautical skills is a requisite, an electronics/computer background is a must. Marine officers must be knowledgeable in many areas, not an expert in all areas. The Masters I have worked with have a solid background in DP, but let the DPO’s do their job when the situation calls for it. Much as you would not see a Master trying to tell a Chief Engineer how to work on an engine. The officers I have worked with through the years are some of the brightest people I have the pleasure of knowing. Well…not all of them. While I would turn to them for their nautical knowledge, I would not let them work on my computer. </span></font></P>
<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt]<font size=3><span style="font-family: Times New Roman;]<span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>I have been a DPO for 13 years now. I have a degree in Computer Engineering. I have no marine license. All of the DPO’s I work with have a similar electronics background. While I’m sure some may argue, I state that these types of people are best for the job. You only have to go to the Dynamic Positioning Committee web site to see that the leaders of this profession are all engineering and electronics men. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes] </span>While a licensed position is not a bad thing, having the Coast Guard oversee it just scares me to death. They seem to have little interest or experience in DP. Each time we have an inspection they never even look at our DP equipment. Currently the Nautical Institute oversees DPO training. However, it is up to the companies to ensure that their people have the correct skills and training to perform their duties. </span></font></P>

Very nice. I never quite looked at it that way.