Getting started in merchant marine

I need advice about getting started in the merchant marine. I’ve been looking at mitags, but I’m not sure I can afford it, because I already have student loan payments. I’m somewhat of an unconventional new student- I’m almost 30, have a PhD (in oceanography), and am a woman. Is it unrealistic to make such a big life change at this point in my life? If I was younger and without monthly student loan payments already I would just suck it up and take out more loans, but not sure if it’s an option for me now. Any advice you could pass along would be much appreciated.

You can join NOAA Corps and work as an officer. They used to pay for STCW training. Maybe still have $?