The short version is: I have no experience working on vessels-- what steps must I take to become a merchant mariner?
The long version: I am a college graduate (business) that is seeking a career change, and as someone who is single (and thus not tied down to anyone or anything) and has an affinity for oceans and travel, I have begun entertaining the idea of becoming a merchant mariner. Unfortunately, I know very little about the process, and by searching for information on the internet, I stumbled upon this forum.
I am interested in deck; my impression of the cons to this, are that deck jobs (generally speaking) are in less demand, career advancement is slower, and that the skills are less transferable to shore jobs–are these statements true? Either way, I am committed to deck, but I want to know all of the downfalls before I jump in.
With deck in mind, I am wondering what would be my best approach to beginning my career change. As a 4-year college graduate, I am turned off by the idea of going back and attending a maritime academy for time’s sake…but not totally opposed if it would be a better long-term move than the equivalent time in experience. Another option I’ve seen is an apprenticeship program through SIU: is this a popular route, and one that would prove wise for a long career? If so, is SIU the way to go, or are there other unions or programs that might be a better bet? If not, I haven’t really seen too many other ways into the sector. Is there a third route?
Finally, I am wondering what the career path is like for someone who begins as an unlicensed OS. Is obtaining licensing something that comes more difficult for those who begin through an apprenticeship (vs a maritime academy)? Are the licensing procedures, themselves, akin to attending the academy in terms of their rigor and duration? I just want to assure myself that I will be able to reach the goals my ambition has set for me…
If you’ve read all of that, I sincerely appreciate your time and patience with me, even if you don’t respond. Any comments or feedback are welcomed. This is not something I’m taking lightly, and also not something I’m looking to do tomorrow … as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve only recently begun pondering this.