Is joining the Coast Guard a way to obtain 3rd mate license?

Hello, I am a high school senior who has been admitted to a state academy for deck program. I got interested in pursuing a profession in the merchant marine about two months ago. It was too late for me to apply to the USMMA as I missed the deadlines of my state’s congressmen, representative and senators, for their congressional nomination. My parents are paying for my college, but they don’t want to spend money for attending a maritime academy as marchent marine professions are not respected by people in my ethnic culture. I come from a high income household and am unlikely to receive generous financial aid from a state university.

Joining the military is an option that I am also considering after high school graduation. I looked at Boatswain’s Mate in the Coast Guard and I was wondering if BM’s experience counts towards testing for third mate license. If the military experience counts, is it better to enlist, get licensed, and use GI Bill for a different college degree? Or should I attend the academy I got admitted to by taking out loans if I have to (for in-state cost of attendance) and graduate from there? Or wait a year to apply to the USMMA?

According to their website you have until February 1st. I don’t know all the ins and outs of your situation but there are other states that don’t use their quota. If you are that interested in that institution don’t give up until you are out the running for sure. Start the application process and contact the school.

If you’re grades are excellent, you’re a top performer, and you think you have a real chance at appointment to USMMA, why don’t you just wait a little bit and apply there when you can? If you TRULY want to be a third mate and go to sea, and mom and dad refuse to help you, then yeh, go for the USMMA. Student loans incurred at state maritime academies SUCK. Ask me how I know? Avoid them as much as you can.

Please do not use it as a backup springboard to get into finance, real estate, government contracting, flying jets for the military, or some other fucked up improper usage of taxpayer money which is meant to train merchant marine officers…


It doesn’t matter what the academy’s application deadline is. Nothing matters if he can’t get a congressional nomination, which is a legal (CFR) requirement for an appointment. Nomination application deadlines passed months ago now.

But really getting into USMMA is a shot for everybody. If you really want it, take out the loans. Easy for me to say as a USMMA grad, but if you want to be a 3rd Mate then do it. Make sure you cadet ship with OSG, Crowley, or MSC and make sure you get a Tanker PIC endorsement. Remember that your cadet ship is the most important part of your academy experience. Those 3 companies treat the cadet ship as a real life interview and will either secure you a position or destroy you. If you get the 3/M position at either of those 3 paying off your loans will be the least of your concerns. I know a lot of people in that situation and they’re doing very well.


Student loans are a gigantic shameful scam and I cannot in good conscience tell any young person to take them. DO NOT DO IT.

Get into USMMA. Or work your ass off part time while you are at a state school in order to take zero or minimum loans.


So is joining the USCG a good idea or not?

Sure it’s a decent idea, in the long view. You could do a 4 year bit with the coasties in a qualifying rate like BM or QM and come out with some sea time to put towards a mate/AB ticket…you certainly won’t get to Third Mate with any kind of speed that way. But a young person may need 4 years of coastie grunt work to straighten themselves out anyways. Depends on the person.

Army Waterborne is an option as well. They train their soldiers under the merchant mariner training/licensing system and produce mariners who can transition seamlessly to the civilian sector. Assuming the Army didn’t cancel the whole works like they were threatening to do last year?


If your goal is just to be a 3rd Mate then I think it’s pretty safe to say enlisting in the USCG isn’t the direct way to that.

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The most direct route is a Maritime academy.
As stated earlier if you have to take loans (I did) when you get out you should be able to pay them off with no trouble. You are investing in your future.
Good luck!

I served in the Coast Guard as a Boatswain Mate. It is only good for the sea time. Some of the seamanship skills carry over but in reality it’s a completely different job. NMC usually gives you 60% of the sea time listed on your DD214.

As far as a state school. I did that also to get a license. You shouldn’t think of it as merchant marine training. Think of it as getting a degree which also comes with a license. Don’t worry about what you were admitted for, after you get there you can pursue any of the degrees they offer.

Your parents should realize that service academies consistently rank in the top 10 for mid career salaries. A relatively small percentage of graduates ship out after graduation and a lot that do, only do it for a few years.

Right. Even as a KP grad I believe SUNY and Texas A&M have the best networks in the shipping business located near the 2 biggest shoreside shipping job centers. At that point it’s just geographic preference.

If you attend TAMUG and do license option, you pay in state tuition. TAMUG would be reality less expensive than Maine and Mass.

I have had some pretty good luck with the KP placement service through the years.

I got a 200GT near coastal Masters license and AB Limited after serving on an 87’ & 210’ over 4 years. Boatswains Mate 2nd Class. The GI Bill did pay for most of my CM/M courses. If you want to serve your country like a real seaman, and you aren’t in a rush, do some time in the military. :grinning:

Congressional interviews were over a few months ago. If you were strong in grades and competed in sports as a leader, Brush up on math (Calculus) . And try next year for USMMA. It is a crapshoot whether you get in or not. Otherwise, try the state schools now to get a leg up seeing that you were already accepted. All the state schools will help you obtain a Third mate license. About 4 yrs. Not always about the money, it’s the commitment.

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The money will come later. Wait for it. At least get started, NOW young person.
You can still attend a state school and apply for USMMA the following year. Sure it will take a year more, but save you and your folks buckets of cash.

IF you get accepted to Usmma. Big if, lot of competition for those spots.

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Not really, there aren’t that many applicants there and many of them are people that want to go to Annapolis that couldn’t get in. Some of the people that have been accepted there make me question their admissions department.

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As an after thought, you can apply for USCG Academy. Check out their website. Same or similar requirements. Both USMMA, USCG are full rides. Suny , Mass, and Maine Maritime are not. You will have to pay a bit. But all are D# 3 schools in sports. You will get a license, a degree, and a reserve commitment if you like. Can’t lose whatever path you take. And if good in sports, have a bit of fun.

That’s actually a brilliant idea. Maybe even do an at-sea deployment after graduation before shipping out commercial.