Just starting-Need advice

I’m looking into getting my STCW Basic safety, TWIC, etc. to start my career. My ultimate goal is to become and officer/Captain on cargo ships. I decided to climb through the ranks instead of attending maritime school basically because I’m ready to get started, travel (make some money), I’m more of a hands on learner and don’t feel like sitting in class for the next 4 years. I’m also enrolling into online classes for a degree in Logistics management. However, I’ve noticed on here that its hard getting a job on a cargo ships as an ordinary/Able seaman through unions. I have the option of trying to get on with a tow/barge company since I live close to the Mississippi (but this wont help me get to my ultimate goal) and also Great Lakes but I would much rather get a job on a cargo ship since this will better prepare me for a job as a third mate on cargo ships. However, Its seems by time I have enough sea time to advance to third mate unlimited it will be A LOT more time than four years. Even if I get a contract I’m not guaranteed another one. My question is, am I choosing the best route? I don’t want to start this route and it will take way too long to get a third mates license.

[B]I think you answered your own question and I personally think that the best route is to attend a Maritime Academy. I am currently attending one so I may be a little biased but here’s my opinion.
Either way you go there are STCW certs and requirements you need for a 3/m Unlimited Oceans license. There are also additional courses later on in the license pathway. Going to a Maritime Academy will get you the sea time, references, STCW courses, and license prep you need for the 3/m license. All the classes are realitively hands on and prep you for the seven tests (I heard rumor of adding an eighth) you will take to get your license. There is something to working your way up through the ranks through, you will have a great understanding of what your AB and OS’s do and may gain some respect from them but do realize that at some point you will be going to school anyways to get those STCW courses. It is hard to get on to the ships because your first job is based off of who you know and the rest are because you are good at your job. At Maritime Academies you will get an internship on board a ship and will make connection that will eventually lead to a job. Working on the river is a great option also, after only a small number of trips you can get your federal pilotage for the Mississippi and work your way up to Master on the river. While its not the big cargo ships you see in Long Beach or Oakland they still carry valuable commerce through the country. And you’re right, working your way up will take much more than four years. Plus when you finally get your 3/m license, you will be competing for jobs with young, sharp people right out of the Academies where they were given four years of focused training who also have completed internships on those ships and have made connections. If you just want to get there, your route, with dedication, will get you there and you’ll be making a little money along the way. If you want to fast track and be there in four years then an Academy is where you belong.

One of the guys I’m in school with was an AB for several years and he said without going to an Academy making the jump from AB to 3/m is extremely difficult. Even more so on US flagged ships. All 90 of em. My advice to you go to an Academy. There is one in Mane, Mass, NY (two), Texas, Calif, and the Great Lakes. Most have closed their applications for this next year. If you want to go to an academy and can’t get in this year, take all the general education courses listed on the major course lists now, transfer them in and you could get out in 3 years.

Hope this helps, and like I said this is only my opinion.