I’d suggest applying for everything that you can, as soon as you can.
The few dollars for a consultant and application fees is a trivial expense. You’ve already spent the big money on STCW courses.
At some point, the US license system is going to get simplified again probably by phasing out all the trade restricted licenses, especially the OSV licenses. They’ll probably give most of the OSV guys a grandfathered 10,000 GRT license with no trade restrictions.
The USCG will entually realize that an easy way to reduce its work load and costs is to change from only giving everyone the 3rd Mate exam to all the small Mate’s, but then issuing a bunch of smaller Mate licenses, to eliminate all the small Mate licenses and only issue 3rd Mate with a tonnage limit, probably 1600 or 10,000.
The way things are headed. There will be very few new mates that don’t come out of an academy with an unlimited 3rd anyway. Workboat Acedemy and probably more programs like it may produce some mates.