MITAGS Apprenticeship Program - Yay or Nay

I’ve been browsing this forum and the internet for a few weeks and there really isn’t much info on MITAGS (specifically their unlimited apprenticeship program), so just wanted to ask some general questions as I am considering it.

It doesn’t seem like many have done this program, as I can only find threads and articles about people “considering” it with no results yielding someone who’s gone through it.

For reference, my end goal is to become a deck officer for a passenger cruise liner (preferably Royal Caribbean Group). I’m low 30’s and not really interested in going to school for 4 years at my age, if I can avoid it.

  • Has anybody completed this program or know any officers who have? If so, thoughts?

  • Does anybody know cruise liners thoughts on the program? Do they absolutely require academy grads to be an officer or will they actually consider an apprenticeship program grad as well?

Any input is appreciated. I am just trying to figure out if MITAGS and their apprenticeship program is a reputable and respected institution and program, or just a money grabbing business.

(In general, It seems rather difficult to really find any information regarding this online, or a cruise line recruiter, etc.)


Well Nathan, I will start off and say MITAGS is a reputable and respected institution. But you should be aware there is only one US Flag cruise ship. It is operated by NCL out of Hawaii. All the other cruise ships that operate in US waters are Foreign Flag which means a US license is not used.

If you are really interested, I would suggest you contact @MateChristine for more information.

I appreciate your reply and will definitely reach out once I unlock PM’s.

Could you please elaborate on what you mean by a U.S. license is not used and how that would be relevant regarding MITAGS program.

Thanks again!

Do you have a four year degree? If so, a few of the academies have graduate programs that are a few yrs and you get a license as well. I almost attended the workboat program but ultimately decided not to. This was during COVID and a lot of ambiguity around sponsor companies etc. From my research, it is an outstanding place with a solid reputation. I don’t know cost for the bigger license, but the workboat program was cost effective (and you received a small stipend/day rate too) I think making sure the right sponsor company to do your seatime with is key. You should ask them if they’ve worked with cruise ship companies before. You might have to do some legwork too to get them on board to sponsor you. I know one guy that went from academy to cruise ships, but I wouldn’t worry too much about being hired out of MITAGS with the same license. Good luck…

They pay is horrible and below what you’d want to make in order to live in the US.

MITAGS is the training school of MM&P and as such is a highly respected training institution. Besides which, it doesn’t really matter. No employer is going to care where you learned as long as you have a license.

It’s relevant because MITAGS gets you a US license.
His point is that there’s only one large cruise ship in the world that requires a US license (which comes with US pay scales). You can work on the others with your US license as long as you get a separate flag state CEC but the pay is going to be horrible because they normally hire eastern Europeans for cheap.

1 Like

No, I currently do not hold a four-year degree. I have a 2-year degree in a completely unrelated field. I’ve recently asked MITAGS some of these questions and that program is $38K. Which, is still a lot in general, but in comparison to these maritime academies that are $100K +, I’d say it’s definitely affordable.

I’m not sure if they have worked with cruise lines before, but they stated they currently don’t have any cruise line partners. I’ll do some legwork and take your advice and see if I can get a cruise line to sponsor me through the program.

It seems like MITAGS program is the way to go. Interesting though, because most of my research before posting this seems to all lean towards academies. (To be fair, most articles were in comparison to SIU - not MITAGS. Not sure if that makes a difference at all or not.)

Thank you for your reply!

Yes, that does suck, unfortunately. I have a small business as well that I hope can fill in the gaps.

Ok, good to know. That’s what my line of thought was, but I keep seeing threads about how companies love academy kids in comparison so was a little worried about the job market without the degree.

And not just getting hired, but moving up the ranks without a degree.

Thank you for clearing that up. - Super unfortunate that’s how the cruise industry is.

Thank you for your reply!

As a newbie to this field, it appears that the cruise industry in terms of being an officer, is bottom tier, but due to having so few vessels compared to the shipping industry, it seems to be one of the hardest officer jobs to get.

There is no merit behind this and I could be completely wrong, but it seems like that’s what my research has gathered.

Yeah, if you don’t want a degree but want to get a license without hawespiping, I think it is a viable option. The people in the workboat program were pretty receptive to my inputs for sponsors. Either way, you’ll have to pay in order to advance in this industry, so if you want to be in it for the long haul, going to a structured program is certainly easier…

A good friend of mine graduated MITAGS a long time ago and made a full career out of it. He already retired having been working as a Chief Engineer for many years. The program, according to him, is very good and as you know very affordable.
In regards to cruise industry, I don’t know if there is a US flagged cruise ships around here. All cruise ships we see in US ports are under foreign flag. THEY JUST DON"T PAY! My brother in law sails on his Ukrainian 2nd AE license, 4/4mm and get 45K (forty five)/ year!
And a few words about your age (in case you change your mind about academy): when I worked for SUNY Maritime we had more than a few cadets in their 30’s and a couple guys in their 40’s. We even had a 47years old guy, and a father-son team there!

1 Like

Do you know each and every single pay scale of every cruise ship company? Yes, everybody says “the pay is horrible”, but then how come there are some pretty well known USA cruise ship captains, including high heel wearing: Meet Kate McCue, the First American Woman to Captain a Cruise Liner: 'Let's Go Together' Season 2, Episode 22

It’s probably a better to assume that there may be different pay scales for different nationalities and of course, quota fillers.

No, just a few.

When every American I’ve talked to that’s worked on them tells me that the pay is crap, I take that as a hint.

That sounds highly, highly unlikely.

I’ve only ever talked to Americans that worked as 3rd and 2nd mate so I don’t have direct knowledge of what captain pay is, but the OP wouldn’t be captain.

I think its more accurate to say its bottom tier and also not actually that hard to get if you sail foreign, as long as you dont care about pay. From what Ive heard it comes out to about the $100/day range for a 3rd officer, and as a point of reference most US 3rds are in the $550-$650 range. But they’ll gladly have you, I know of folks who are doing it, most visibility Captain Kate McCue, and there are plenty of Americans scattered in there as well.

I have heard multiple quotes in the 3k/month range in terms of juinor Americans getting job offers on the cruise lines. As hard as it is to believe, I have a hunch some people arent mariners for the money, some people might just want to work an a cruise ship, and I’m happy for them. I have a hunch a certian captain we know in the cruise line industry is making more than just day rate, I doubt she is making content and being in comertials for the company for free. And thats great for her. I think most mariners would love to get paid to talk about ships while they’re on ships.


The lack of dealing with people is why I love boxboats.

But to each their own!


I think you are right. For me, the appeal is working and meeting new people/passengers, travel and the port destinations, better food, access to stops for needs and more food to purchase, and what I can imagine as better cabins. I don’t know how bad and outdated most shipping vessel cabins are, but all the ones I’ve seen so far are pretty bad compared to cruise cabins. And as ShooterMcGavin (love that movie!) stated, he prefers the lack of people, so just depends on how many people you want to deal with.

I guess it just comes down to if the extra perks are worth the less pay or not. :thinking:

Even if not getting compensated by the company, her TikTok account (3.5M followers) alone is making her about $4,000 - $5,000 a month.

Don’t expect crew cabins to be all that great…

The one American Flag cruise ship of unlimited tonnage is the Pride of America which is a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. It is MEBA top to bottom. The pay is better than the foreign ships. But this is the only ship you would need an American unlimited license for.
Other cruise companies that have US flag vessels of LIMITED tonnage include American Cruise Lines, Lindblad/ National Geographic, Alaska Dream Cruises, and Uncruise Adventures.

My advice is if you are dead set on working on unlimited tonnage foreign flag ships, see if you could go to some program overseas and get a foreign license. It will most likely be cheaper. Or complete a USA limited tonnage program which will include less hassle than the unlimited program, you will be able to focus on getting your seatime on cruise vessels and most likely be able to complete the program on a faster timeline.

In terms of MITAGS… it is the most depressing maritime training campus. Piney Point and Calhoun are right on the water and the STAR Center is in sunny Florida. MITAGS is near the airport in an industrial center.

1 Like

Cargo that doesn’t speak is the best kind of cargo.


Let me ask you gentleman this, and for this scenario, let’s not limit it to just the cruise industry. What real-world benefits would having an academy degree + license benefit more so than MITAGS apprentice program certificate + license?

More pay (starting or long term), advancement opportunities, hiring odds, etc.?

I’m not too familiar with maritime academy degrees to say for certain, but we all know 99% of regular college degrees aren’t worth the paper they are printed on and only look good to HR.

Not saying maritime academy degrees are worthless, but if they both balance the scale, I’m curious why one would lean toward an academy instead.

No more or less pay.

Doubtful on advancement opportunities.

Maybe on hiring odds, as a fellow alumnus may give somebody from their school preferential treatment.