Need Education/career guidance


New member here but I have been eyeing this site for quite some time and would like to receive some career/ education advice from any of you who are are in the merchant marine engineering community. Little background on me I’m a 27 yr old male transitioning from the navy in 3 months and I am heavily considering going into marine/mechanical engineering at one of the academies in the US to eventually get a job as a 3 a/e at MSC or similar company. I was a Damage Controlman on two different DDG’s for 5 years and was a Naval Aircrewman (rescue swimmer) for the past three years. I was very good as a technician in engineering on the ship in my previous rate and my brain worked well in the environment and I received my EOOW letter and feel like my talents lie in that direction as well as having a little bit of leverage from time in service toward getting a job down the road. My question for the community is:

1.) What is it like for a veteran at the maritime academies? (Excluding USMMA.)
2.) Would I be better off going the “hawespipe” route as a QMED?
3.) If I do go to the academy I will be 31 when I enter the job field I feel like this puts me at a disadvantage to my peers thoughts?
4.) If you’re a veteran at an academy do you have to do all the regiment activities or do they understand that your dues have been “paid” in that regard?
I appreciate any info would also like to hear from any Ex-navy folks who got a job at MSC if you’re out there!

As much as I hate to say it the academies are the most direct route if you can get the government to pick up the tab. Be sure to pick one with an “Engineering” program and not an “Engineering Technology” program. An ET degree will limit you if you decide to work shore side as a design engineer later on.

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I appreciate the input I am definitely gearing towards an ABET accreditation for an ME degree for an exit opportunity after the sailing takes its toll at home. Are you prior military?