I was tentatively offered a permanent full-time position with NOAA to work as an AB aboard the Oscar Dyson based outta Kodiak, AK. I was quick to accept the offer and am going through the hiring process. Just last week I got an email from a recruiter from MSC asking if I was interested in an AB position with them. I did a little research and asked around on reddit and got mixed reviews. Most say NOAA would be more kush and relaxed with more time off but less pay than MSC and that MSC would be working more with more overtime but hard to get time off if they can’t find replacements for your scheduled time off.

My only martime experience is 10 yrs of commercial fishing in Alaska waters and as the Oscar Dyson is a research vessel/trawler here in AK I know I would be more familiar with the fishing operation minus the research part. I think NOAA would be exciting cause I do like science and feel like it could lead something more in the research field.

But then again with MSC I would be able to see the world while getting paid(as some put it) and wouldn’t be confined to only the state of AK. But I would be at sea alot more. Someone who hasn’t worked for either one asked me if I want to be taking orders from some Navy dickhead. I don’t think that would be the case…maybe he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Do Navy officers run the CIVMAR vessels?
I found this article which makes me a little iffy about MSC

Ultimately I am looking for the operation where I can move up the ranks and have an enjoyable way of life.
What are pros and cons of both operations?

Looking for suggestions so I can solve this dilemma.


Maybe. Maybe not. They don’t offer pleasure cruises. You could end up on the hook in Diego Garcia or in and out of Manama for half a year.You never know where you’ll end up with MSC. Although MSC has research ships, you have to be prepared to be assigned to a lot of other kinds of missions. With NOAA, the ships are focused on science and research.

CIVMARS operate the vessel. Navy brass tells them where to go. Glorified chauffeurs if you will.


Son ended up on the hook in Diego Garcia for quite some time on more than a few occasions. Got very familiar with the 9 hole golf course that is fake turf laid over the coral. A shithole for sure.

I’ve heard stories of guys accruing a ton of sea time and using it for upgrade while sitting on the hook at DG. No idea how true or widespread it is. Probably some exaggeration involved to make a point.

I hear that ugly women love being sent to DG where they instantly become beautiful and desirable.


With MSC if you manage to get on an UNREP ship that isn’t sitting on the east coast, you will get lots of ship handling and traffic management experience as a third mate. Right now, thanks to covid and an extremely bad manning situation you will be working lots of OT to cover gapped billets. So plenty of blood money, to go around on the CLF vessels. As a 3/M expect to make 110-120k In The average 8-10 month work year. (Could be higher or lower depending on the class of ship… 80-180k I would say is the min/max range) So 4months from the time you travel to the ship, is required. You will be overdue, 1-3 months. And regardless of how long past your relief date that MSC neglected to relieve you, MSC expects you to take no longer than 30 days off before returning to work. You will go places, and you might even get some liberty in those places. You can learn a lot in this job… it’s one of the last breakbulk jobs around, and also the only single hull tankers you can sail on In The world. Great for the single mate, who wants that worldly experience where literally anything can happen.


Amen. Rack up the OT and spend your 30 days off in a country of your choice “recovering”. :innocent:Kiss the plan goodbye if you get married.

If you want to see the world, buy a plane ticket and go on vacation. MSC ports are repetitive. You generally work in port. Security and COVID limit liberty with COVID gangway up eliminating liberty.

Work for NOAA. Take vacations and actually see the world.


I just left NOAA. As an AB, you may or may not get time on the bridge, so if you are aiming for 3M it can be a hard road.

I never worked on the Dyson, but from what I gather it stays out quite a bit. Many of the positions are rotary which may make for happier campers, but that’s all secondhand info.

The science they do is almost strictly fisheries stuff, along with some bird and mammal observation. If that’s your thing then go for it! In fact they may use you as a fisherman primarily.

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You did not indicate if you plan on sitting for a license. MSC surely has a path for an ambitious young AB where as NOAA probably will send you to classes to keep your current docs but not to upgrade. NOAA is a great organization and you will likely make lifetime friends there. I spent 3 years with them in the early 80’s. It was perfect for clocking sea time but not a career for a young person. Good luck.

Well I do plan on moving up eventually. Maybe stick with deck for a while and see how things work in the industry. Also since they have a scuba department and Aviation I’d like to maybe explore one of those routes eventually. I think commercial diving or flying planes for NOAA would be pretty awesome and damn good money. Just getting my foot in the door with this administration opens so many doors.

Also I’m not too young…I’m 34. I hope that’s not too old to start a merchant marine career. I’m just over commercial fishing and would like some job security.

With responses I’ve gotten on this forum and reddit I’ve decided I’m gonna stick with NOAA.


There’s a lot of politics, viz, eeoo, @ msc

Get your 3/o & you will become a master–impossible at MSC unless u went to k/p or can change your skin color

I worked for NOAA years ago (80’s). I was aboard a ship on their west coast fleet out of Seattle. I loved the job, the ships, and the people. It was one of my best experiences at sea.

I’ve NOT worked at MSC but have many friends that did and know enough in detail what the comparison is like. Like others have suggested here … you need to zero in on what you want to do. At 34 years of age, you don’t have much time to “explore” what you want to do, honestly.

Aviation is an entirely different world and NOAA has planes (Hurricane duty, really???) and SCUBA too. But those are specialized operations that very few ships actually engage in. Aviation is a significant investment of time, at your age, how much more of an investment, starting from scratch, do you want to do?

What are your long term goals? As others have said, if you want maximum sea time towards getting a license and sailing as an officer, go with MSC. If you want to enjoy life at sea and have a reasonable amount of time in port and spend some good time out at sea doing things OTHER than going from point A to point B …go with NOAA.

With NOAA, there are good ships, with a variety of crew and scientists or technicians, many are women, and the atmosphere aboard is pretty nice. Unique is a better word. You will NOT find this true in many other places. Being part of a ‘mission’ each voyage is something different than just carrying cargo back and forth.

Consider what your end game is. Where do you want to be in 10 years? I’m not down on MSC. It has many positives for the right people. And even NOAA might not work, depending on what ship you get assigned to. Spending weeks at sea in the Gulf of Alaska trawling around in heavy weather gets boring very fast.

Consider your goals and then, make your move. Good luck.


Agree with the posters on quite a few positives and negatives with employment with either Noaa and Msc. If were an unmarried man, and had a license with no gal in waiting, I’d catch MSC in a heart beat. Make bank, and use the free training to the max. Never minded working over in my younger days to get sea time and advance my license.


Not true. A license and a pulse are the requirements for officers to promote in MSC.


Pulse is not mandatory for OS’s.

Kinda disagree Lee Shore, They have a sorta pulse just to show up and pass through the crazy MSC system. If they survive that after their first trip, you have an AB not long after that first trip due to sea time and not being relieved on time. Until son got hammered because of medical, his bride didn’t mind going to the mailbox while he worked for MSC as a Third Mate,.His last trip that was supposed to be 6 months turned into 9 months, He was able to renew his license after his operation, but found decent shoreside employment while he couldn’t work at sea. He ain’t going back. His degree acquired at KP in logistics was a great backup plan. He is still in the maritime field business, and surrounded by former Suny and KP grads at his workplace. Presently working with 5 of his alumni football players/teammates that are honoring their Naval reserve commitment with the USN weather department. Three of those fellows are paid football coaches in our area. It doesn’t pay much, but damn good coaches who give a shit. Toops troops have done well.

You have evidently never played the game of “Find the ghost OS” on a gov’t ship with a large crew.


How much seatime and what credentials are required for 3m?