Prospects for mid-life career change with an entry-level MMC?

Hi! New to the forum and full of questions, so thanks for allowing me to join you and for reading my post!

I live near Seattle. I turn 48 in March, and am making a career change. I have just submitted my application for an MMC. Before this I worked in a grocery store for 2 years and before that was a career mechanic at a car dealership for 17 years.

I’m in the hiring process with Washington State Ferries now for an on-call terminal position. My plan is to wait for my MMC to get approved and work in the terminal until I can apply for the entry-level OS/Deck position the next time it becomes available.

My first concern is, how far do you think I will be able to progress with my MMC until I hit retirement age? I’d really like to achieve one of the mate rates before I have to retire. I’m concerned it will take me forever to acquire sea time in order to progress upwards. If I retire at 65 (unlikely) that only gives me 17 years at most to work my way up. The bennies and pay are pretty good, though, so I if nothing else I’d be content to stay at AB if I didn’t make it to mate. (Is it AB, then 2nd mate, then chief mate?)

My other question is about training. Do most employers in this industry help in some way with training? I’m seeing week-long courses at some of the maritime schools around here. Do employers account for that and schedule you to attend for a week, or does it come out of your vacation time? Is there any financial help with it?

I’ve been reading some of the threads here the last few weeks, trying to glean what I can. Just thought I’d solicit advice and see what folks say. Thank you again for taking the time to read!


Hey Chris, I’ve done/am doing a similar career change. Shoot me a message here if you want to chat. Good luck!

Realistically, with seatime and classes you could probably get your 1600 ton mate upon oceans in 6-8 years if you’re working full time. That’s with all the STCW endorsements.

Some companies will pay for it, some won’t.

Best of luck!

I went to SUNY at 41, there were guys there older than me. I was able to secure a job while still in school, cut my teeth as a deckhand and tankerman. Now I’m in the wheelhouse.

It has worked out well. My advice is get the biggest license you can inbyhe shortest amount of time. Dont be a license junkie, make the most amount of money with the license you have, do not take useless classes unless they will return your investment.


I agree with silverbk, changing careers in your 40’s isn’t considered a midlife crisis anymore. I’ve read a couple of articles that said the majority of people will have 2 or more unrelated careers in their life. Life expectancy is longer & the quality of the later years are better than previous generations which makes changing careers more attractive. As a lifelong mariner I too wonder if I want a second career after I retire from the sea?


This is such great news! I’m relieved! LOL. Yes, wherever I end up working, my goal is to make it to the wheelhouse in some capacity. So we’ll see where it goes. Thank you guys for the comments so far!


I know guys and a few girls older than you who have come into our system at an entry level on deck.
Some are happy to just stay on deck.
A few have gone for watch keeping certificates. It takes a while you need 3 full years Sea-time. Which might take 6 or more years to accrue.
One advantage we do like to train our own for mates positions.
A mates job is a good job. Not just because it pays well. It’s a good day at work. It’s worth the effort.

Washing State Ferries, although a similar system is quite different. different country, different regulations and more unions. With different contracts.

If it’s what you want to do it can be done.

I would also say, with you experience as a mechanic. Consider the engine room. Your knowledge and experience would come in handy in an entry level engine room position.
It might also lead to more work in a system which uses part time casual relief.
With 3 years engine room time an engineer watch keeping certificate is possible.
Of course the view sucks, it’s hot noisy and rather smelly. Some people like it.

If anyone is interested. We are just gearing up for this years new hires.

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Yeah, I thought about going QMED, but I don’t wanna be stuck in a hole all the time. I have a little time, yet, to mull it over, though, so you never know.


I don’t know how much time you spent on this forum reading the topics that discuss the pros & cons of deck versus engine room department but there’s reasons why academy counselors try to push cadets down the engine room path. As you probably know from your years as a mechanic at the dealership, the people who performed the labor that fixed the problems were more in demand than the clerical/management types that sat behind the counters & desks. I have seen a couple of outfits that would only promote engineers into the positions of Marine Superintendent/Manager. Something to consider if you think you might want to go back to working on land but still want to stay in the maritime industry. In some places, there’s lots of work for shore support personnel who knows how to fix things.

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I was mid way buying my wife’s new Subaru when I realized the salesman was the ex mate who was on the K-sea tug / duckboat incident, so there are options on shore for wheelhouse guys / maritime grads :joy:
Seriously… if I had to do it over again, go get a 4yr RN or something in the medical field, read some of these posts about how it’s getting better out here, it’s not.