Questions about GLMA & working on the lakes

Hello gCaptain,

I’m an Alaskan resident currently finishing an accounting bachelor’s at University of Alaska Anchorage. I’m 28 years old, have previous work experience in the concrete/gravel industry, and am also familiar with rotational schedules due to working a 6/3 schedule at a remote, SE Alaskan gold mine. I’ll be graduating in spring '16, and the thought of sitting behind a desk manipulating spreadsheets for the next 30 years makes me want to put a bullet through my temple. I honestly wasn’t aware of the American Merchant Marine until my father told me my grandpa sailed during WWII. The more I look into this industry, the more it seems like a perfect fit for me.

Since I’ll already have a bachelor’s, SUNY and TMA are my only options if I want federally subsidized loans (master’s degree w/ licence programs). Being a pet owner it will be necessary for me to live off campus. Needless to say, I’ve heard mixed reviews of Galveston and rent around SUNY is ungodly expensive. All of these factors have led me to believe GLMA’s accelerated deck program is the best fit for my situation, regardless of lending options.

From what I’ve been able to ascertain thus fair, these are the pros/cons of attending GLMA:

Pros

  • 3 years to graduate

  • Unlimited license for oceans & GL

  • First class GL pilotage

  • Traverse City is a safe, livable area

  • Small class sizes

  • Less regimented

  • Older student body

Cons

  • More expensive (TMA offers in-state tuition to anyone in the corp)

  • Potentially difficult rental market (especially with pets)

  • Loans would need to be secured through a private lender

I’ve decided the real question is whether or not working on the Lakes interests me, since the perceived value of attending GLMA is the dual licensing + first class pilotage. I’ve dug and dug – information pertaining to living and working on lakers is sparse. So here are a few questions:

  • How valuable is the GL license/pilotage and is it worth the extra tuition expense (i.e., is pay on the Lakes comparable to other segments of the maritime industry)? I’m aware that the GOM has, for the past few years, been where the money is at. However, I’m not pursuing this career for the money. I understand why people chase dollars, but I’m more concerned with my ability to pay off academy debt, support a family, build a nest egg for a comfortable retirement, and avoid the soul crushing grind of a 9-5.

  • What schedule do GL deck officers work? 1-for-1, 2-for-1? How many months on-off?

  • How has your experience with GLMA & Traverse City been?

  • Are any of you currently sailing the lakes? Do you recommend doing so? Pros/cons?

  • How did you approach the housing situation in Traverse City (especially with a pet, if applicable)?

Sorry for the lengthy post. I’m just trying to be thorough because this will be one of the biggest, most important decisions of my life. I appreciate any additional insight you guys can offer. If I end up at GLMA I promise to buy you a beer. Thanks for your time.