Questions from a CMA applicant

Hello! I’ve been placing a career as a deck officer aboard deep-sea vessels as my future, but as I’m going through some of these posts, I’m growing concerned. A lot of people are saying the industry is over saturated and finding a job even for experienced sailors is tough and only bound to get worse.

The reason I want to go with a maritime career is for the adventure it provides, even if you’re only in port for a few hours nowadays. I’m excited at the sizable amount of time off you get that will allow me to travel and the fact that you can live pretty much anywhere. Last week I applied to several maritime academies. With the highest SAT in our school and a very strong resume and background, I could have went to some of the top schools but the life of a merchant mariner has drawn me more than any other career.

Are these rumors true?


Yeah, things are pretty shitty. When you get out be prepared to clean toilets and chip a lot of rust. If you want adventure and to see the world a research, or reputable sail training vessel would be more your speed. The rest of the industry is prison with a paycheck.

They’re true NOW but the industry works in cycles. Most likely it will at least stabilize, if not be booming again by the time you graduate in almost five years. Be prepared to go back to grad school at Maine or SUNY if the industry still sucks. At least then you’d have a Master’s degree in business.

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Maybe by the time you graduate there will be a few more construction ship jobs out there open to US sailors. THOSE are the really fun jobs. If not, do what ever you can to get in with the LNG carrier people.

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If you were my kid i would tell you to go dental school, how about pharmacy or if you got the skills plastic surgery. screw adventure, save the travel for when your making big money.

This industry has always been sketchy, I have been fortunate to be employed every year since i have graduated that doesn’t mean it will last forever… and i have known allot of people who have struggled to find work, gotten laid off, fired , or died…

Sail as an OS or wiper or food prep, if you have to get your travel inn, save your money to pay for school after a couple years, gives you the chance to see if you like sailing, and your not committed. SIU has the piney point program which will keep you busy for some time…

Think about engine as well, more opportunities outside of the industry that are transferable.

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Ah adventure. I remember having adventures aboard ship but that was before quick turnarounds, docks miles from town, lousy (if any) launch schedules, piss tests taking up the only few hours available for a run ashore, machinery maintenance and paperwork mountains.

The last real adventures were, I think, the Lykes runs around South America. The APL Far East runs on the steamships were not too bad until quick turns became the norm.


If you can go engine then go engine. In particular, I’d go with CMA’s mechanical engineering degree. You can still get your 3a/e license to sail on but you’ll have your ME degree to fall back on. Yeah, there are plenty of times that you’ll wish you’d gone deck but when times are lean you will always have an easier time finding work as an engineer. It also gives you more future opportunities shoreside. If you’re looking for money (commercial shipping, oil industry) you won’t get much adventure and if you’re in it for adventure (research ships) you won’t get much money. There isn’t much adventure when the company is worried about the bottom line.

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“Could have went”? Whatever…

You want adventure? Forget being a mate on a floating warehouse. Get that 1600 ton license and walk the docks in Miami.or Punta Arenas…


I checked out Piney Point and it seems like a great option to get some experience. It says you have to be at least 18 though . I’ll be graduating high school almost 17. Do you know any other programs that would accept a 17 year old?

True, true. Although I’ve already applied and can’t change majors yet, I think I’ll go for the money doing cargo/oil and save the adventure for the time I’m not sailing. Also I’ve considered tugging since harbor pilots make a ton. Is the tugging job market as “lean” as the general commercial one? How long does it take to work your way up to pilot?

I absolutely agree. I would never advise my kid to go into a deck merchant marine career because of the state of the industry and it’s future. I’m.referring to large ships, international trade.

But…if you are going to do it DEFINETLY go engineering whether it appeals to you or not. Eventually you’ll be glad you did. While shipping getting work will be easier, you’ll be more in demand. If you decide to transition to shore, you’ll be a desirable candidate with many options. I always congragulate the engine cadets for making a wise career decision. I had zero mechanical ability or interest. I went to college. Had it to do over again I’d have learned to repair engines.

If you can get in go to Kings Point for sure.

Good luck!


Kings Point does not offer ABET accredited mechanical or electrical engineering majors. Don’t get a marine engineering degree, get a mechanical engineering degree.

If you want to drive ships, join the Army warrant officer program.


PMI has the workboat academy. Training for tug boats. Good program but expensive.

Further your education.

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Shitty advice.

First of all the OP didn’t ask what kind of engineer he should be he’s interested in advice about a career in the merchant marine. Did you listen/read what he is interested in at all or does it just not matter.

Second a FREE $100,000 marine engineering degree from a prestigious school (in the industry he is interested in) vs. a mechanical engineering degree that he would have to pay for himself (scholarship’s aside) and end up in an industry he never said he was interested in. He’d have plenty of technical job opportunities ashore with a marine engineering degree.

The Army as a warrant officer to drive ships. Great advice for a kid with a high SAT intending to go to college. My advice to you is don’t give young people career advice.

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Also - one more thing - if you can get yourself an engineering degree - mechanical or electrical - and if you do have good grades and a high SAT score I would HIGHLY recommend Colorado School of Mines for this - you can do all KINDS of really cool stuff with either oil and gas or with one of the engineering co’s that build good offshore stuff - and then you would making major bank, traveling the world, and doing really fun things. I would do that if I had to do it all over again.

Does that refer to your own post?

First off, it doesn’t matter what kind of engineering degree it could be anything and still open doors that are not open to a deckie. Old deckies can look forward to working as insurance salesmen or toy boat brokers.

Going into the Army watercraft program is very much worth looking into. Have a serious talk with an Army recruiter and find out what you have bring to the table to get in as a WO. If nothing else that route will pay for just about all the education you can handle.

If you can get into Kings Point, go…Its a free education, it’s a prestigious “service academy” and wont be around forever and most importantly the networking lasts a lifetime, those guys watch out and help each other like a “thieves guild”…Seriously one hand washes the other…Just do not turn into an A-hole, or believe the B.S. they feed you.

That state of the US merchant marine is not good, and when you get tired of “adventure” and want to settle down, transition will be difficult. Offshore Oil and Gas is in a major down turn with no end it sight…only a lucky few will keep their jobs, but wages will continue to decline. Commercial stuff is not too good a shape either, it never was…

Wouldn’t that be nice … for the USMM and the taxpayer.

No, but you knew that. I stand by my comment.

Look giving the kid the advice to be an mechanical or electrical engineer is not bad advice, in fact it’s good advice. In fact I’m the one that recommended engineering in the first place.

But…the young man is excited about becoming a mariner and is seeking advice in that regard. It’s a big stretch to assume he is even interested in being a shoreside engineer.

As far as my comments towards Mr. Dollar I advised the young man consider applying for a $100,000 scholarship in the industry he is interested in. Dollar contends he should not try for that scholarship/license and instead go after something not even remotely related to what he is interested in which would most likely end up having him pay for his education.

As far as the Army thing goes, I am the first person to advise young people to enter the military (as I did after college). I feel that advice which might be a great option for another young man isn’t the right advice for the OP. An army W.O. by way of one of these programs is not even close to a Warrant that worked their way up. The instant WO without college will always be sub-standard to a fully comissioned line officer.

I just feel advising a young person that has high grades and is contemplating college to skip college to join the Army (or any branch) is not good advice.

Now as to why I seemed kinda hostile in my reply to Dollar it’s because I think he’s kind of an as…hole.

If being a military officer is the ultimate goal and the actual job is secondary then maybe that holds water but if the intent is to become a professional mariner with a degree than perhaps the Army watercraft route is a good way to accomplish both.

The Army offers incredible educational benefits leading to a degree plus technical training, hands on work experience, and a CG license achieved at the same time, all while being paid.

The “kid” had better be interested in doing something shoreside because his chances of sailing to retirement age in the merchant marine are shrinking by the day even if he learned to love the job. I don’t know about his grades, he never mentioned them but it’s too bad he didn’t “went” to more English classes because communications skills are more important now than ever.

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