Realistic job prospects in 2021? Inexperienced, seeking career change

Hi, curious what the 2021 job market is looking like in regard to postions being offered/hiring entry level- either deckhand or engine crew, oceangoing vessels, west coast or east (Im willing to relocate if necessary). In your opinion are things improving for job seekers? (say, vs. six months ago, Covid lockdown craziness)

About me: 43 years old, no wife or kids, can relocate anywhere, seriously looking to make career change. I like the options and potential to advance if working as a merchant mariner longer term, particularly if working as an engineer/below decks (more skills to use if forced to seek work ashore vs. as a deckhand, yeah?)

Like many people- I’m still out of work due to the residual effect of Covid policies/previous lockdowns. Enough is enough. I want to work. 2021 is almost half over already…

I realize that I’m in a terrible position to be seeking a job as a merchant mariner with no certifications or experience employed at sea but doesn’t hurt to get informed and give it a shot.

I’ve lived and travelled overseas previously and am used to uncoventional jobs/shifts (vs. your typical 9-5 commuter types). I am comfortable being at sea, sailed a bit with my grandfather many years ago, like working with my hands, staying active, long periods away from home is not a problem at all- done it many times.

Getting training and certification at an academy is not an option for me- simply too expensive and too long of a commitment before being able to work. I’m still paying off other debt from years back and cannot take on more…

So this means an apprenticeship program at SIU might be my only option? (There is no age limit there) …or should I look into applying directly to MSC and head to Norfolk?

Any insight or tips greatly appreciated, thanks!


I am going to help you a little. First I will start off by saying welcome next i will tell you that people on this forum hate people like you that wants all kinds of information but does not even take the time to search. They HATE questions like these.

Now that is out of the way onto the help

I don’t know what job you had or what your skills are. So I am going to just go off of what i think will help you.

The main web site

scroll to the bottom and fill out the first 2 forums.
NMC phone Number -1-888-427-5662 extension 6 then 4 to talk to a real person that will answer questions

Hold off on SIU and MSC. with nothing and not even a book i feel like you are spinning wheels.

Once you have your MMD book. Getting a job as a OS might be hard. I have heard really good things about this lady

Claudette L. Pitre
A Chateau on the Bayou Bed & Breakfast
3158 Hwy 308
Raceland, LA

I found this when i did a search for you as well

I would say to really sell yourself you will want a few things that are above the bar minimum

At first you will apply for wiper/food handler/OS

You Need Basic Training/Security Awareness/PSC and VSO or if you are trying to save $250 just take the VPDSD class.

What you want to work up to is

Basic Training
Medical Care provider
Fast Rescue boats
Advanced fire fighting (easy and all class room time if you take it at
Lifeboatman (you get both endorsements If you take the PSC class at MSTC
Call them to ask for the class dates.
RFPNW is a big one when you get some sea time.

Another Nice school

You will want to sign up for and start studying for your 100T master and or 200T mate at MPT as soon as you can so that your sea time gives you credit for days towards your 500T Master.

OS to AB osv is 180/360/540/1024 each time your sea time days double it is AB osv AB special AB limited and then AB unlimited

I would also try weeks marine as you do not need a MMD book to be a deck hand on the dredge but you get sea time and that is a good thing for you and you will need to dump some money to be more marketable


Agreed with poster above. Do some research on this site. Plenty of information to get started. Slow down on SIU vs academy…

Get your TWIC and MMC (that will take a couple months) then go looking for jobs. Sailing with grandpa and working on a vessel are two different things. Being gone is actually the easy part, especially if you don’t have anyone at home waiting for you. Can you live in close proximity of others for extended periods of time? Can you avoid getting into fights if someone says stupid shit? Can you avoid being an asshole? Can you clean up after yourself, wake up on time, etc? Simple things, I know, but you have to ask yourself because you’d be surprised how many people are in this industry that cannot function at basic levels. If that box is checked yes, ask yourself this. Are you looking for a job, or a career? If you want a job, stay home and go work at a restaurant or a construction site. They’re all hiring right now, and you’ll probably make WAY better money right off the bat. There are some truly pitiful wages out there in the maritime world for entry level employees. If you want a career, it is not a bad place to look, but be prepared for many years of work before actually seeing a decent paycheck. No one is going to look out for you in this industry and you have to get all credentialing, licenses and certifications on your own time (and in a lot of cases, your own dime). The industry is incredibly regulated so this aspect of it never really stops. This is really costly and time consuming and draining. However, if you want to continue…job prospects are looking good for the Gulf and Tugs. However, by the time you get your shit together, it might not be…

Most of the tug industry didn’t stop working at all bc of covid. With oil on the rebound it is not a bad time and a lot of tug companies need bodies.

Decide what sector of the industry you want to work in. That will come when you do some research. Then think about what your options are. MSC will train you but it might take a while to get a job. You could probably be working on the River by June if you get going on your twic…no MMC required

Buy this book if you’re serious:

…and do some research and then come back with questions…good luck


20+ years later i still struggle with some of these, sometimes.

Being on a boat where the whole crew gets along is a magical thing.


Thanks a ton you guys, really appreciate it. It doesn’t seem like it but I did spend a few hours yesterday searching this forum, various categories, to get a sense of requirements and beginning steps towards getting basic certification etc.-for possible entry level work on oceangoing or river/coastal boats…

Lots of stuff coming up from various keyword searches I did here was from a few years ago or even mid- 2020, or aimed more specifically to 20 something year olds… Anyway, given how most hiring/job market was thrown into tumoil during covid, possible industry change, i wanted to post my initial question at the very least- what the job market looks like now… but yes, its far too vague and I probably should have held off until I could provide a lot more specifics of what I am looking for, along with clearer goals.

Ive copied the links you provided… as well as the name of the book one of you attached in your reply.

If my post is just adding clutter and annoyance to others on this forum who have seen the same question asked 100 times already, might be a good idea for an admin to just delete it, my feelings wont be hurt haha.

Thanks again for the tips and insight you guys.

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All good, just get your TWIC and MMC. No industry is going to survive if it doesn’t pave a road for entry level employees. Age is kind of irrelevant, my company has a 65yr old deckhand. There are plenty of options but just get on a boat wherever you can. This place is probably the best resource for info, opinions, etc, but can sometimes make the maritime world feel tiny and/or give you tunnel vision with regards to the industry. I am fully guilty of buying into it and propagating it but the point is that there will always be a way in until the industry vanishes. Don’t let commentary here on job prospects, etc dissuade you if you really want to make a life for yourself as a mariner. It took me years to get to where I wanted to be, and I’m not that far, so don’t get discouraged.

“An overnight success is ten years in the making”…

Go get 'em…

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I agree with that. Funny story i always remember when the subject comes up about guys starting out on the water later in life:
I had just gotten on a new boat, i was mid-20s and this was when i was still in the wheelhouse working on less than 100 grt boats in the oilfield. I was the new guy so i was in the mate’s position. The capt was in his late 50s. So he asks me my experience. After listening to me he goes, ‘oh good, sounds like you’ve been around more than me.’ Puzzled, i asked him how long he been running boats, he said, ‘two years.’ How long you been working on boats? ‘Five years.’ What did you do before? ‘Air conditioning.’

Its never too late to make a go of it as long as you are in fair health. Early 40s is still considered a young man in a lot of cases on tugs/osvs at least.


Great story! Sometimes, I think having another life prior to the maritime world actually isn’t a terrible thing…


There’s two kinds of people that get into maritime work late in life.

One wants a new challenge. They’ve usually held a multitude of jobs in their life and found a way to excel at all of them, or at least have fun. They do great

One has some romantic notion that going to sea will somehow fix all their fuckups. They do poorly.

I don’t know which one you are, but that’s a good thing to figure out beforehand.


Nailed it.