Seafarers International Union School vs Attending an Academy

Hello everyone, I’m new to the forum and new to pursuing a career in the maritime industry. I know I want to be a deck officer of some sort.
While researching, I came across the Seafarers International Union training school. With my current financial standings I feel it’s the best option for me to get my foot in the door. However, I’ve managed to get in contact with an SIU alumni and he’s strongly suggesting that I go to college instead. My thought is that I just apply and go through the SIU program, work for a year or two saving up money and then go to an Academy (Which will most likely be the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Michigan, since it’s closer to home here in Ohio). And then hopefully that will move me closer to my ultimate goal. Does this sound like a good plan? Do you agree with the SIU alumni? Should I just try and hawsepipe my way up? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!

“…go to college instead…”

In an industry not oversaturated with unemployed 3rd mates.


This coming from a hawsepiper- if you’re young and especially if you’re still with your mommy and daddy- GO TO THE ACADEMY.
I never went through the SIU apprenticeship program, but seeing the type of people it attracts and produces… I would never, fucking ever join that turd list


Also, I know, SIU promises milk and honey but the program is still about 2 years long, during which you will not be making shit. After that, to save up for school, you would have to work balls to the wall for another 2 years at least. And that’s it, that’s youre 4 years right there during which you could end up with an officers license having gone the academy route anyway

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Go to the academy. No body really gives a crap about hawsepipers anymore except the smaller mom and pop companies. The big league companies and pilots associations all have a hard on for academy kids. Just my two cents.


It never hurts to have both a license AND a degree.


Academy. Takes loans if you have to. You will make enough your first year to pay them

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There are plenty hawsepipers who are Chief Mates and Captains in the marine industry and are you saying that they are all turds? Practically, all of them can, and do, run rings around the academy grads. OTH, I’ve experienced plenty academy grads who, without the assistance and knowledge of the unlic. crew would be fucked. If you’ve met “turds” in the unlic. dept, take a good, hard look at your co.'s hiring policy and their ability to attract and retain talented crew.

That’s not true. From Day 1, the moment, the person has been accepted into Piney Point, that person is earning.

  1. Phase 1 and currently, 3.5 months long: He/She is earning $20/day with opportunities to earn more. That person, at the end of Phase 1, can leave with at least, tax free, $1000. (please enlighten all of us how much the academy grad can earn during this period?).

  2. Phase 2 (3 months): Depending on the ship the apprentice gets, earns between $6000 and $9000.

  3. Phase 3.: This phase is 1.5 month long and the apprentice earns $25/day with opportunities to earn more.

  4. Phase 4 (4 months): Onboard on full union pay scale, including insurance (health & life for the family, not to mention retirement). I made $35000, including vacation pay. Add, unemployment.

  5. Phase 5: Union B book with benefits carrying over.

All these phases are at no cost to the student/apprentice, including travel from Phase 3 onwards.

What the fuck are you talking about, without even bothering to find out what’s fact and reality? And, if the SIU unlic. are “turds”, what’s stopping you from initiating a beef and getting a better person aboard? It’s not as if the lic are all angels and have their shit together. You guys behave as if the ship stays afloat & work gets done solely 'coz of your own volition, without any assistance from the unlic to get things done. Go fucking steer a ship in the canal or up the river in Pakistan or India, surrounded by dredgers, with pilots giving you half assed directions. Try docking and undocking, instead of just giving orders, without taking any responsibility and apportioning blame. Fucking chip and paint in the hot searing sun on deck for 4 hours for OT, each day and every day, without running into the air conditioned comfort of the house, on the 2nd day. And, I’m not even talking about the Engine dept. Go cook your own food, wash and dry the utensils and set your own table. I’ve yet to come across one mate who does not sit down on the watch, surf the internet and rush into the air-conditioned comfort of the house while load/discharge operations are going on, container or oil, and I’m standing for 4 hours straight, each day and every day, on the bridge and gangway watch (in the sun), per watch. Go fucking firefight with all that heavy gear on, instead of just talking on the radio, for a change. You’ll be fuckin whinin and cryin for your momma.

Instead of running down the hawsepipe and knocking rings, how about giving a true picture of how the hawsepipe, in conjunction with the academy, makes for a better lic. mate, which is what the OP is asking?


Sail deep sea. You’ll be surprised at the number of hawsepipers in the lic positions, both deck and engine.

BTW, it’s not “No body”, it’s “Nobody”. Nobody here is discussing no bodies.

Thank you folks, I appreciate the help. I think attending the academy will work better for me in the long run, becoming a pilot is of great interest to me, so I assume the academy will make the journey much easier.

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It’ll make your transition from mate to pilot easier, once you understand that, it takes time to swing the ship in the direction that you want, once you give an order, at 8knots. Don’t go shouting at the helmsman for something he is not in control of. Also, the helmsman is a tired guy and lethargy does set in. The ship is sluggish, at best, in channels, and hard to steer, especially when doing the “Texas Chicken”. At times, port will be steered starboard. Keep an open eye for that and accept it. It’s like getting driving fatigue on the road. No rocket science and we are all humans.

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As an academy graduate, I’d say go for the Paul Hall school option. I assume you are most interested in deep sea? Most deep sea jobs are union anyhow, and I’m not sure that coming from an academy gives you much advantage over working your way up. Yes, I can think of some pretty sweet outfits that seem to only hire academy boys, Polar Tankers and OSG come to mind; however, both of those outfits seem to only hire you if you were lucky enough to get a cadetship with them. Your cadetship is hit or miss too–you don’t have that much say in what you get on.

There are way more AB jobs deep sea than 3M jobs. Coming out of Paul Hall, you will have your B book, and options to sail on a variety of vessels, gain a variety of knowledge and endorsements, and figure out where you truly want to go with your career. Go out there, be willing to learn, and make connections.

An academy education ISN’T CHEAP. At Great Lakes Maritime, as an Ohio resident, you are going to rack up 80-100K in loans pretty easily. Sure you can work part time, but you’re not really going to be able to knock more than a couple thousand off your bill each year with you studies. Very few of the academy grads I know landed a 6-figure job their first year, or second year, or even third. Realistically, I’d expect to pull in ~60K your first few years getting out of an academy, so that’s about 40-45K a year after tax–living slim, it’s going to take you 5 years to pay back that debt.

Lastly, the value of a marine transportation bachelors degree is pretty much worthless. There are better degrees to hold, even if you want to go deck license.

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Including Tote (which has a very distinct bias towards Maine in the Engine dept.) and AMSEA (which has no MSC ships these days).

Depends on which union the OP chooses. If he goes for MMP, he aint going to find getting jobs easy and depending on which hall he is registered in, most likely, he’ll be doing day relief jobs in the port, to build up time. If he goes AMO, MSC ships are the best bets to start with.

Same thing with MEBA. Few ships. The Ro-Ro, Liberty Peace, which is on her way to JAX, will be switching over from AMO to MEBA in the 2nd week of this month. Jobs lost for one union, but more jobs for another union.

True, but most of those MSC jobs require Secret Clearance, which is often difficult to obtain.

No, that’s not true. I’ve sailed MSC. Only 3 ships (the missile trackers, and the names elude me for now, one being the Lorenzen with Crowley out of Japan and Ocean something with Maersk, out of Djibouti) needs that 30pg forms worth of secret clearance. The rest don’t. Just your ordinary clearance needed.

Those 30 pages need all information, since you were in KG, including you knowing who your neighbors were and which girl you fucked, with their addresses, from the date you applied.

Not true. Way too many 3Ms’ (academy) + Hawsepipers, with connections, looking for jobs, on too few US flagged vessels.

I’ve sailed with 3Ms, who hold a capt.s’ endorsement, and refusing to sail above 3M billet, simply because they don’t want responsibilities. Where does a newbie 3M stand a chance?

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What exactly is not true? My experience has been that most 3rds make close to and over 100k. Should not have more than that in loans

A 3m, in the current economic scenario, making over $100k?


Not being insulting, but as of today, a 3M, in the deep sea sector, just barely clears over what a Bosun makes. That’s around $12k/month, max. On a legacy MSC ship, maybe, around $15k/month. A 3m is only going to sail max 6 months, in the best scenario.

$100K is a pipe dream.

Most 3Ms make around 100k if sailing 6 months a year minimum, true. Most graduates don’t sail 3M unlimited upon graduation, even if competent and willing to learn. There aren’t enough ships, period. Some get lucky and get a great cadetship, but there is only so much you can do to get a good one. Good luck getting onboard with MSC as a 3M right now, unless prior military preference. My years at an academy, only a select few students every year were lucky enough to cadetship on a tanker and gain a PIC.

Most academy students are deadweight, and there is some great talent in that deadweight.

Going to an academy, IMO is a shot in the dark, maybe you suck up to the right person, maybe you get that golden billet. The bulk of cadetship experiences are on ATBs, research boats (might even be at the dock the whole fucking time), conventional tugs, etc. Most graduates come out with the same endorsements and the same experience.

Well the company I work for every 3rd mate and engineer made over 100k. I can only speak from my experience. My company is on the low end of the union too