TMA Grad Looking for Advice Regarding Employment (Shore Side vs Sailing)

Hello Everyone

I am set to graduate from TMA with my 3rd AE Unlimited in just over a month. My original plan was to join MEBA, and ship out of a few of the East Coast Halls. About 6 months ago, I applied to a Nuclear Power Plant Non-Licensed Operator Position (not as a joke, but more of a Hail Mary). Well this morning they offered me a job at around 130k, but you work the entire of the year, there is no MEBA pension, and I have not looked into the health insurance yet.

I am wondering how some of my shipmates out there have dealt with the difficult decisions like these ones, the pros and cons they juggled with, and just some general insight/advice. Everything in my life is rapidly changing, and I do not want to make any rash decisions. Thankful for whatever advice you all have to offer.


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First off, congratulations! That is a fantastic job offer for someone fresh out of school. My guess is you’ll likely have a solid benefits package with the shoreside role so I’d frame the decision as to whether or not you want to sail on your license. Your ability to get a shoreside role probably won’t diminish if you choose to sail for a few years so it’s a lifestyle choice for you/what type of work you might find interesting. In your 130k role you can easily contribute to some retirement plan up to the match and more. I wouldn’t worry about pension for MEBA unless you plan on staying in long term. Anyways, congratulations!

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When you actually add up weekends, holidays, PTO, and actual time home etc, you actually come out on top with scheduled time off, than sailing. I would take the job, give it a 2 year window to see if it is something you enjoy and want to continue. At that point, you can check the health of the industry to see if you want to sail on your license, or continue with Shoreside work. (Advice from a fellow TMA alumnus).


Most power plant operators are on rotating shift work. Enjoy swapping days and nights every 3-4 days?

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Aren’t you a little young to worry about pension? Anyway all this “union pensions” are pennies on the dollar. Meanwhile, working for the big company and making decent money will allow you to beef your 401k and be a free man at the age of 59.5. So, yes, take that job!


Absolutely not too young to worry about retirement.

But I wouldn’t count on a union pension. Invest yourself and max out the 401K wherever you are and you’ll do way better than a Meba pension.


I’m a SUNY (3rd AE) grad that’s been in nuclear for over 40 years. Sounds like they want to groom you for a license position. Figure on a couple years as an aux operator, then 18 months of classroom training, then an RO license and a job in the Control Room. Depending on the company, it could be a great career. Just be prepared for a lot of grunt work at first (oiler /wiper) and forced OT. PM me for specifics.


How transferable are the skills/licenses? Specifically, can a RO/SRO up and move to another plant in a different part of the country?

The license itself is plant specific. Once you have one, it’s value to another company is 1) knowing you are capable of obtaining it, and 2) knowing all the fundamentals. So, less risk/expense for them if you’re moving jobs = better offers for you.
Two basic types of nuke plants in US; Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). I’d say over 50% of the skills you learn in one will apply to the other. Then you have different manufacturer designs within each group; for example for PWRs you have Westinghouse and Combustion Engineering, slight differences in design but pretty easy to go from one to the other.

As far as pensions, nowadays it’s rare to find a utility that’s offering a pension plan, most stopped offering them to new employees in the late 90s.

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You might come out with more hours at home but definitely far less quality time.

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A MEBA Chief Engineer retiring tomorrow would have a pension of well over $100,000 per year for life, plus medical. A 401k is great but won’t beat that deal and you can still have a 401k with MEBA in addition to your pension.

Now is one of the best times in a very long time to be entering the industry. You’ll likely be able to make $130,000 as a 3AE in 6 months with MEBA and have the rest of the year to enjoy life and you’ll have seniority by the next downturn.

Never too young to think about what you might need when you retire. I got very good advice from a 1st when I first started out.

I agree you should max out the 401K wherever you are. You have that ability as well in the MEBA. Between the 401K, the MPB, and the “traditional” pension; you can do quite well.

As far as the OP, do what you think is best for you and what you enjoy.

How confident are you that this will survive? After seeing the AMO and USW pensions go belly up, why is anyone betting on that?

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MEBA and the hall will always be there, as long as you keep your license/STCW current.

The power plant opportunity may not always be there,BUT I suspect there will be needs for new plant operators for at least the next few years are boomers finally get out of the way.

The analysis should be for the worst case, meaning, “I made the wrong original decision and I’d like to switch to the other path.” You do some time at the nuke plant, and you get good experience, top notch training as an entry level (I can’t emphasize this enough), and good money. If you don’t like it, you can hit the hall after 1-2 year trial run.

You go MEBA, hit the hall and sail a year or two, you will get on ships and possibly learn stuff. You may learn the wrong stuff. There won’t be any formalized training, but you can attend classes at MEBA school. You might work with assholes, or might get good teachers. You 99% won’t work with people that had the proper formal training/evaluation/experience in the formal science of operations that a nuke plant will…“this is shipping, your calculus isn’t useful here”.

It will be easier to go from nuke to ships, minus the culture shock due to lack of safety/procedures/etc than it would be to learn many things wrong (especially safety) and have to change your bad habits to go work in a nuke plant.

The entry level years of a young engineering mind are the most important to absorb correct information and experience. After that, correcting the horrors of the past is often impossible.

I’m gonna be honest, as a hawsepiper I like to see most of the grads take shoreside jobs :joy:

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That’s exactly why I said invest yourself and don’t expect anybody else to do it for you.

Keep your license current, take the power plant job

But who knows how easy it will be to find work in two years? Now is the time to try shipping to see if you like.

How do you figure, when you will never get back those holidays, events, family outings, friend dinners, etc, etc, because you are gone half the year +? I would rather now look back at this part of my life and know that I can be a part of people in my life at all times, and not just half of it. Quality time is definitely better shoreside than sailing.

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