What is the best career path to become a Chief Engineer?

Hi, I’m graduating high school in June. I have my TWIC and passport and I’ve applied for a Wiper rating for my MMC. I’m trying to decide should I go Navy Engineman, SIU apprenticeship, Maritime college, or be a Hawsepiper. My goal is to be on a container ship by 40.

Any of those will get you there if you work hard but since you ask what is the best career path. I would recommend one of the maritime colleges if you can swing it.


Maritime school would be the most straight forward and less convoluted path by far, and most likely quickest assuming you get steady work. Come out an officer and hopefully sail with only one union as opposed to sailing as a wiper/qmed with siu then when you become licensed down the line, having to start all over again with initiation fees and establishing senority.


Maritime collage will save you approx 10 years.

My son is currently in the Engineer program with a Canadian Maritime collage. He will come out this time next year with a Engineering watch keeping certificate a year later he goes back to school and completes all the requirements for a 2nd Class.

The draw back. The school only has limited space and a lot more applications than places. His grades were not great overall. English sucked. Fortunately Math was good and he liked shop courses.
So he was lucky to get in.

The course fees were higher than my daughters university degree course.
He got a good placement with a good company for his Sea phases with a 1st and 2nd with the same company. Wasn’t a popular choice they pay was a lot less than minimum wage. on the ship for months. Had to stay more than 3 to get his fare home paid.

He is a student and almost flat broke. Just back from 3 months at sea
( the lakes mostly) the company paid more for his winter coveralls than they paid him.

The positive. He has his seatime. And will have a license in 3 years and on his way to his 2nd class.
Along with a job offer as a 4th Engineer when he is finished school to get his watch keeping time required for his 2nd Class.
He will have most of the requirements for most of the 1st class by the time he has finished the program.

Weigh this against starting as an entry level Oiler.
Requiring 36 months Sea time. Which will take 5 or 6 years . Still having to go to school.

you get paid well some companies might even pay you something to go to school but it will take a lot longer.

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I served an enlistment in the Navy before going to Maritime academy. You’ll get the GI Bill, which completely covered the cost of a State Maritime Academy, plus living expenses. Might be a good idea to do 4 years as an Engineman before going to school, get an idea if you like it. To be honest, so of the best engineers I’ve worked with had Electronics Technician background in the Navy before Hawsepiping. Gas Turbine M or E might be another option. I’d recommend staying clear from nuke though. 6 year commitment and I’ve never met a happy one.


Thanks for answering my question. I understand now that the maritime colleges are the best route but I’ll have to wait until I have more money for school and get my SAT score up. I applied to SIU if I don’t get in, I’ll join the Navy then use the GI Bill.

Did you apply to any of the Maritime academies? I wouldn’t worry about your SAT scores until you get a rejection letter. And if they do, ask what you can do to make yourself a candidate that will get accepted. A passion for the industry is more important than your SAT scores or grades. As for paying for school, you may be eligible for need based schoalrships or other financial aid. Don’t say you can’t get in or can’t afford it until you try. The only person stopping you from succeeding is you. There have been many mariginal high school students that have made it through the academies successfully and actually thrived there. It is still your best bet to achieve your goal. You didn’t say where you live, but I would go tour one of the schools and get an application in as soon as possible. Be honest with the admissions people and explain what your goals are. Good luck.


Saltyseaman gives exceptionally good advice!

The academies have about a 75% acceptance rate. Three quarters of all applicants get in.

The Academies are relatively inexpensive state colleges. Anyone can afford it. 80% of students receive some financial aid. Very few students pay the full retail price.

In addition to need based scholarships and financial aid, it’s easy to get federal student loans to pay for the full cost of going to school. If you go to a maritime academy, especially if you are an engineer, it’s easy to make very good money to pay off those student loans.

Go to an academy.

It’s also not very difficult to raise your SAT score by 200 points by taking a good SAT prep course.


AMO has an engineering program. Takes 33 to 36 months of classroom and seatime. The selection is based on scores of the Asvab, background and interview. Worth looking into as you graduate with a 3rd engineers license and a job.

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If you do end up in the Navy I recommend going EM instead of EN. You won’t learn much as an EN that you wouldn’t learn going to school later or even OJT on a ship as a wiper. As an EM your electrical education will be light years ahead of everyone else.

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Speaking as a hawespiper, it is difficult to forsee what will happen in the future and if you’re dead set on merchant marine. Attend an academy. Take out a loan if you must. Apply for all the financial aid you can and get your license. The degree gives you something to fall back on if you don’t find life at sea to your liking.
Additionally attempting to hawespipe your way to an upper level license is getting more difficult every year.

All engineers attempting to get an international endorsement from this day forward must complete 4 classes which are 4 weeks long at an average cost of 4 thousand dollars each.
For. Many mariners this is simply too great an obstacle to overcome.

Also an academy will give you a strong foundation of knowledge from which to build. If I could have done an academy at your age, I would have.

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