Worth getting an entry level deck job before deciding on academy?

Hi everyone!

So title of the thread is basically the question. I’m wondering if it’s worth it to go get an entry level deck job before deciding on ultimately if this is a world I could see myself (31 year old bachelor career changer) in and then pursue the academy route (I already have a bachelors degree) to get a 3rd mate unlimited license (I have 0 interest in engineering)?

To expand on that question basically I’ve read what feels like everybody’s firsthand experience with working in the field from the goods to the bads, have watched countless hours of videos of deck officers and what their work life was like, and have even been able to speak to a kind stranger in the industry who was able to give me insight into the world of a deck officer in the shipping world. As far as I can tell the work to me sounds like something I could see myself doing, but I can’t help but shake this feeling that what if the realities of being on a ship are nothing like I am imagining and ultimately I can’t tolerate what are major parts of it such as the being away for months at a time and working every single day without a break. Those are probably the 2 biggest nagging voices in the back of my head that say why I may not like this field even though I’m a bachelor without any real obligations on land, and I like to think I have the personality type to be fine away from my extended family and friends for months on end.

If I were to approach this career as logically as possible I’d think it wise to go about an entry level position first, but also if I’m being completely honest not sure what it entails to become qualified for an entry level position beyond that which is already required to work any position on a ship. Would all it take to be qualified for an entry level be whats required anyways if I was to go to an academy, so if I were to try it out first it’s not really a waste of time and resources? Or would my efforts just be better spent by taking that leap of faith and just going for the academy. I like to think I know exactly what I’d be getting myself into, but watching videos and reading other peoples experiences is no match compared to getting out there and feeling it all for oneself.

If anyone has thoughtful input I’d greatly appreciate it, and if they are willing to talk to me either through messages or even over the phone I would always be appreciative to get an experienced persons perspective to figure out which path I should take.

Thanks for reading and any help!

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That depends on what kind of vessel you want to be a deckhand on. The STCW basic training costs over $1,000 plus the cost of the TWIC and drug test you need on order to supply for an MMC.

I say just go to the academy. Maybe consider the SUNY master’s degree program that gets you a third mate license.

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Second that, getting the SUNY grad degree will set you up nicely. Maybe get a job prior to enrollment but if you want to advance more quickly, go to the academy. You can easily pay the degree off in five years if you decide sailing isn’t for you and you’ve spent your 30s making good money as an officer and figuring out if it is for you. You’ll repeatedly regret not going to the academy when some arrogant 25yr old is sitting in the wheelhouse telling you, the 35yr old hawespiper what to do. The industry values the license above most everything else. Just remember that and get the biggest you can.

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Current senior at GLMA here, i took a summer job as a deckhand on the lakes the summer before i started at the academy, and i definitely dont regret it. The work was hard and some of the less pleasant crewmembers could definitely be a drag, but id say that the experience and opportunity to begin developing deck skills before starting school definitely made all of the long days worth it. If you do end up going this route, definitely dont be afraid to pick the officers brains about the career and visit the wheelhouse to learn on your own time. Obviously i cant speak for everyone, but most of the officers that i worked with were super helpful, and were more than willing to teach me anything i wanted to know. Overall couldnt reccomend it enough, feel like the experience of working on deck has helped me develop into a more well rounded mariner. Making some money before school starts never hurts either.

Feel free to reach out with any questions, and best of luck!