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New or Transitioning to a Career at Sea

Crowley Careers

Career at sea: Are you new to the maritime industry or transitioning out of the military?

The maritime industry is growing, providing opportunities for a rewarding career at sea working on deck, in the engine room, or the steward’s department for motivated individuals.

One of the most difficult tasks an individual has is getting started in this industry. The first step that you can take is to learn about the different requirements for various operations and career paths. From there, it is easier to make an educated decision regarding where you wish to go. See below for the minimum requirements to become a Merchant Mariner:

Engine vs. Deck – Ratings for Seagoing Individuals

One decision an individual needs to make when they are looking to start a career at sea is whether they want to work on deck, in the wheelhouse, in the engine room, or the galley. No decision is incorrect but it depends upon what you enjoy and what you are hoping to achieve from your career at sea. Below is a short listing of ratings and a description of what they do on a ship or boat.

Knowing what each position does, you can tailor your decision based on your career at sea goals. If you like working in a kitchen environment, the stewards’ department is for you. If you desire to become a Captain or Mate, you would best be suited to go into the deck department. If you are a “gearhead” or enjoy working in an engine room, you should take an engine route.

Career Development Programs

In recent years, as the need for qualified seamen at all levels has increased, so have the number of available programs that an individual has available to them for reaching their goals. Below is a brief listing of programs that you may want to look into for their suitability to meet your goals:

Seafarer’s International Union (SIU) Apprentice Programs

This program will help you go from entry-level to Able Seaman or QMED in a year. For more information, visit the SIU’s website:

Workboat Academy

A program geared towards the towing and supply boat industry, a motivated individual can go from entry-level to Mate in 2 years with intensive on-the-job (at sea) and classroom training.

Shipping Unions

If you only hold an MMD, the unions may be able to provide you with advice and opportunities for job placement. For more information, visit these union websites:


Four-year academies in Maine, Massachusetts, California, Texas and two in New York provide individuals with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Third Mate or Third Assistant Engineer license.