Ways & How

how to join the Merchant Marine

how to join the Merchant Marine

It is often said that the experience of being at sea is so peaceful that it compensates for the loneliness of working so far away from your loved ones. Testimonials by mariners often reveal their experiences around the globe, witnessing sunsets and sunrises from various continents. If traveling while making money sounds ideal to you, you should learn how to join the Merchant Marine. Merchant mariners are civilians working on a military ship or even a private vessel. The title of Merchant Marine is often mistaken for U.S. Marine, but they are not the same. The mariners’ main purpose is to trade and transport goods and services. However, during times of war, they can assist the military by delivering supplies to the troops. There are actually two ways to join the Merchant Marine. The first method involves joining the United States Merchant Marine Academy, while the second method involves starting out as an ordinary seaman and working your way up through the ranks. Here are detailed steps to aid you in joining Merchant Marine:

  1. You should at least be 17 years old and no more than 25 years old to be eligible to apply to the academy.

    You have the option to apply online, print out an application form or make a written request to the academy. Usually, applying online is preferred.

  2. The application will include several requirements, such as a biographical essay, transcript of records, SAT score and letters of recommendation from your school. Check the complete list of requirements that comes along with the application.

  3. You will also need a letter of recommendation from any U.S. senator. Numerous applicants will be asking for the recommendation.

  4. Once you are accepted, you will undergo training that will qualify you for a certain position in the Merchant Marine. Usually graduates of the academy are certified as third mates or third assistant engineers.

  5. If you do not qualify for the academy, you may also apply directly as an ordinary seaman. Get a Merchant Mariner’s Credential from the U.S. Coast Guard. Once approved, you can directly apply for employment.

  6. To apply, you will need to submit your resume. Even if you are a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy, you will still need to undergo the application process; however, the chances of being accepted are higher.

  7. After spending time as an ordinary seaman, you can eventually apply to be an able seaman. It is beneficial that you achieve this rank because it will open the doors for you to become an officer.

  8. There are many different jobs onboard; you can choose from different positions depending on your interest, skills and experience. The key is to work hard and learn the responsibilities quickly.

There are various kinds of job onboard but you can always expect adventures at sea. It can also be very unpleasant and difficult when the weather conditions are poor, but cases of sinking ships are very rare. These steps on how to join the Merchant Marine are just the beginning. To become a mariner, you will need discipline and the willingness to learn very quickly whiles onboard the ship.


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