Merchant Mariner Schools

Want to work in the maritime industry? A mariner’s career involves continuous training and education.

By nature, the role requires an excellent understanding of safety standards and procedures. A mariner also has to keep up with technology which is constantly changing.

A career in the maritime industry can be lucrative and exciting. There are numerous employment opportunities – not just offshore, but onshore as well. While experience and other skills can help start your maritime career, a maritime qualification is essential to furthering your career.

Under the jurisdiction of the United States, maritime training and licensing are managed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) prescribes the minimum standards that must be met by seafarers. There are many USCG-approved maritime training institutes and courses.

You can begin your maritime education as early as childhood and study all the way up to a post-graduate degree. Whether you are pursuing a certification or degree, or wanting to study at a merchant seaman school or online, there are many maritime training schools to choose from in the United States.

Maritime High Schools

Those who realize their ambition to work in the maritime industry early in life can choose to enroll in a maritime-oriented high school. The following private schools can help kick-start your maritime career early:

Maritime Academies

Perhaps you would like to pursue a career as a mariner in the United States Armed Forces. Or you would like to work as an officer on a merchant marine vessel. Either way, you are going to need a Bachelor of Science degree. Your field of study can be either Naval Science, Marine Engineering or Marine Transportation. It takes four years of study to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree.

Federal government academies

Federal U.S. service academies provide undergraduate training and education of commissioned officers for the U.S. Armed Forces. The term “service academies” is commonly associated with the Army, Navy and Air Force; as well as the Coast Guard.

Students at U.S. service academies pay no tuition fee; receive room and board; and receive a monthly salary. Graduates are required to serve a minimum term of duty (usually five to eight years) as ensigns.

There are five U.S. service academies. Three of them are aimed at training mariners. They are:

1. The United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland

First year students (Plebes) at the United States Naval Academy.

The USNA is aimed at training and educating students for commission into the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Students enroll as midshipmen and can choose from over 20 majors. The USNA has three academic divisions:

  • Division I: Engineering and Weapons
  • Division II: Mathematics and Science
  • Division III: Humanities and Social Sciences

2. The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut

The USCGA provides education and training for future Coast Guard officers. Students enroll as cadets and can choose between the following majors:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
  • Operations Research and Computer Analysis
  • Marine and Environmental Sciences
  • Government
  • Management

Most graduates conduct their term of duty as Deck Watch Officers or Engineer Officers in Training aboard Coast Guard cutters.

3. ​The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York

The United States Merchant Marine Academy

Graduates from the USMMA generally follow one of three career paths:

  • Sailing as Unlimited Third Mates or Third Assistant Engineers in the United States Merchant Marine;
  • Working ashore in the civilian maritime industry; or
  • Serving active duty as a Commissioned Officers in the U.S. military.

Students enroll as midshipmen and can choose from five major courses:

  • Marine Transportation
  • Logistics and Intermodal Transportation
  • Marine Engineering
  • Marine Engineering Systems
  • Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management

Upon graduation, graduates can fulfill their service obligations by working as

  • licensed officers on U.S.-flagged merchant vessels;
  • civilians in the maritime industry; or
  • active duty officers in any branch of the U.S. uniformed services (Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Public Health Service or the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration)

State Maritime Training Academy

There are several U.S. government-owned maritime academies which offer maritime degrees and USCG-approved maritime courses. State maritime academies have government-owned training ships for practical training.

Graduates from state maritime academies are not obliged to serve a term of duty. However, state academies offer programs by which students can apply to serve in the Armed Forces Reserves in order to fund their studies.

Graduates usually receive a U.S. Coast Guard unlimited tonnage license and find work as Third Mates or Third Assistant Engineers on merchant vessels.

1. California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California

TS Golden Bear: the California Maritime Academy's training ship.

The California Maritime Academy offers six bachelor’s degrees in the following majors:

  • Business Administration/International Business and Logistics (BS)
  • Facilities Engineering Technology (BS)
  • Global Studies and Maritime Affairs (BA)
  • Marine Engineering Technology (BS)
  • Marine Transportation (BS)
  • Mechanical Engineering (BS)

The mariner school also offers a Master of Science in Transportation and Engineering Management graduate degree.

2. Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan

Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Maritime Technology. Cadets at the academy have the following options:

  • Deck Officer
  • Engineering Officer
  • Power Plant Facilities Operator

3. Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine

Maine Maritime Academy

The Maine Maritime Academy offers bachelor degrees with a choice of the following majors:

  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • International Business and Logistics
  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Biology/Small Vessel Operations
  • Marine Engineering Operations
  • Marine Engineering Technology
  • Marine Science
  • Marine Science/Small Vessel Operations
  • Marine Systems Engineering (License Track)
  • Marine Systems Engineering (Non-License Track)
  • Marine Transportation Operations
  • Power Engineering Operations
  • Power Engineering Technology
  • Vessel Operations and Technology

Two-year associate degrees:

  • Small Vessel Operations
  • Small Craft Design
  • Small Craft Systems

Master of Science graduate degrees through the Loeb-Sullivan School of International Business & Logistics:

  • Global Logistics & Maritime Management (on campus)
  • International Logistics Management (online)
  • Master’s & Commander Program

4. Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Maritime Academy offers the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Energy Systems Engineering
  • Facilities Engineering
  • Marine Engineering
  • Emergency Management
  • Marine Safety & Environmental Protection
  • International Maritime Business
  • Marine Transportation

Master of Science graduate degrees:

  • Facilities Management
  • Emergency Management

5. State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College in Throggs Neck, New York

SUNY Maritime offers the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Marine Engineering with an Engine License
  • Naval Architecture with Deck License, Engine License or Intern Option
  • Electrical Engineering with Deck License, Engine License or Intern Option
  • Facilities Engineering with Engine License or Intern Option
  • Mechanical Engineering with Engine License or Intern Option
  • Marine Transportation with a Deck License
  • Marine Operations with Deck or Engine License
  • International Transportation and Trade with an Intern Option
  • Maritime Studies with a Deck License or Intern Option
  • Marine Environmental Science with a Deck License or Intern Option
  • Marine Technology/Small Vessel Operations with Deck or Engine License

SUNY Maritime also offers an associate degree program on the business and practices of the shipping industry. Master degrees available at the college are transportation management; and maritime and naval studies.

6. Texas A&M Maritime Academy in Galveston, Texas

The Texas A&M Maritime Academy.

The maritime academy offers numerous bachelor’s degrees; including majors in:

  • Marine Transportation
  • Marine Engineering Technology
  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Sciences

Graduate degrees:

  • Master of Maritime Administration and Logistics
  • Ph.D. or Master of Marine Biology
  • Master of Marine Resources Management

Maritime Training Centers

There is a vast amount of maritime training schools offering various USCG-approved certification courses. Instead of studying towards a degree, you can choose to start your merchant mariner career by gaining experience first. You can then do certification courses to rise through the ranks as you go.

The first step to becoming an ordinary seaman is to apply for your Merchant Mariner Credential and TWIC card. You can then obtain further certifications and licenses to further your career. Basic certification courses include the STCW certificate and a variety of technical certifications. The most advanced maritime license is the Master Captain's License.

Those employed in the merchant mariner industry are also required to undergo maritime security training courses (firefighting, first aid, personal safety, etc.).

Online Mariner Schools

You do not have to attend courses at a maritime training school to obtain a maritime qualification. There is an abundance of distance learning online courses available. Studying online can be more cost- and time effective than studying at a training facility.

These are the top online course providers, according to Marine Insight:

1. Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

Known as the pioneer of online maritime training, Lloyd’s Maritime Academy is especially famed for its MBA in Shipping & Logistics course. The academy offers a wide variety of online courses – from short certification courses to postgraduate diplomas.

2. Videotel

Videotel supports the online learning experience with graphics, videos, audio narration and interactive texts.

3. Lloyd’s Register

Lloyd’s Register is a reputed name in the maritime industry. The school promotes understanding of course material through real-life scenarios.

4. Coracle Online

Coracle Online is a famed provider of professional development online courses. The school offers a wide range of commercial shipping courses.

5. Shipgaz

Shipgaz provides online training to the employees of over 120 affiliated companies. It is the only maritime online training provider with DNV Standard of Certification for Maritime Training Centers.

6. Mariner’s Learning System

Provides captain’s license online courses.

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