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How Do I Get a Job as a Seaman?

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The term "seaman" refers to a person who works in water transportation occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, they are also known as "merchant mariners." A seaman can find employment in a wide variety of areas, from cruise ships to shipping companies and other civilian-owned ships. If you are interested in becoming a seaman, you can apply your skills in a wide variety of roles, from deck officers to engineers.

Talk with individuals working in the maritime industry and read current news to learn more about the industry. Contact the port authority at the port closest to you. A listing of ports in the United States is located at Learning more about the day-to-day tasks at sea will help you determine what you want to do as a seaman. There are several paths you can take toward a career as a seaman. Ask yourself the type of vessel you want to work in, such as a deep sea vessel or a smaller vessel such as a supply boat. In a deep sea vessel, you can work as a deck officer and help the captain direct the ship. You can also work as a ship engineer to operate and troubleshoot marine machinery. In a smaller vessel, you can work as a merchant mariner to transport workers and supplies from oil and gas platforms to the shore.

Get a degree in a field of study such as marine engineering or logistics, depending on the work you want to do. There are seven merchant marine academies in the United States, and graduating from these academies will allow you to be a deck officer, engineer or member of the Navy. You may also obtain your degree from another institution outside of the seven marine academies, but you have to consider if they provide at-sea training, since this is important to gain experience. You may also get training from a maritime training school if your university doesn't offer experiential training.

Get licensed. Those working in water vessels need to obtain Coast Guard credentials to get a TWIC (transportation worker identification credential). Apply at The TWIC certificate means you have passed security screening. In addition, mariners who are getting their licensure after April 15, 2009, need a merchant mariner certificate. Apply for this through the U.S. Coast Guard. You may also need additional licensure or training if you want to work in a specialized position such as information technology.

Apply for positions at shipping companies, cruise companies or any other maritime company of your interest. You may find employment listings online or through a maritime union. Websites such as have listings of available maritime positions, and they frequently post their listings on Twitter. Make sure that you also consider international jobs, since there are various maritime positions on other continents as well, such as in Europe and Asia.

Pass health tests as required by your position. In order to secure your employment, you may need to pass health, vision and color perception tests. Merchant mariners need to be fit and have good vision in order to meet the demands of maritime work. You may also undergo certain tests, such as for balance and dexterity, before obtaining an offer of employment.


If you are considering an international position, your U.S. licensure and degree may be transferable to the international position. Check with the company's rules.

  • If you are considering an international position, your U.S. licensure and degree may be transferable to the international position. Check with the company's rules.

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