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What Are the Requirements To Be a Merchant Marine?

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The U.S. Merchant Marines are a significant force that patrols the waters around the United States, keeping trade routes open, delivering supplies and transporting manufactured goods. There are two major routes that a young person can take to join the Merchant Marines: applying to and attending the Merchant Marine Academy, or attending a 24-week training course at the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship. While the latter does not have eligibility requirements, the Academy has a number of scholastic, physical and other requirements for admission.

Scholastic Requirements

The Academy requires applicants to have graduated from an accredited high school or program, having taken at least 16 credits; according to the website, "four of these credit units must be in English; three units in mathematics (from algebra, geometry and trigonometry); and one unit in physics or chemistry with a laboratory." The minimum SAT score required is 510 for Critical Reading and 560 for Math. The minimum ACT scores are 21 English, 24 Math and 23 composite.

General Requirements

The applicant must be at least 17 but not older than 25 by July 1 of the entrance year. They must also have U.S. citizenship and be nominated by a member of Congress for the Academy, and be of "good moral character."

Fitness Requirements

Every applicant must pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which can be administered by any commissioned officer who is not a parent or physical education teacher. This assessment consists of a number of physical tests, including running, climbing, push-ups and other activities.

Medical Requirements

According to the website, the vision requirements for application are multiple: "A candidate must have minimum uncorrected visual acuity of 20/400 in each eye, correctable to 20/20 in each eye. The refractive error to correct the vision to 20/20 must not be greater than plus or minus 6.0 diopters in any meridian; there cannot be more than 3.00 diopters of astigmatism present; and the maximum difference in power between the eyes may not exceed 3.50 diopters."

In addition, a candidate's weight must be between a certain range based on their height, a number determined by the medical board's reference table.

A number of other visual and medical tests, including asthma, skin, and heart evaluations are also required; a complete list is available on the website.


Ludmilla Chen has been working as a writer since 2010. She has written for, and specializes in beauty and cosmetics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Washington in Seattle.

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