Nautical programs prepare students for careers on ships of all shapes and
sizes -- from small tugs to supertankers.
You can enroll at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, or one of six state
academies that offer nautical training.
Nautical programs may offer a great variety of training choices.
Consider the Pacific Marine Training Campus. Its cadet program trains aspiring
deck officers and engineers. That training lasts four years. The campus also
offers shorter training programs to deckhands and mates who want to move up.
Note, though, that completing a nautical program does not guarantee
you employment. You must still pass the necessary federal licensing exams.
The U.S. Coast Guard licenses all officers and operators of watercraft.
Students in nautical programs train on land as well as on ships. When
you're on land, you take courses in general subjects as well as marine-specific
subjects such as navigation, general seamanship or propulsion. That's
if you go into the engineering stream.
Your choice of stream also affects how much time you spend at sea. If you
want to be a deck officer, you generally spend more time at sea than if you
want to serve as an engineer.
You may spend up to nine months at sea. If you want to go into engineering,
it may be up to six months.
Some programs have their own training ships. Others place you on vessels
that belong to school partner companies.
Being at sea for many months is not likely going to be a pleasure cruise.
The weather may be less than pleasant and you will be away from your nearest
"You are going to be gone for periods [of time]. You have to be comfortable
with that," says John Penner. He is the superintendent of the Great Lakes
Maritime Academy at Northwestern Michigan College.
You must also be able to understand and follow the chain of command when
you're at sea. You may have to do the same when on land. Some programs
have strict codes of conduct. Also, expect to wear a uniform.
Students must meet the relevant physical standards for serving on board
vessels as set by the federal government.
"You should not be color-blind, and your eyesight should be good,"
says Louis A. D'Mello. He is an instructor in a nautical program.
Students may also have to pass exams that test their math and English
abilities. They may also have to go through interviews that assess their
suitability for a maritime career. And they may have to provide letters of
In high school, concentrate on math and the natural sciences. Math
is especially important.
Students should also participate in as many things outside their classrooms
as possible, says Penner. "What we want is a well-rounded individual. We want
a person who...can work with people," he says.
So join clubs. Volunteer. Play sports. It also helps if you have done some
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Water
U.S. Coast GuardIt licenses mariners in the U.S.
International Maritime OrganizationIt sets standards for shipping and pollution on the oceans