Marine Law

How to Become a Merchant Marine? Explore here

The global Marine Vessel market is expected to grow to USD 188.57 billion in 2028 from USD 170.75 billion in 2021. It is expected to prosper at a CAGR of 1.43% in the forecasted period of 2021 to 2028. Such facts and figures indicate that the industry has a promising future for aspiring candidates who want to become merchant seaman and pursue their careers in the industry for the long term.

Read on to explore how to join the merchant marine and what does a merchant seaman do.

What Is a Merchant Seaman?

If you feel the call of the sea and looking for an opportunity that can let you work on and near water, then merchant seaman would be the right choice for you. In the United States, there’s plenty of call for ambitious aspirants with the right skills who want to head into the marine vessel industry. The industry offers substantial pay, challenging physical work, and opportunities for adventure – mainly on the sea.

What Is a Merchant Seaman?

What Does a Merchant Seaman Do?

Merchant seamen typically have the roles and responsibilities to work on large ships used to transport commercial goods to different locations. To put it simply, a merchant seaman is a responsible person with the job role to work onboard a water vessel to carry and deliver cargo to different lakes and oceans performing logistics operations.

Merchant Seaman Job Description

Also recognized as an Able Seaman, merchant sailor, AB Seaman, or an Able-Bodied Seaman, a merchant seaman’s job description encompasses a variety of duties and responsibilities. However, it may exceed or lessen depending on the employer and the needs on the ship at the time of carrying out functions.

Nevertheless, merchant seamen are responsible for the repair, maintenance of the commercial machinery, and sanitation duties as a whole. In addition, they are responsible for damage control and the safety of the cargo as well. 


DegreeBachelor’s degree for officers; none for entry-level mariners.
Degree FieldMarine Engineering; Naval Science; Marine Transportation.
RequirementsAge 17-25; U.S. citizen; drug-free; Congressional letter of recommendation; pass a background test.
LicensingMerchant Marine Credential Transportation or Workers Identification Cards.


Do you want to know “how to apply for a seaman”? When looking to recruit merchant seaman, Human Resource specialists look for both soft and hard skills in them – categorized underneath:

Hard Skills

  • Knot-Tying
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Navigational skills
  • Physical strength
  • Technical knowledge
  • Basic Engineering 

Soft Skills

  • Communications
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Pressure handling
  • Focused
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical observation
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving


Merchant Seaman in the United States makes an average salary of $54,996 per year. The top 10 percent make above $144,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent is nearly $20,000 per year.

 Why to Apply a Merchant Seaman

A merchant seaman career comes with a variety of opportunities along with a promising future for ambitious individuals. You may want to join the ship for a variety of reasons including:

Forming Close Relationships

Being a merchant seaman, you have an opportunity to build and enhance your networks and connections with the co-workers on the ship. It allows you to connect with different people closely and live with them.

Opportunity to See the World

Marines work in different lakes, oceans and regions as a whole in order to import and export goods and products to various locations across the globe. Of course, you would want to visit those places that you have been dreaming of – for so long.

Why Apply for a Merchant Seaman?

Develop New Skills

Being a merchant seaman, requires self-discipline, strong communication skills and resourcefulness. It helps you develop other skills as well that will help establish a stable career in any other industry.

How to Become a Merchant Marine

Academic achievement and overall performance play a key role in getting the merchant seaman job. If you want to become a merchant seaman, it is essential to have the right education, skills and practical knowledge of the industry. You may either enroll for appropriate certifications like transportation workers’ identification credentials or may consider the Merchant Marine Academy to get a bachelor of science degree.

Consider the Merchant Marine Academy

Aspirants after completing their high school may join Merchant Marine Academy to obtain Bachelor of Science degrees, MMCs, and the rating of officers and merchant marine officer licenses once they are graduated.

The application for admittance requires a biographical essay, three letters of recommendation, a medical exam and nomination from a U.S. Senator or Representative, as well as the Candidate Fitness Assessment.

Students moreover have options to choose from marine engineering, maritime technology and operations, and marine transportation depending on their interest in fields. Students spend 13 weeks, as part of the academy’s curriculum, at sea receiving hands-on training.

Apply for a Transportation Workers Identification Credential

Candidates who want to join vessel marine will be required to apply for Transportation Workers Identification Credentials (TWIC). It is utilized to show operators of secure facilities and vessels that an individual poses no security threat.

Moreover, before obtaining the TWIC, it is also required for candidates to pass background checks performed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The process also includes a terrorist watch list check, an immigration status check, and criminal history check.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Merchant Seaman?

It usually takes a period of nearly two years which involves 26 weeks of classroom education and 360 days of sea time.


The US Marine Vessel industry is expected to grow in the near future. Hence, the future is promising for candidates who want to pursue their careers in the field. However, before applying for the actual job make sure to complete your education and certifications so that you can have a stable career ahead.