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Ship Captain Schools and Training Programs: How to Choose

Ship captains can have careers outside the military such as working in product transport for global corporations or commanding a cruise ship. There are non-military related schools where students can earn the education needed to begin a career.

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How to Choose a Ship Captain School or Training Program

Programs that train students to become ship captains can be found at maritime academies and 4-year colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Program options and credentials awarded
  • Faculty experience
  • Curriculum content
  • Graduate success

Program Options and Credentials Awarded

Those wishing to become a ship captain may look for schools with deck officer or marine transportation programs. Students should make sure that the program issues a U.S. Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) upon graduation. An MMC allows a graduate to work on any U.S. ship in any ocean regardless of the ship's size, load or horsepower. This credential also runs concurrently with accreditation by both the Maritime Administration and the United States Coast Guard's National Maritime Center.

Faculty Experience

The training provided by a MMC-credential program requires that the program faculty have experience on the water. Students may want to review the backgrounds of the faculty members, looking for experience in both freshwater transport and time at sea. A credential that students should look for in a faculty member is Master Mariner, Unlimited, Any Ocean, which signifies that a professor can work on any size U.S. ship over any water.

Curriculum Content

The curriculum in marine transportation programs is broad and includes topics from basic medicine to ocean science. Some courses, such as navigation, will be offered in sequences and include distinct sections such as terrestrial, celestial and electronic. A curriculum should include time on a ship and real-life simulations.

Graduate Success

Students may want to investigate the benefits offered to graduates. All programs that carry an MMC credential offer graduates the opportunity to participate in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard and earn a reserve officer's commission. Programs might list information such as the companies graduates work for and average starting salaries.

Ship Captain Training Program Overviews

Marine Transportation Programs

These programs combine humanities and science courses with training and instruction in different aspects of the maritime industry, including business and technology. Students will have to take many lab-based courses, such as:

  • Marine survival
  • Navigation
  • Nautical science

Many programs require training cruises in the spring or summer.

Licensed Deck Officer

Licensed deck officer programs are 3- or 4-year programs. Similar to programs in marine transportation, these programs include courses in business and science, and maritime-specific courses include:

  • Piloting
  • Cargo stowage
  • Ship safety

Passing the Merchant Mariner's license examination is the final requirement in order to earn the degree.

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