Maritime Career Paths

Onboard large merchant ships the crew is divided into the deck, engine and steward’s departments.

Deck Department

The deck department personnel work on the ship’s bridge while she is navigating underway. The unlicensed personnel would stand lookout and helm watches. Off watch they would work at painting and maintaining the ship’s exterior. When entering port, deck department personnel would stand by the anchors, handle mooring lines, secure the ship to the pier and rig out the gangway etc. Entry level personnel in the deck department start out as ordinary seamen. After three years of service on deck, an ordinary seaman can take the Coast Guard examination and progress up to Able Seaman unlimited. With three years of service documented as an Able Seaman unlimited, a mariner could be eligible to sit for a third mate’s license and progress from the unlicensed crew to a position as a licensed merchant marine officer.

Engine Department

The engine department personnel stand watch and work in the ship’s engine room. They also work on all machinery and electrical equipment installed anywhere onboard the ship. A person entering the engine department at an entry rating starts out as a wiper. After six months of service in the engine room a wiper could be eligible to take the Coast Guard examinations to advance to a Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) rating. These ratings include qualifications such as fireman/watertender, oiler, electrician, machinist, reefer engineer, junior engineer or deck engine mechanic. After three years of service as a QMED a person could be eligible to sit for a license as third assistant engineer of steam or motor vessels.

Steward's Department

Steward’s department personnel work in the ship’s galley preparing and serving meals and maintaining the ships interior spaces keeping them clean. In order to work in the galley food service personnel must satisfactorily pass a physical assuring that they are free from communicable diseases. A career in the steward’s department can lead to obtaining a certificate of registry as a staff officer or a purser’s license.

crew undergoing survival training in pool
Crew of U.S. flag passenger vessel undergo proficiency in survival craft training . . .