Most motorboat operators have a bachelor’s degree from a merchant marine academy. The programs offer a bachelor’s degree and a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC) with an endorsement as a third mate or third assistant engineer. Non-officers, such as sailors or marine oilers, usually do not have to have a degree.
Ordinary seamen, wipers, and other entry-level mariners get on-the-job training for several months to a year. Length of training depends on the size and type of ship and waterway they work on. For example, workers on deep sea vessels need more complex training than those whose ships travel on a river.
Ordinary seamen can get an able seamen endorsement after six months to three years of experience, depending on the type of ship they work on, by passing a written test.
Able seamen can complete a number of training and testing requirements, after at least three years of experience in the deck department, to get an endorsement as a third mate. Experience and testing requirements increase with the size and complexity of the ship.
Officers who graduate from a maritime academy receive an MMC with a third mate or third assistant engineer endorsement, depending on which department they are trained in.
To move up each step of the occupation ladder from third mate/third assistant engineer to second to first and then to captain or chief engineer requires 365 days of experience at the previous level. A second mate or second assistant engineer who wants to move to first mate/first assistant engineer must also complete a 12-week training course and pass an exam.
Pilots are licensed by the jurisdiction in which they work. The Coast Guard licenses pilots on the Great Lakes. The requirements for these licenses vary, depending on where a pilot works.
Instead of attending a maritime academy, captains and mates can attain their position after at least three to four years of experience as a member of a deck crew. This experience must be on a ship similar to the type they hope to serve on as an officer. They must also take several training courses and pass written and on-board exams. The difficulty of these requirements increases with the complexity and size of the vessel. Most officers who take this career path work on inland waterways, rather than on deep-sea ships. Although there are no license requirements for motorboat operators, most employers prefer applicants who have several years of boating experience.