Skills That Can Help You Get a Job as a Merchant Seaman

by Candice Mancini

To become a civilian mariner with Military Sealift Command, you must earn your Merchant Mariner Credential. This requires you to be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and eligible for security clearance. You must also weigh less than 295 pounds, pass drug and physical examinations, and, for nearly all merchant seaman jobs, have seagoing experience. While meeting these requirements makes you eligible to be a merchant seaman, certain skills can make you a successful one.

First Aid Know-How

Basic Safety Training can benefit you as a merchant seaman and make your application stand out. A requirement of the U.S. Coast Guard, the BST program is comprised of four parts: first aid and CPR; personal safety & social responsibilities; personal survival techniques; and basic firefighting. The BST program can be completed in 40 hours and will teach you skills that include clearing the airway for breathing, recognizing emergency signals, using personal life-saving equipment and extinguishing fires.

A Mechanical Thumb

Mechanical rooms abound in merchant ships. These include an engine room, steering-engine room, ice-machine room and machine shop, all of which require ongoing maintenance and repairs. To handle this part of the job, you must pass examinations to earn Qualified Member of the Engineering Department endorsements. The initial endorsement is the QMED - General, which the completion of a Basic Safety Training program can prepare you for. Additional endorsements include oiler, fireman/watertender, pumpman and electrician.

An Easy-Going But Alert Personality

Life on a merchant ship is hard. Seamen and women often spend months away from home, living in cramped environments with people of all backgrounds, personalities and habits. To succeed, you need to be able to shrug off everyday annoyances, while at the same time staying sharp and alert. The work is hard, dirty and often dangerous, with hazards that include being crushed by falling objects, falling from the deck and being poisoned by toxic fluids. Those who are cautious and alert will best avoid injuries.

A Knack for Cleanliness

Cleanliness is extremely important on a ship, where the quarters feel especially cramped. Personal hygiene and good housekeeping skills are vital for more reasons than aesthetics: infectious diseases can spread quickly on a ship. The highly-contagious Norovirus -- which causes severe diarrhea and vomiting -- is one of several bugs seafarers want to avoid. To land a job as a merchant seaman, you must demonstrate that you are aware of the importance of sanitation as well as knowledge of proper cleaning techniques.

About the Author

Candice Mancini has always loved matching people with career paths. After earning her master's degree in education from the University at Albany, she spent a decade teaching and writing before becoming a full-time writer. Mancini has published articles and books on education, careers, social issues, the environment and more.

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