How would you describe your job in 2-3 lines?
I'm a trainee Merchant Navy deck officer (a "cadet"), sponsored by a major name in the cruise ship industry. The Merchant Navy is the collective name given to the world's commercial shipping fleet, and a deck officer is responsible for navigation, ship maintenance, cargo operations and stability. I am on a three year HND programme, which comprises periods spent at sea and at Warsash Maritime Academy (WMA) near Southampton.
What do you actually do on a day-to-day basis?
* I am currently in my first college phase at Warsash Maritime Academy. My "contact hours" are quite high - currently 27 hours per week. This is made up of numerous courses, including Navigation, Ship and Port Operations, General Ship Knowledge and Maths. Maths is a very important subject here and is the basis for many of the more "salty" subjects like Navigation and Stability. I also have a unit in Academic Study Skills to prepare me for later college phases. The first phase consists of an induction week, ten weeks of teaching, a week of examinations and, finally, three weeks of pre-sea and short safety courses. The main focus is to give us a basic understanding of the industry and prepare us for our first sea phase, along with building a foundation for the second college phase. The lecturers are approachable and the facilities are good. We are required to live on campus for the first college phase which provides plenty of opportunities for study and socialising. My first sea phase will be eight months long, of which four to six months will be spent at sea and the remainder on leave. I will most likely spend much of my time performing general maintenance tasks on deck with the deck crew, observing and later participating in morring operations and shadowing the junior officers. Just as the first college phase provides a foundation for the first sea phase, the first sea phase should itself provide a foundation for the second college phase.
What are the main positives and negatives to your job?
My sponsoring company pay my tuition fees along with a modest salary throughout the cadetship, which means that I am effectively studying debt-free. There is a sense of cameraderie amongst those of us at college, and I am led to believe that the same is true on board ship. Once I have qualified, I will earn a tax-free and reasonable salary.
What qualifications and skills are needed to be great at this job?
There are two entry routes - one may apply for either a Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Marine Operations or a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Nautical Science. Those looking to apply for the FdSc course should have a minimum of 120 UCAS points plus grade C or above in GCSE Mathematics, English and Science. Those looking to apply for the HND course should have four GCSEs at grade C or above, including Mathematics, English and Science. Sponsoring companies may set their own standards. Previous experience at sea is very useful, and for those interested in cruise ships some customer service experience is a plus too.
In what ways has the reality of your job differed from your prior expectations?
I researched my career choice before I made my application, and everything's been as expected so far. There is a substantial workload while at college, but if you keep on top of it and keep yourself organised this shouldn't pose a problem.
What advice would you give to candidates applying for a similar role at this company
Research! There are plenty of websites with information about the cadetship scheme. The Merchant navy training Board at http://www.mntb.org.uk/ provide information about the Merchant Navy and companies that sponsor UK cadets. Colleges such as Warsash Maritime Academy at http://www.warsashacademy.co.uk/ often have useful information about the courses, life as a cadet and a contact name for queries. A quick Google search will find numerous cadet blogs which describe their experiences in detail, and there are forum sites such as http://www.officercadet.com where you can interact with current cadets and serving officers. You might also have family or friends who have been in the Merchant Navy - they can be a great source of information. As with any interview, know the company. What type of ships do they operate? Do they have any specialities? What's their background/culture/ethos?
Typical cadet salaries vary depending on company, though are generally in the region of £600-£1000 per month. Some companies may pay for your accomodation during college phases. Upon qualification, typical Third Officer starting salaries range from £22,000 to £30,000. This depends on company and ship type.
What hours do you actually work, on average? 1amto 12pm.
Days at college are generally 09:00-16:00 or 17:00, though at sea I may be on long "day work" shifts or on a watch (4 hours on, 8 hours off).
With the benefit of hindsight, would you choose to do this job again?