The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County

MY maritime Career Path

How do I get started in a maritime career?

Getting started and moving up in the maritime industry can be very different from other industries—especially if you want to work on the water.

You can start from:

  • A maritime training program
  • An entry-level job
  • An apprenticeship
  • Skills you already have, for example as an electrician or IT specialist

From there, you'll move up based on experience, additional training or specializing and, for sea-based jobs, hours logged out on the water.


Essential Maritime Credentials

The Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) and Merchant Mariners Document (sometimes called the MMD, the MMC or the Z-card) are the first documents you will need to obtain if planning to work aboard a U.S.-flagged ship.

The two are similar and have many of the same requirements. The key difference is that the TWIC is administered by the Transportation Safety Administration, while the MMD is administered by the Coast Guard. You must get your TWIC before applying for the MMD.
More information on the TWIC.

The MMD comes with various ratings depending on the type of work you want to do. Your rating changes as you advance your career. With this credential, you can work on the deck, in the engine room or in the steward's department of a ship.

The MMD application will ask about your work history, your medical history and your criminal history. Your criminal history includes DUI's, sealed records, suspended licenses and more.

You will take a drug test and be fingerprinted and the Coast Guard will look at your driving record, too. Depending on which rating you're applying for, you may also take a physical and a written exam.


Additional credentials that may be required for a maritime job:

The MMD and the TWIC are not all it takes to go to work on a ship. Your company may require a separate physical exam and drug test.

And if you are going to do any work on a deep sea (ocean-going) vessel, you must also take a Basic Safety Training Course (BST), which will teach you personal survival techniques, fire prevention and firefighting, elementary first aid, and personal safety and social responsibilities.

If you plan to work on a cruise ship, you'll also need to learn passenger assistance, crowd control, passenger safety and more.

The BST and cruise ship training are administered by the STCW: the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. These courses are available at many Coast Guard-approved schools. For more information, ask your company's human resource department or see