How to Join Merchant Navy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Explore the exciting world of the Merchant Navy with our detailed step-by-step guide. From eligibility criteria to training programs, discover the essential steps to kickstart your career at sea and set sail on a journey of adventure and opportunities

The merchant navy is the spine of international trade because it transports freight and carries cargo to different parts. The job requires extensive traveling and allows you to explore exotic places worldwide. If you want to pursue a career in this field, it is vital to understand the skills, qualifications, and eligibility criteria required to join the merchant navy.

In this article, we will discuss how the merchant navy differs from other navy entities, know if it is a government job and why it is a promising career at sea, explore the average salary and skills required, and understand how to join the merchant navy.

How is the career at sea different from other navy entities?

Merchant Navy is a commercial marine service responsible for shipping cargo from one place to another. It is a commercial sea career governed by government and private shipping companies.

Is the merchant navy a promising career?

Yes, it can be a better career option because of the following reasons:

  • Higher salary: a job in this field is lucrative because of the higher salary and growth potential. Also, most of these jobs offer other perks along with the salary.
  • Chance to travel: as you transport goods from one place to another, you may travel to different parts of the world.
  • Exposure to different cultures: a professional in this field often meets people from different cultures and nationalities. It helps them learn nuances of other cultures and increases their adaptability to work with individuals from different countries.
  • Extensive work exposure: as you may spend most of your work hours on the ship, you are likely to face unprecedented situations and emergencies. Therefore, the exposure and learning you receive from this job profile are extensive and unmatched.

How do I join merchant navy?

You can enter merchant navy as a cadet or engineer, depending upon your educational qualification. You can progress in your career with years of experience and relevant sea time. Meanwhile, you can become a third, second, and chief officer with a BSc degree.

What is the salary of a merchant navy officer?

The salary may depend upon your qualifications, skills, employer, and experience. It can also depend upon the college from where you earned your engineering degree.

Skills required to become a merchant navy

Here are some key skills that you should have before joining the merchant navy:

Leadership skills

These professionals often must make important decisions regarding ships’ cargo or safety and maintenance. Therefore, employers prefer candidates with excellent leadership skills because leaders are confident and honest and possess a positive outlook for every problem they encounter. In addition, leadership techniques can help them inspire and influence other staff working on the ship.

Communications skills

You have to work with multiple teams offshore. So, getting the right message across and avoiding miscommunication is important. Being able to communicate your ideas to ensure everyone understands what you are saying is a desirable merchant navy skill.

Critical thinking

During the sea voyage or while working offshore, you may encounter problems. Therefore, navy officers must have critical thinking skills to help them find a viable solution. So, these officers should think clearly and rationally to find a logical solution to the problem.


A navy officer works with an in-house and offshore team to ensure the safe delivery of cargo. The ability to work in a team is a skill that employers prefer in candidates for such job roles. Also, using their teamwork skills, a navy officer can combine ideas with colleagues to achieve a common goal.


Self-control is regulating your behavior, emotions, and thoughts to avoid inappropriate behavior and accomplish your goals. Employers expect these professionals to have excellent self-control because sailing for most of the year can be challenging, and candidates may face immense emotional and mental pressure. So, you should be emotionally strong and have a sense of responsibility against your duties and the safety of others on the ship.

How to join the Merchant Navy

To know how to join the merchant navy, follow these steps:

Choose the job profile.

There are two main job profiles through which a candidate can join the merchant navy–cadet or engineer. If you plan to join as a navigating officer or deck cadet, your primary responsibilities are navigating, maneuvering, and maintaining ships, cargo, and tanks. Also, you will supervise the loading and unloading of cargo and be responsible for handling all safety equipment.

However, if you join as an engineer, you will be responsible for running the engines, boilers, and generators and maintaining them.

Know the basic qualifications.

While both males and females can join this profession, they should be unmarried when joining. Also, candidates should be at least 17 years old at the time of joining rather than over 22 years old at the time of application.

Understand the educational qualification.

Both the job profiles require a candidate to study Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) in their 10+2. However, the bachelor’s degree requirement for both job profiles is different.

For cadet

This job profile requires a candidate to complete graduation in BSc Marine, BSc Nautical Science and BSc Marine Catering.

For engineer

This job profile requires a candidate to complete a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, petroleum engineering, naval architecture and offshore engineering, harbor & ocean engineering or electrical and electronics engineering.

Clear the entrance exams

Both cadet and engineer job profiles require candidates to clear the Entrance Test. After clearing the examination, you can be admitted to any IMU college. However, if you wish to join a government college, admission primarily depends upon your performance in the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) conducted by the Institute of Technology. Therefore, clear both JEE mains and advanced to become eligible. After passing any or both the exams, clear the interview and a medical check-up.

Career at sea

Colleges prefer hiring students with good eye vision to join the merchant navy. If pursuing a BSc degree, having 6/6 for each eye is compulsory. If you are joining an engineering course, glasses up to plus or minus 2.5 are acceptable. Also, unaided vision should be 6/12 in both eyes. For a rewarding career, you should not have any color blindness. To become eligible to join this profession, you require a fitness certificate.

Complete your training

After completing your bachelor’s degree and before joining as a cadet, you must undergo pre-sea training for one year at the Maritime Training Institute. Upon completing this compulsory training, candidates applying for cadet profiles will work on the ships and complete 18 months of training. During the training, a candidate receives a monthly stipend. Engineers will complete six months of on-ship training.

Apply for competency exams.

To finally enter the merchant navy, a candidate may have to clear a competency exam:

For engineers

After six months of training, candidates apply for a competency exam conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping and join as the fourth engineer.

You can advance your career with experience, spending time on the sea and clearing other competency exams.

Further your education

While a BE/BTech/BSc degree will get you a job in an entry-level position, you can complete your MTech/ME to increase your employability and earn a higher salary. A master’s degree can help you specialize in naval architecture, dredging and harbor, offshore, and marine engineering.

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