What Are the Requirements To Be a Merchant Marine?


The U.S. Merchant Marines are a significant force that patrols the waters around the United States, keeping trade routes open, delivering supplies and transporting manufactured goods. There are two major routes that a young person can take to join the Merchant Marines: applying to and attending the Merchant Marine Academy, or attending a 24-week training course at the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship. While the latter does not have eligibility requirements, the Academy has a number of scholastic, physical and other requirements for admission.

Scholastic Requirements

  • The Academy requires applicants to have graduated from an accredited high school or program, having taken at least 16 credits; according to the website, "four of these credit units must be in English; three units in mathematics (from algebra, geometry and trigonometry); and one unit in physics or chemistry with a laboratory." The minimum SAT score required is 510 for Critical Reading and 560 for Math. The minimum ACT scores are 21 English, 24 Math and 23 composite.

General Requirements

  • The applicant must be at least 17 but not older than 25 by July 1 of the entrance year. They must also have U.S. citizenship and be nominated by a member of Congress for the Academy, and be of "good moral character."

Fitness Requirements

  • Every applicant must pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which can be administered by any commissioned officer who is not a parent or physical education teacher. This assessment consists of a number of physical tests, including running, climbing, push-ups and other activities.

Medical Requirements

  • According to the website, the vision requirements for application are multiple: "A candidate must have minimum uncorrected visual acuity of 20/400 in each eye, correctable to 20/20 in each eye. The refractive error to correct the vision to 20/20 must not be greater than plus or minus 6.0 diopters in any meridian; there cannot be more than 3.00 diopters of astigmatism present; and the maximum difference in power between the eyes may not exceed 3.50 diopters."

    In addition, a candidate's weight must be between a certain range based on their height, a number determined by the medical board's reference table.

    A number of other visual and medical tests, including asthma, skin, and heart evaluations are also required; a complete list is available on the website.

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