Merchant Navy deck officer

Alternative titles for this job include Navigation officer

Merchant Navy deck officers look after the day-to-day running and navigation of ships, and take care of passengers and cargo.

Average salary (a year)

£20,500 Starter


£80,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

52 to 54 variable

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays away from home

How to become a Merchant Navy deck officer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You can start your career after completing an industry-backed foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree. These courses usually include onboard practical training. Relevant subjects include:

  • nautical science
  • navigation and maritime science
  • marine engineering

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree

More information


You could do an intermediate apprenticeship as an able seafarer (deck). This will usually take around 18 to 24 months to complete, including time at sea.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship

More information

Direct application

You can join the Merchant Navy from age 16 onwards as an officer cadet or marine apprentice and train on the job.

You will also usually need to find a sponsoring company to put you through initial training.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a Merchant Navy deck officer from Careers at Sea and the Royal Fleet Auxilliary.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • observation and recording skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

  • have good eyesight and be physically fit, as you'll have to pass a medical before you can start training

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks will depend on your rank:

  • as third officer, you'll be responsible for safety equipment and lifeboats
  • as second officer, you'll navigate the ship using radar, satellites, computers and weather reports
  • as chief officer, you'll manage other officers and handle financial, legal and commercial matters
  • as master or captain, you'll have overall responsibility for the efficient running of the ship and the safety of the crew, passengers and cargo

Working environment

You could work on a ship.

Your working environment may be at height, travelling often and spending nights away from home, outdoors in all weathers and cramped.

You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Career path and progression

The Merchant Navy has clear progression routes through its ranks

You could find onshore and offshore positions with shipping companies, port authorities, maritime insurance companies and shipping brokers. Roles include logistics and fleet coordination, training and general management.

You could work for UK companies or for shipping companies based overseas.

You could also become a manager in other sectors.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Boatbuilding Apprentice

  • Wage : £185.00 Weekly
  • Location: Chichester PO20 7AY

Boatbuilding Apprentice

  • Wage : £144.30 Weekly
  • Location: Chichester PO20 7AY

Courses In England

City and Guilds 2850 – 20 Level 2 Certificate in Engineering

  • Provider: Solihull College & University Centre
  • Start date: 01 September 2020
  • Location: Smith's Wood

BTEC Extended Certificate in Engineering

  • Provider: Hagley Catholic High School
  • Start date: 01 September 2020
  • Location: Stourbridge

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