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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)

£30,000 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

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become Merchant Navy deck officer

You can get into this job through:

  • a sponsored university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • direct application
  • pre-cadetship courses


You can start your career as a Merchant Navy officer-cadet (deck) on an industry sponsored foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree, at a maritime college or university.

Courses usually include onboard practical training. Subjects offered include:

  • nautical science
  • marine operations
  • navigation and maritime science
  • mechanical and marine engineering

You can find out more about the applications procedure for courses and finding a sponsor from Careers at Sea.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

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

With experience your employer may support you to complete rating to officer training.

The Slater Scholarship Fund aims to help ratings who choose to do the conversion to officer training, without their employers support.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

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

More Information

Direct Application

If you have been in the Royal Navy, or have transferable skills from professions like mechanical engineering, you may be able to apply directly. You will still need to find a sponsoring company to take you through the training needed.

Other Routes

If you do not have the right qualifications to go direct to an officer programme you can do a pre-cadetship course. This lasts around a year and will develop your skills to get you ready for an officer level course in the Merchant Navy.

More Information

Career tips

You can find out more about ways to get useful experience from Careers at Sea.

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

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • concentration skills
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • business management skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications

Restrictions and Requirements

You'll need to:

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

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, outdoors in all weathers, cramped and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

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

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Seafarer Deck Rating Apprentice – Marine

  • Wage: £15,000 a year Annually
  • Location: Marine Parade, Southampton

Seafarer Deck Rating Apprentice – Marine

  • Wage: £15,000 a year Annually
  • Location: C/o Drayton House, Drayton Lane, Oving, Chichester, West Sussex

Courses In England

Engineering Shipping and Maritime Operations - Level 3

  • Start date: 02 September 2024
  • Location: Fleetwood

Marine Engineering (Marine School)

  • Start date: 02 September 2024
  • Location: South Shields

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