Job type

Merchant Navy officer

£20.5k - £80k

Typical salary

52 – 54

Hours per week

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

More info

  • Run the day-to-day operations of commercial and other non-military ships
  • You'll spend significant amounts of time at sea and may have the opportunity travel all over the world
  • Progression opportunities into more senior roles including captaining ships

As a merchant officer, you may work on deck, below deck or on the bridge of a range of different ships.


Your day-to-day tasks will vary depending on your rank.

As a third officer, you'll be responsible for safety equipment and lifeboats. As a second officer, you'll navigate the ship using radar, satellites, computers and weather reports. As a 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.


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

You'll need

For this role, you'll need the ability to work well with others, sensitivity and understanding, thoroughness and attention to detail, patience in stressful situations, good initiative, excellent verbal communication skills, physical skills, and observation and recording skills.

You can join the Merchant Navy from age 16 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.

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 courses include nautical science, navigation and maritime science, or marine engineering.

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


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.