How To Join the Merchant Navy: A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The merchant navy is the backbone of international trade because it transports freight and carries cargo to different parts. The job requires extensive travelling and allows you to explore exotic places around the world. If you want to pursue a career in this field, it is important to understand the skills, qualification 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, explore the average salary and skills required and understand how to join the merchant navy.

How is the merchant navy different from other navy entities?

Merchant navy is commercial marine services responsible for shipping cargo from one place to another. It is a commercial form of sea career and governed both by government and private shipping companies. Furthermore, defence or the Indian navy refers to the nation's maritime military wing. It is the unit of the country's armed forces and is in charge of the nation's sea security.

Is the merchant navy a promising career?

Yes, it can be a good 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 get a chance to travel to different parts of the world.

  • Exposure to different cultures: a professional working 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 is extensive and unmatched.

Is merchant navy a government job?

Merchant navy is both a government and private job. If you work for the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), you work as a government employee. Apart from SCI, the majority of other companies in this field are private entities.

How do I join the merchant navy?

You can join the merchant navy as a cadet or engineer, depending upon your educational qualification. With years of experience and relevant sea time, you can progress in your career. For example, you may join as a junior engineer with an engineering degree and later become a fourth, third, second and chief engineer. Whereas with a BSc degree, you can become a third officer, second officer and finally the chief officer.

What is the salary in the merchant navy?

The average salary of a marine engineer working in the merchant navy is ₹4,33,842 per year. The salary may depend upon your qualification, skill, employer and experience. It can also depend upon the college from where you earned your engineering degree.

Related: Salary Negotiation Tips and Examples

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 have to take an important decision regarding the cargo or safety and maintenance of ships. Therefore, employers prefer candidates with excellent leadership skills because leaders are confident, 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.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Communications skills

You have to work with multiple teams offshore. So, it is important to get the right message across and avoid instances of miscommunication. 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 need to have critical thinking skills to help them find a viable solution. So, these officers should think clearly and rationally to come to a logical solution to the problem at hand.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions and Examples


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 the ability to regulate your behaviour, emotions and thoughts to avoid inappropriate behaviour 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:

1. 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 to navigate, manoeuvre and maintain ships, cargos 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, generators and maintaining them.

2. Know the basic qualification

While both males and females can join this profession, they should be unmarried at the time of joining. Also, candidates should be at least 17 years at the time of joining and not over 22 years at the time of application.

3. 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, harbour & ocean engineering or electrical and electronics engineering.

4. Clear the entrance exams

Both cadet and engineer job profiles require a candidate to clear the Indian Maritime University Common Entrance Test (IMU CET). After clearing the examination, you are eligible to get admission to any college affiliated with IMU. However, if you wish to join a government college, the admission primarily depends upon your performance in the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs). Therefore, clear both JEE mains and advanced to become eligible. After passing anyone or both the exams, clear the interview and a medical check-up.

5. Pass the medical fitness test

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

6. 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 Maritime Training Institute. Upon completing this compulsory training, candidates applying for cadet profile 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.

7. Apply for competency exams

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

For cadet

Post 18 months of training, candidates can apply for competency exams conducted by the government of India and join as a third officer.

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.

With experience, spending time on the sea and clearing other competency exams, you can advance in your career.

8. 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 specialise in one particular area such as naval architecture, dredging and harbour engineering, offshore engineering and marine engineering.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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