Merchant Navy rating

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Merchant Navy ratings carry out a wide range of jobs to help the day-to-day running of a ship.

Salary range: £16,000 to £30,000

How to become a Merchant Navy rating

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You can get into this job through an able seafarer (deck) intermediate apprenticeship or advanced apprenticeship in maritime occupations.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

Direct application

You can apply directly to shipping companies or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Your training will combine college-based study with placements at sea to get practical experience of working on a ship. The length of training depends on your sponsoring company.

You’ll need 3 to 4 GCSE grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in subjects like English, maths and physics, or combined science, or equivalent qualifications.

Employers will expect you to have good practical skills, enthusiasm for the career and the potential to complete ratings training.

You may also find it useful if you have qualifications and experience in:

  • catering
  • engineering
  • freight handling
  • navigation

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a Merchant Navy rating from Careers at Sea.

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:

  • pass a medical check

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • loading and unloading cargo
  • inspecting and cleaning holds, tanks, cranes and winches
  • repairing and painting the ship’s hull, fixtures and fittings
  • testing fire-fighting and life-saving equipment
  • carrying out routine mechanical and electrical maintenance
  • monitoring equipment controls
  • preparing meals in the galley and serving food and drinks
  • cleaning cabins, corridors and decks
  • tracking stock and re-ordering supplies

Working environment

You could work on a ship.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers, cramped, at height and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career path and progression

You could progress to the ranks of leading hand, petty officer and chief petty officer. With the necessary skills and experience, you could take further training to join the junior officer ranks.

You could also use your skills to move into onshore engineering or a hospitality and catering career.

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