How to become a Seafarer? Everything you need to know



Have you been dreaming about becoming a seafarer, sailing the blue seas with the wind in your hair? See the five steps you need to take to get onboard. We’ll start with your first seaman courses and finish with finding your dream job at sea.

If you’ve thought about the pros as well as the cons – such as being away from your loved ones for months – and are willing to take on this journey, continue reading. Becoming a seafarer takes time and determination. We believe it’s worth it.


First, you need to start by going to a maritime school. You need to pass seaman courses at nautical institutions that provide vocational training or higher education in the field.

Choose your maritime school based on the specific field and highest rank you want to achieve. Some vocational schools offer seaman courses for limited ranks and vessels sizes. For example, a two-year vocational training could give you the qualifications of a Mate 500 GT. With this qualification, you can work on vessels less than 500 GT (gross tonnage).

Future Chief Mates and Captains with unlimited total capacity have to attend higher educational maritime schools. Such seaman courses usually take 5 years to complete and require at least a year of seagoing practice.

Figure out the rank and specialty you want to acquire. Then find a suitable institution to attend. If you’re interested in studying in the country that provides one fifth of the global seafarers, check out the best maritime schools in the Philippines.


STCW stands for The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. It’s an international convention that sets standards to all global seafarers.

STCW requires all seafarers to pass the seaman basic training course. It’s a five-day course that provides future seafarers with familiarization and safety trainings. All seafarers must pass this course to be able to work on a vessel.

Generally, the course consists of Basic Fire Fighting (2 days), Personal Survival Techniques (1,5 days), Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (0,5 days), and Basic First Aid (1 day) components.

Once you’ve completed the basic training course, you’re almost ready to get onboard your first job at sea.

Seaman's Book, passport and other seafarer documents


Seaman’s Book is a record of your seaman’s service. It’s issued to seafarers qualified according to STCW by local governmental maritime institutions.

Your Seaman’s Book contains information about your work experience and educational background. It’s a compulsory document when applying for crew transit visas.

Another document you, obviously, have to have is your national passport. You cannot work abroad without a valid passport. Better check the expiration date right away.


Once you’ve got all documents that prove your qualification to work at sea, you need to complete a medical assessment before you can go onboard. The aim of this is to make sure that you’re fit for the job from day to day, and also in case of emergencies.

Seaman’s medical assessment includes a physical examination conducted by a medical practitioner, as well as a list of screenings, tests and analyses. Make sure that the practitioner follows the standard international examinations.

Most countries require that all seafarers carry a valid medical certificate. If you’ve got this covered, then you’re officially ready to go onboard. Keep reading for our advice on how to find your first job at sea.

First job at sea



Finding your first maritime job might sound like a real challenge – like it is in every field of work. Most vacancies already require years of experience. How is a fresher to get the experience if nobody wants to hire them?

Don’t worry. There are actually lots of ship companies looking for freshers on different positions. We suggest you join the seaman jobs site StandByMate. Create your seafarer profile and ship companies can easily find you to send you personal job offers.

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