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Merchant Navy Deck Officer Profile


This Section of the site details information that you might find useful if you are looking to secure employment or require further details regarding working as a Merchant Navy Deck Officer. This page details the following Information:-

  • Finding Suitable Work as a Merchant Navy Deck Officer
  • Working Duties Expected
  • Hours and Environment
  • Working Skills Required
  • Training Requirements
  • Salary Expectations
  • Trade Information
  • Other useful Merchant Navy Deck Officer Work Information

Finding Suitable Work

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Working Duties Expected

Merchant Navy deck officers are part of the management team responsible for steering and navigating a ship.

They use satellite and radar equipment and computer systems to check the ship''s position, monitor speed and fuel consumption, access weather reports and input navigation routes.

Deck officers also supervise support workers (ratings) on deck, making sure that the ship runs smoothly and is properly maintained.

On passenger ships deck officers help with hosting social functions. Senior deck officers handle administrative, legal and commercial matters relating to the ship.

Deck officers in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (civilian-crewed ships that support the Royal Navy) may be responsible for monitoring the movement of helicopters, specialised navigation, nuclear biological chemical damage (NCBD) control, and sometimes situations involving armed combat.

Hours and Environment:

Merchant Navy vessels are continuously in operation. Deck officers work shifts (known as watches), which vary according to the size of the ship. On a large vessel, officers may work four hours on duty followed by eight hours off duty. Periods of work vary between a few weeks and several months, depending on the type of ship and its trading patterns. Periods of leave in between voyages will also vary.

A deck officer will spend time on a vessel either on the bridge, or on deck where weather conditions can be stormy. Officers in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary sometimes have to work under conditions of warfare.

Deck officers have their own cabin and bathroom and, on larger ships, access to leisure facilities. Smaller ships have more basic facilities.

Skills and Interests:

To be a Merchant Navy deck officer you should:

  • be confident, able to assume responsibility in a wide range of situations and to inspire confidence in crew members
  • be interested in, and able to understand and use, the latest vessel technology
  • be able to cope with being away from family and friends, often for long periods of time
  • be able to work in a team
  • have excellent mathematical ability - this is of great importance for making navigational calculations
  • be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
  • be calm and decisive in emergencies
  • be enthusiastic and self-reliant.


Entry requirements for cadets (trainees) vary between companies. You must have good eyesight, and have perfect colour vision. You must be fit enough to pass a medical examination before being accepted for training.

You can join the Merchant Navy at any age, providing you fulfil the entry requirements. Former Royal Navy officers with relevant experience are eligible.

Minimum entry requirements for the degree element of officer training (see training section) are normally two A levels/three H grades, with at least four GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) including English and maths. Minimum entry requirements for a BTEC HND course (see training, below) are normally one A level/two H grades and three GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) or a relevant Advanced GNVQ/GSVQ or BTEC national certificate/diploma.

It may be possible to be accepted for training with lower level GCSE qualifications, but this will depend on the company concerned. If you have the necessary GCSEs, but do not have A levels/H grades, or equivalent, you can enter a training programme designed to bring you up to the academic standard required for the HND.

For details of qualification equivalents see:

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
Scottish Qualifications Authority


Shipping companies or training organisations sponsor cadets, who then study for their qualifications (which are recognised by employers across the world) at college with an industrial placement at sea. On top of any salary or training allowance you may receive, your course fees will be paid and you will have no student loan to repay. As well as paying for your accommodation, food and leisure facilities onboard ship, the company will pay for your college accommodation while you are studying.

Initially, you will spend one term at college learning essential skills, including shipboard familiarisation, basic seamanship, first aid, fire-fighting, personal survival and safety. You will then go to sea and work alongside experienced deck officers, learning practical navigation skills such as chart correction and route planning. After this, your time will be divided between study at college and at sea, gaining experience of working onboard ship.

Training courses last between three and four years, with approximately 12 to 15 months spent at sea. When training is completed, you will have a degree and/or HND, together with an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Marine Vessel Operations, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificates of Competency as Officer of the Watch (OOW). You may then progress to Chief Mate and Master Certificates of Competency.


The Merchant Navy recruits approximately 500 to 600 cadets annually. More than 40 UK shipping companies employ around 18,000 deck and engineering officers. About 20 companies sponsor cadets.

The work and lifestyle on board ship will depend on the type of company, size and type of vessel, distances travelled and trading area. For instance, a cruise ship carrying holidaymakers may visit holiday destinations around the world. Oil tankers will travel the shipping routes between ports catering for industrial cargo. Some ships travel world-wide, whereas others travel only in Europe.

Consideration for promotion is based on length of service and on merit, together with possession of the relevant MCA Competency Certificate.

Experienced officers are in demand for both on-shore and off-shore positions, with shipping companies, port authorities and other employers needing seafaring experience.

Annual Income:

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Trainee officers (known as cadets) earn around £14,500 to £17,000. Qualified deck officers earn between £17,000 and £21,000.
Experienced officers earn from £21,000 to upwards of £45,000, depending on the rank held.

The employer will pay for food and accommodation while you are at sea, and for some travel costs when on shore.

Rates of pay and holiday (leave) entitlement for deck officers vary between companies. The amounts of pay and benefits may depend on the area of trade engaged in.

Further information:

Careers in Shipping
Carthusian Court
12 Carthusian Street
Tel: 0800 0850973.

The Marine Society
202 Lambeth Road
SE1 7JW.
Tel: 020 7261 9535

The Merchant Navy Training Board
Carthusian Court
12 Carthusian St
Tel: 020 7417 2800

Other Useful Merchant Navy Deck Officer Work Information

We have a section available at this site on Merchant Navy Deck Officer job interview tips that you may find of interest should you wish to brush up your skills in this area and we also have number of career articles that may also be of use to you from within our guides and documents section.

Locations where we feature Jobs include:-
Aberdeen, Berkshire, Aberdeen, Bath, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Central London, Cheltenham, Cornwall, Coventry, Derby, Devon, Docklands, Dorset, Dundee, Durham, East Midlands, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Gloucester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leeds, Leicester, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Midlands and in various parts of the West Midlands

Details of other Merchant Navy Deck Officer Jobs can also be found in other UK wide areas including:-
Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Norfolk, North London, North Midlands, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Northern Ireland, Northumberland, Norwich, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Salisbury, Scotland, Sheffield, Shropshire, Somerset, South East, South London, South Midlands, Southampton, Staffordshire Surrey, Swansea, Swindon, Telford, Wales, Warwickshire, West End, West London, West Midlands, Worcestershire, York and throughout Yorkshire.

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