Entry, training and experience requirements for many water transportation occupations are established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. As of April 15, 2009, mariners on board most ships have to obtain two credentials, a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)
Entry-level workers are classified as ordinary seamen or deckhands. Workers take some basic training, lasting a few days, in areas such as first aid and firefighting.
There are two paths of education and training for a deck officer or an engineer: applicants must either accumulate thousands of hours of experience while working as a deckhand, or graduate from one of seven merchant marine academies in the United States. In both cases, applicants must pass a written examination. It is difficult to pass the examination without substantial formal schooling or independent study. The academies offer a 4-year academic program leading to a bachelor-of-science degree, a MMC endorsement (issued only by the Coast Guard) as a third mate (deck officer) or third assistant engineer (engineering officer) and, if the person chooses, a commission as ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Merchant Marine Reserve or Coast Guard Reserve. With experience and additional training, third officers may qualify for higher rank. Generally, officers on deep water vessels are academy graduates and those in supply boats, inland waterways and rivers rose to their positions through years of experience.
Harbor pilot training usually consists of an extended apprenticeship with a towing company or a harbor pilots' association. Entrants may be able seamen or licensed officers.
In recent years, to generate interest in the maritime industry, 18 high schools have been designated ?maritime high schools? with a curriculum created by the U.S. Maritime Administration. Graduation from one of these schools can help one's entry in the academies or with jobs elsewhere in the industry.