Marine Transportation Degree Program Information

Marine transportation programs prepare students for practical and technological challenges in the field. Students can get training through Bachelor of Science and Master of Science programs.

Essential Information

Marine transportation programs are available from private and public colleges and they prepare students for both land and sea careers, such as officers on a ship at sea, maritime managers or port administrators. These programs are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels and typically include both natural science and business administration courses.

Bachelor's degrees can be found at many universities under the marine transportation title; however, program names may vary at the graduate level. Common master's degree programs include maritime transportation management, maritime systems engineering or international transportation management. When considering a program, students may want to see if the program prepares them for any industry certifications. For instance, crew members of a U.S. Merchant Mariner ship are required to be certified, and some programs include coursework specifically to prepare students for that certification.

Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation

Students interested in working on passenger vessels and cargo ships or those wanting to find shoreside careers for marine organizations or the government can apply to these 4- to 5-year programs. Throughout the curriculum, students learn about different aspects of ship handling and seamanship. Because life at sea is significantly different than life ashore, programs require students to get hands-on training in the form of simulations and sea-going internships prior to graduation. Admission seekers are required to have graduated high school or earned the GED.

Training in this field combines low-technology skills - like tying knots - with high-technology applications like electronic chart display systems. In addition to requiring that students obtain leadership skills and learn how to swim, programs offer training in:

  • Ship structure
  • Admiralty law
  • Nautical science
  • Marine communications
  • Safety at sea and ocean survival
  • Cargo operations

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Master of Science Programs Covering Maritime Transportation

Graduate training programs can be found at traditional universities through programs in maritime transportation management and security. Additionally, maritime transportation may be offered as a track within programs like maritime systems engineering. Given that master's training is also offered at maritime trade schools, programs may simply be called international transportation management. Program lengths vary depending on the school.

Students can tailor their coursework to best fit with their career plans. They might concentrate on issues in homeland security, finances, economics, transportation planning or transportation management. Because resources are limited at sea, programs focus on teaching students to solve problems using their critical thinking skills and creativity.

The minimum admissions requirement for a master's degree program is a bachelor's degree. Since there is a lot of crossover between marine transportation and a variety of different fields, master's programs do not discriminate with regard to undergraduate discipline. Individuals who have bachelor's degrees in management, business, ocean science, environmental science and engineering are encouraged to apply.

Coursework might cover a variety of subjects, from oceanography to studies on how environmental and economic issues relate to maritime systems. Commonly, programs offer coursework in:

  • Systems and technology
  • Marine craft control
  • Remote sensing
  • Naval architecture
  • Port development
  • Vessel motion through waves

Popular Career Options

Graduates can find employment both shoreside and on the seas. They might work for cruise lines, research vessels, private industries or the armed forces. Graduates are qualified to seek positions such as:

  • Third mate
  • Port administrator
  • Marketing manager
  • Operations officer
  • Stevedore

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), water transportation workers are expected to see a 9% increase in employment opportunities from 2014-2024 ( Captains, mates and pilots of water vessels earned a median annual wage of $76,780 as of May 2015, according to BLS reports.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Doctoral training can be found through Doctor of Philosophy programs in marine policy, marine law or ocean management. Students can customize their coursework according to their interests and might focus on maritime ports management, fisheries management or international ocean policy. Programs at this level prepare students for careers in research and academia.

Certification as a U.S. Merchant Mariner is required of crew members working on vessels of a certain size or class. The National Maritime Center (NMC) of the U.S. Coast Guard administers this certification. Candidates must submit records of physical exams and drug tests as well as evidence of experience at sea, relevant academic training and a Transportation Workers Identification Card (

For students who want to pursue careers related to marine transportation, bachelor's and master's degrees provide highly interdisciplinary coursework and practical training that can prepare them for various water transportation job opportunities.

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