Merchant Marine Academy

Updated: May 23, 2021
In this Article

    Did you know that 95 percent of the world’s goods are shipped over seas? If you want to be one of the elite officers that safeguard our merchant fleet of commercial and military transport—in peacetime and wartime, then serving our nation as a licensed Merchant Marine Officer is the perfect career for you.

    Merchant Marine Academy How do you become an officer in the Merchant Marines? The best way is to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. To help you coast into your future as a cadet, we have gathered helpful information on sailing across the Merchant Marine Academy application process. From the application process to life as a midshipman, read on to see if you have what it takes to become an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

    The Merchant Marine Academy at a Glance

    The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is a federal service academy (but not part of the military) located at King’s Point, New York. Its mission is to educate and graduate future leaders in the maritime field who are committed to serving the nation as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and/or commissioned officers in the military. The USMMA has a challenging academic program. Their program is enhanced by its Sea Year experience. During your Sea Year, you and other midshipmen get hands-on, real-world experience working commercial or military ships that sail to exciting global ports.

    Here are the credentials you will get after graduation from the USMMA:

    • A first-class Bachelor of Science degree
    • A U.S. Coast Guard license
    • An officer’s commission in the U.S. Armed Forces

    As a USMMA graduate, you will be highly sought after as an officer in the merchant marines. The nation’s merchant fleet are commercial ships owned by U.S. companies registered and operated under the American flag. The merchant fleet is a vital part of America’s domestic and international transportation system. As a USMMA graduate, you will be critical in helping drive our nation’s economy and continued success.

    The Academy’s Regiment of Midshipmen comprises 950 young men and women from every state in the nation. The small size of the student body ensures that there is always an excellent student-to-teacher ratio. At the USMMA, you can enroll in one of five programs that lead to a bachelor of science degree. You can choose from Marine Transportation, Maritime Logistics and Security, Marine Engineering, Marine Engineering Systems, or Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management. Your education at the USMMA also includes their exciting Sea Year Training, where you will go to sea for one term.

    You will also be able to get specialized training for licensing as a merchant marine officer (through the U.S. Coast Guard). Since you will also be a commissioned officer in a reserve component of the military, you will get the military training needed to step in and perform your military mission in a time of war or national emergency.

    How much is tuition at the USMAA? Nothing! The U.S. Government pays tuition, room and board, uniforms, and textbooks. You’ll get medical and dental care through their Office of Health Services. However, you’ll have a service obligation when you graduate. The good news is that you have the most career options of any other service academy.

    • You can choose to work five years in the United States maritime industry with eight years of service as a military officer in any reserve unit, or
    • five years on active duty in any branch of the military

    What does it take to get into the USMMA?

    The USMMA has very specific eligibility requirements. The best place to start is to see if you meet the basic admissions criteria.

    You must:

    • be a United States citizen
    • be between 17 and 25 years of age
    • be of excellent moral character
    • be academically and medically qualified
    • meet the physical, security, and suitability requirements needed for a commission in the U.S. Navy Reserves
    • get a Congressional nomination
    • be of good moral character

    Here is a bird’s eye view of how to increase your chances of getting a slot at the USMMA:

    • Schedule a visit to check out the campus and talk to cadets.
    • Excel academically (GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and class rank).
    • Participate in extracurricular activities and sports.
    • Reach out to an Admissions Officer to get the ball rolling and find out what is involved in applying to the USMMA.

    Even if you crush all of these tasks, you may still fall short. The USMMA acceptance rate is just 15%.

    How Can I Prepare?

    The earlier you start, the greater your potential of being accepted and earning an appointment to the USMMA.

    If you are in high school:

    • Study hard (especially in English, math, and science).
    • Join a sports team and participate in courses that help you learn to express yourself, like drama, public speaking, or debate.
    • Be a tutor.
    • Become a leader by joining a scouting program or a local or school club. Take on leadership positions like club president or secretary.
    • Demonstrate character by helping others or getting involved with the National Honor Society, church groups, or other organizations that support your community.

    How do I apply?

    You can begin the application process on May 1st of your junior year in high school. All application materials provided to candidates are through an online portal. The following steps will give you all you need to know to apply to the USMMA.

    Step 1. Apply Online

    Complete the online application. The application deadline is Feb. 1st of the year your want to start.

    You’ll need the following to get started:

    • Social Security Number
    • SAT or ACT scores (leave blank if not available)
    • High School Class Rank
    • GPA
    • Congressional State and District

    Step 2. Apply for a Nomination

    Before you can be considered for an appointment, you must obtain a nomination. This is a very competitive process. You don’t have to reside in the same Congressional District as your nominator. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives can nominate a candidate who resides in a district other than their own, as long as they live in their state or territory. This is different from the other service academies that require a congressional nomination. You can get a nomination from your Senator or Representative as part of your application. Nominations must be received by Feb. 1st of the year of admittance.

    Step 3. College Entrance Exams

    You will have to take either the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) to get an appointment with the USMMA.  They will accept test scores up to the February test date of the year of application

    To compete academically, you should have at least:

    • SAT score of 1260 (composite) or,
    • ACT score of 29 (composite) and,
    • GPA of 3.6.

    Many applicants have taken advanced science and math courses in high school, including Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. Also, applicants have taken Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or college credit courses as high school students. These courses will help make you stand out on your application.

    Step 4. Transcripts

    Your seventh-semester transcript is required by the file completion deadline of Feb. 1st.

    You must request your official transcript to:

    Admissions Office
    U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
    300 Steamboat Road
    Kings Point, New York 11024-1699

    Step 5. Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA)

    Physical Training (PT) is a big part of the Academy, and satisfactory completion of the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is a required part of the admissions process. This test of strength, agility, speed, and endurance. It will help determine if you possess the stamina needed to complete the physical program at the Academy. Your examination must be administered by a physical education teacher, coach, current JROTC instructor, or an active-duty commissioned officer. You’ll have to pass the CFA and have the results sent in by the application deadline.

    Step 6. Medical Exam

    You must meet the medical and weight standards for the appointment of a U.S. Navy Reserve midshipman to be accepted to the United States Merchant Marine Academy. The Admissions Office must first receive your high school transcript, official SAT/ACT scores, and a passing CFA before they will let you get the DoDMERB medical exam. It’s your responsibility to pursue medical processing in a timely fashion. It can take several weeks to schedule your initial medical evaluation and several more weeks to determine if you are medically qualified.

    Step 7. Complete Your Application Online

    Complete your Activities Record. The USMMA is looking for well-rounded candidates, and extracurricular activity is an important part of your assessment, including athletic and non-athletic activities.

    Submit the Academic Information Request. This includes official transcripts and a school profile.

    Request School Official Evaluations.  You will need to send in evaluations from the following instructors:

    • English
    • Math
    • Lab science (either chemistry or physics)

    Submit your Biographical Essay. You’ll get information on what is required.

    Step 8. Check Your Results

    Once you’ve completed your application, you can check your application’s status by logging onto your My USMMA account. You will be notified of your status in late March or early April if accepted.

    Life as a Merchant Marine Academy Midshipman

    Do you wonder what life will be like once you step onto the King’s Point campus? Let’s take a look at the life of a USMMA midshipman.

    You will be challenged from Day 1, both intellectually and physically. The academic program is challenging, and the regimental system (the student military organization) is rigorous.

    There are 100 first-class midshipmen on campus who serve as officers in the regimental structure. The leadership positions are classified as either “line officers” or “staff officers.”  Line officers manage the chain of command structure. For example, the Platoon Commander is responsible for the daily performance of 50 midshipmen, and the Regimental Commander leads the entire population of midshipmen. Staff officers support the regiment at the lower levels of command and provide specific services or programs like logistics, or intramural programs.

    Your Freshman or plebe year will be strenuous. As a fourth-class midshipman, you’ll have to successfully transition from high school graduate to Academy midshipman. You’ll also have to learn the regiment’s chain of command and the military and nautical terms. Endurance is the key to success as you learn to perform under pressure, manage your precious little time, and endure the stresses of life at the USMMA.

    During your sophomore (third class) year, and junior (second class) year, you and all of your fellow midshipmen will experience sea life. You are sent to sea for practical shipboard training as you sail the trade routes all across the globe. You’ll learn the value of self-reliance and creativity as you get firsthand experience of the mariner’s life.

    In your senior (first class) year, you’ll hone your leadership skills and all the things you have learned in the classroom and at sea. When graduation day comes, you’ll be prepared to enter the professional world as a merchant marine.

    A Day in the Life of a USMMA Midshipman

    Time Task
    0600 Reveille
    0615-0700 Breakfast Buffet
    0700-0725 Room Inspection
    0725 Colors
    0740 – 1140 Morning Classes
    1210 Lunch Formation
    1300 – 1600 Afternoon Classes
    1600-1900 Athletics, Extracurricular Activities
    1730-1945 Dinner Buffet
    1945-0000 Study period

    Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings are used for regimental parades and inspections, but the remainder of each weekend includes liberty and recreation.


    The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is like no other federal service academy. As a merchant marine, you will serve your nation onboard a civilian vessel providing vital leadership to the men and women that provide safe passage for cargo bound for destinations across our planet.

    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.

    Written by Team