Global trade heavily relies on the shipping industry for the movement of goods. It is estimated that close to 60% of the global movement of goods happens by sea. Merchant Navy Officers run the ships that move goods from port to port across the world.

They brave the rough seas and capture the oceans to keep the world running smoothly. If you are wondering ‘How to become a Merchant Navy Officer?’, this article has all the answers you need. 

This article provides you with the details of the eligibility and responsibilities of a merchant navy officer.

You can also know about the merchant navy requirements, merchant navy qualification, merchant navy selection process, merchant navy age limit, how to join merchant navy after 12th standard, merchant navy entrance exam, merchant navy salary in India, pros and cons of becoming a merchant navy officer & more.

What is the Merchant Navy?

The Merchant Navy is a commercial fleet of ships and its crew engaged in the transport of cargo and passengers by sea. Unlike the military naval force which looks after the defence and security of a country, the merchant navy, under private ownership looks after the commercial fleet of ships.

The crew generally includes captains, navigators, officers, engineers, etc. 

Who is a Merchant Navy Officer?

A Merchant Navy Officer is a professional responsible for the safe and efficient operation of commercial ships. They perform under different ranks like a captain, chief mate, second or third mate, etc.

They are typically trained in navigation, engineering, and cargo operations.

Merchant Navy Officers oversee the crew, maintain equipment, and ensure compliance with national and international maritime regulations.

They work in challenging environments for longer periods on the seas and ensure the smooth transport of cargo and passengers. 

Skills Required to Become a Merchant Navy Officer

A aspirant must possess certain skills to become a Merchant Navy Officer. These skills include

  • Strong leadership skills
  • Managerial skills
  • Good Communication and Interpersonal skills
  • Proficiency in traditional and modern navigation systems
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Physical fitness and stamina
  • Strong technical skills
  • Ability to operate and maintain machinery and equipment
  • Adaptable to different cultures and weather conditions
  • Knowledge of maritime regulations
  • Keen eye to detail and weather changes

Roles and Responsibilities of a Merchant Navy Officer

Merchant Navy Officers predominantly function in two departments ie. Navigation or Deck, and Engineering. The responsibilities of the officers in different roles in given below.

The responsibilities of a navigation or deck officer in the merchant navy are

  • Navigate the ships using modern and traditional navigation systems 
  • Take necessary and appropriate actions based on weather reports
  • Supervise the operation and maintenance of onboard equipment and machinery
  • Manage onboard communications
  • Oversee the ship crew and ensure the highest level of health and safety standards
  • Maintain operational and legal records of the ship
  • Be up to date with changes in maritime regulations 

The responsibilities of a Merchant Navy Officer in Engineering includes

  • Manage onboard power generation and distribution systems
  • Monitor, repair, and upgrade systems and equipment onboard
  • Conduct regular inspections and maintenance programmes
  • Operate and maintaining the onboard electrical and mechanical equipment.

Eligibility to Become a Merchant Navy officer

The following basic eligibility criteria must be met by an aspirant to become a Merchant Navy Officer in India. 

  • The aspirant must be an Indian resident less than 28 years of age (priority for unmarried candidates). 
  • Must be physically fit and have the stamina to stand and work for long hours. Good Vision is preferred. 
  • Must have completed 12th standard in the Science stream with Mathematics as a main subject.
  • Should have completed at least a bachelor’s degree from the courses mentioned below. 
  • Aspirants must have cleared instructional classes and commercial training by the shipping company or its associates. 

How to Become a Merchant Navy Officer in India? A Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a Merchant navy Officer in India. 

  • After completing the 10th standard, take up the science stream for +2 with Mathematics as a main subject.
  • After successfully completing +2, take up the entrance exams for courses in maritime and naval technology.
  • Complete the undergraduate program with a good academic record and enroll on a naval training program.
  • Apply for a private or public shipping company and find employment opportunities. 
  • The entry-level in the Merchant navy starts as a junior cadet and progresses till the ship captain.  

Entrance Exams to Become a Merchant Navy Officer

There are no exams to secure employment in the Merchant Navy. However,  one must clear the entrance examination to secure admission to courses in maritime institutes. Some of the popular exams for a bachelor’s degree are 

  • IMUCET – Indian Maritime University Common Entrance Test
  • JEE (Mains and Advanced) – Joint Entrance Examination
  • CET – Common Entrance Test for state institutes

List of Merchant Navy Courses

There are multiple undergraduate (merchant navy courses after 12th Std.), post-graduate, and training programs offered by institutes in India. They are

  • Undergraduate Course

    • BE Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering
    • BE Marine Electrical and Electronics Engineering
    • BE Mechanical Engineering
    • BE Marine Information Technology
    • BE Harbour and Ocean Engineering
    • BE Ship Building, Repair and Conversion Technology
    • B.Sc Nautical Science
  • Post Graduate Courses

    • M.Tech Marine Engineering Management
    • M.Tech Petroleum Engineering
    • M.Sc Marine Biotechnology
    • M.Sc Fleet Operations Management
  • Short term/Specialized Courses

    • Commercial Diving
    • Deck Operations Trainee Program
    • Electro Technical Officer
    • Commercial Diving
    • Diploma in Nautical Science
    • Graduate in Marine Engineering

List of Best Merchant Navy Colleges in India

These are some of the popular institutes in India to build a career in the Merchant Navy. 

  • Institute of Maritime Studies, Goa
  • Delhi Maritime Academy, New Delhi
  • Integrated Institute of Merchant Navy, Hyderabad
  • Coimbatore Marine College, Coimbatore
  • Institute of Technology and Marine Engineering, Kolkata
  • Indian Maritime University, Chennai
  • Maharastra Academy of naval Education and Training, Pune
  • Samudra Institute of Maritime Studies, Mumbai
  • Vels Academy of Maritime Studies, Chennai
  • Internationalional Maritime Institute, New Delhi

Ranks in Merchant Navy

Merchant Navy Ranks vary depending on the type of vessel, country, and the company. The basic hierarchy is as follows. 


  • Captain (Master)
  • Chief Engineer
  • Second Officer
  • Third Officer
  • Cadet (Trainee)


  • Chief Engineer
  • Second Engineer
  • Third Engineer
  • Fourth Engineer
  • Fifth Engineer (Junior Engineer)
  • Engine Cadet (Trainee Engineer)


  • Able Seaman
  • Ordinary Seaman
  • Bosun (Boatswain)
  • Chief cook
  • Steward

The higher-ranking officials are responsible for the safe and efficient operations of the ship and its crew. Lower-ranking officials carry out routine tasks onboard the ship. Cadets and trainees are usually in the learning and training phase. 

Salary of a Merchant Navy Officer (Abroad and India)

The salary of merchant navy officers depends on the nationality of the ships and companies they work for. Below is the estimated salary range for merchant navy officers in India and abroad.  

Work Profile or Rank Salary Range (Approx.) India (per month) Salary Range (Approx.) Abroad (per month)
G P Rating INR 30k to INR 80k  350$ – 2000$
Trainee Cadet INR 25k to INR 85k  350$ – 2200$
Deck Cadet INR 30k to INR 1 lakh  1000$ – 3000$
2nd and 3rd Officer INR 2 lakh to INR 4 lakh  2400$ – 5000$
Chief Officer INR 5 lakh to INR 8 lakh  6500$ – 10000$
Merchant Navy Captain INR 10 lakh to INR 24 lakh 8000$ – 14000$


Pros and Cons

Pros of Becoming a Merchant Navy Officer:

  • Adventurous and Exciting Job
  • Good Salary and benefits
  • Work alongside the crew from different cultures and nationalities
  • Job security
  • Opportunity to develop technical and leadership skills

Cons of Becoming a Merchant Navy Officer:

  • Should be in the sea for long periods away from home
  • Risk of accident and injuries and threat to life
  • High-pressure job
  • Must be compliant to regulations, procedures, and protocols



How to Join the Merchant Navy after Graduation? 

After graduation in maritime courses, enrol for training based on your academic qualification. Depending on academics, aspirants can enrol in the deck or engineering departments.


Can Arts Students join Merchant Navy? 

Candidates from arts backgrounds can enrol in the merchant navy in the GP Rating department. 


Can I join the Merchant Navy after class 10th?

No, candidates cannot join the merchant navy after the 10th. They must at least have an undergraduate degree. 


How can I join Merchant Navy after Class 12th?

After completing class 12 or 12th standard, candidates should enrol for a bachelor’s degree. After graduating, they can get trained and join the merchant navy. 


Is Merchant Navy a Government Job? 

Merchant navy is not a government job. It is managed by private shipping companies for security and operations. 


Is the Merchant Navy Exam Difficult? 

Academic exams for the Merchant Navy are the same as any other courses. However, candidates should undergo rigorous physical training before deployment.  


What is the Difference Between the Merchant Navy and the Indian Navy?

Indian Navy is the coastal defence line of India. They manage the security of coastlines. However, Merchant Navy manages the security and operations of private cargo ships and ferries. 


How long does it take to Become a Merchant Navy Officer?

After completing the 12th standard, it takes 5-7 years to start working as a merchant navy officer. 


Is Merchant Navy a Permanent Job?

Merchant Navy is not a permanent job. It is generally a multi-year contractual job. 


Is the Merchant Navy in Demand?

With the rise in global consumption and demand for goods, merchant navy officers are highly in demand.


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About the Author: Sanjay Hota

Meet Sanjay Hota, an edtech content writer with 4+ years of experience. Sanjay creates engaging content for educational institutions and edtech companies, and in his spare time, he helps students and graduates find clarity about their career prospects through his career counselling programme.