Merchant navy rating

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would work on board a ship, doing tasks like loading cargoes, maintaining the engines and looking after passengers.

As a skilled seafarer, you would assist the officers in the day-to-day running of a ship.

You could work on:

  • Container vessels
  • Bulk carriers
  • Tankers
  • Tugs
  • Cruise liners
  • Ferries

You could specialise in different areas of work: Deck, Engine, Catering and Communications.

Depending on your job and the type of ship, you would:

  • Load and unload cargo
  • Inspect and clean holds, tanks, cranes and winches
  • Repair and paint the ship's hull, fixtures and fittings
  • Test fire-fighting and life-saving equipment
  • Routine mechanical and electrical maintenance
  • Watch the equipment controls
  • Prepare meals and serve food and drinks
  • Clean cabins, corridors and decks
  • Check stock and re-order supplies

You would also help deck officers with navigational and duties when on watch: the system in which a team will work for a few hours and then take several hours off in a rota that runs continually throughout the day and night.

You’d also anchor the ship when coming into port.

If you work for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – the civilian-crewed ships operated by the Ministry of Defence – you would work on the flight deck during helicopter operations, and help with refuelling. You’d also be trained in nuclear, biological and chemical defence measures, weapons handling and repair.

You’d need to have a good awareness of health and safety issues and have a responsible attitude.

Working conditions

Hours

You would normally work shifts, known as 'watches'. On a large ship, you might work four hours on duty followed by eight hours off.

Environment

Conditions on deck could be cold, wet and windy at times, and below deck it could be very noisy, hot and cramped. If you work for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, you may be required to work in combat zones or as part of peace-keeping operations.

Travel

The length of time you spend at sea could vary from a few days or weeks to several months. Your leave between voyages would also vary.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Working as part of a team
  • Helping customers
  • Working with your hands
  • Repairing and fixing
  • Being physically fit

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

You would need to apply directly to a shipping company. Once successful, you'll complete basic training and certification. 

You could also get this job through an apprenticeship. Some companies offer Marine Apprenticeships for applicants who want the chance to move on to Merchant Navy officer training

There are no set qualifications but most employers will look for at least three subjects at National 4 or 5 (SCQF level 4/5) including English and maths. 

To become a deck, engineering or catering rating with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) - the civilian-staffed fleet that supports the Royal Navy - you need a good general education and will have to pass an entrance examination. 

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most employers)
  • English (required by most employers).
  • Science subjects
  • Geography
  • Engineering
  • ICT
  • Modern languages

You will also need

  • To be physically fit
  • Good eyesight and normal colour vision
  • To pass a medical

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show relevant skills such as:

  • Skills for Work: Uniformed and Emergency Services (SCQF level 4).
  • Skills for Work: Maritime Skills (SCQF Level 5)