Enter your search term

Search by title or post keyword

Can a Felon Become a Merchant Seaman?

Table of Contents

Our website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn affiliate links when you click through the affiliate links on our website

Contact us for Questions

Felons have a significant challenge finding a job after their release from prison. There are resources available even though felons may doubt that anyone will hire them. Those who have hired felons have discovered that they make good employees, although it might be in a different career from one felons had before their conviction.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a merchant seaman.

  • What is a Merchant Seaman?
  • What Education/Training Does a Merchant Seaman Need?
  • How Much Does a Merchant Seaman Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What Is a Merchant Seaman?

A merchant seaman, also called a merchant marine, works aboard a ship carrying cargo across oceans and lakes. Most nations have a merchant marine (navy), a fleet of ships which are owned and registered by the nation but are separate from the military. Many countries use their merchant navy to aid the military during war by transporting goods and equipment.

Those who staff the merchant marine are known as merchant seamen, and have chosen a career in the merchant navy. Many have served in the military during periods of war.

Those in the fleet have a system of ranks and specialties which closely correlates to that of the military. Some specialize in a particular field, such as navigation, communications, or heavy-equipment operations.

A captain or a ship master is a general overseer of the vessel’s operation, assuring that the ship remains on course and operates safely.

A sailor or a deckhand, also known as an ordinary (new) or able (experienced) seaman, has various duties involving manual labor, including:

  • Standing watch for other vessels or obstructions in the ship’s path
  • Steering the ship under the guidance of an officer
  • Doing routine maintenance
  • Keeping the ship clean
  • Handling mooring lines when docking
  • Tying barges together when they are being towed
  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Helping any passengers

In order to be successful as a merchant seaman many skills are necessary, including:

  • Customer-service skills to interact with passengers and ensuring that the passengers have a pleasant experience
  • Hand-eye coordination to steer ships and operate various controls
  • Hearing ability to pass a hearing test to get an MMC
  • Manual dexterity to maneuver through tight spaces and on wet surfaces
  • Mechanical skills to keep complex machines working properly
  • Physical strength to load and unload cargo
  • Visual ability to pass a vision test to get an MMC

What Education/Training Does a Merchant Seaman Need?

A merchant seaman typically completes formal training and an apprenticeship before being hired to work as an employee on a ship. Often, someone is trained in the military but may also receive private training. A merchant seaman may also be required to obtain licensing before being able to work.

An applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a U. S. citizen with a valid U.S. passport with at least seven months remaining prior to expiration
  • Have a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) and/or Department of Defense Common Access Card (CAC) with a minimum of ten months remaining prior to expiration
  • Have a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) issued by the United States Coast Guard to mariners sailing aboard all U.S. vessels with at least ten months remaining before expiration
  • Pass a physical examination
  • Be drug free and submit to urinalysis
  • Be able to obtain and maintain a security clearance
  • Be capable of speaking, understanding, reading, and writing English

How Much Does a Merchant Seaman Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticsthere were approximately 86,300 merchant seamen in the U.S. in 2016. The median salary for a merchant seaman was $54,870. This is the salary at which half of merchant seamen earn more and half less.

A merchant seaman’s salary will vary by amount of experience and area. Northeast regions and large cities near the coast will offer a higher salary than other parts of the country. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% increase in the number of jobs in this field by 2026 which is about average.

An Opportunity for Felons?

There are circumstances in which a felon may not be able to become a merchant seaman. Someone may not be certified or hired for failing to report:

  • Previous security clearance issues (revocation of security clearances)
  • Financial debts
  • Previous felony convictions in the past ten years where actual time was served in jail for more than one year

Felonies that can result in denial of a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) from the Coast Guard include crimes involving:

  • Fraud
  • Dishonesty
  • Misrepresentation
  • Money laundering
  • Violence
  • Use of controlled substances
  • Motor vehicle offenses

Whether a felon becomes eligible to receive an MMC will depend on:

  • The nature of the crime
  • Proof of completion of or active participation in an accredited drug or alcohol rehabilitation program
  • Character references to attest to an applicant’s reliability and suitability for employment
  • Steady employment
  • Completion of all aspects of sentencing

In order to be successful as a merchant seaman, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already viewed as being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.It’s important to be honest in filling out an application for a certification or a job as a merchant seaman. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable by jail time. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a merchant seaman. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It would be a major challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a merchant seaman. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make an essential difference.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life and achieve a goal no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a merchant seaman with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Merchant Seaman?”

  1. If you’re interested READ THEIR TWIC ARTICLE. It’s possible but very tough to obtain the twic if you have a felony or are under indictment, but it’s apparently possible.

  2. I have made it off parole,have been interested in becoming a Merchant Marine for years now.I hate the petty record I have because it is close to blocking my Great Opportunity to Make a difference in my family.especially my kids Life.I will do what ever it takes for this opportunity and retire with Honor.
    May God Bless.


Leave a Comment

Explore More within Felony Record Hub

Jobs for Felons
Get to work faster with jobs for felons curated for you.
post explore


How we help

This website was created by a few folks who have personally watched their loved ones struggle to get a job due to having a felony.

Your New Life Starts Here.

logo frh no text
Start Here
icon jobs

Jobs for Felons

Get to work faster with jobs for felons curated for you.

icon housing

Housing for Felons

Find housing for felons, listed by state.

icon legal

Legal Help

The legal help you need to put your past behind you

icon rights

Rights For Felons

Learn how you can get your rights back as a felon.

icon companies hiring

Companies Hiring Felons

Finding employment as a felon is tough. That’s why we have aggregated the best jobs for felons in one spot.

View Companies
icon programs

Reentry Programs

Resources to help ex-offenders gain essential life skills for making the right choices in life.

View Reentry Programs