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Educating the Maritime Workforce

As the Federal agency responsible for U.S waterbound interests, MARAD manages numerous operations around the world, all of which require a constant flow of skilled and readily-available mariners. This means MARAD is responsible for training and educating the next generation of mariners to carry out and improve the quality of U.S. maritime operations at sea and ashore, everything from shipbuilding, to port operations, to cybersecurity.

According to data from the National WWII Museum, about 243,000 mariners served during World War II. Today’s workforce is but a fraction of that. The need to maintain an adequate workforce in today's military, economic, and political environment is a constant challenge. To fill the array of maritime-related specialties and career paths, the Maritime Administration vigorously supports maritime training and education programs designed to prepare a new generation of mariners to take the helm.

Paths to a Maritime Career

There are many paths to becoming a mariner. For some, it begins at the MARAD-run United States Merchant Marine Academy, one of the service academies. For others, it begins at one of the six maritime academies. For those currently serving in the military, the Military to Mariner (M2M) program is a valuable resource. Additionally, trade unions sponsor schools dedicated to maritime studies, and many 2-year community colleges offer maritime certificate programs. Additionally, MARAD works with K-12 schools, especially at the high school level, to put students on a maritime career path. MARAD further supports maritime education through its Centers of Excellence Program (CoE).

Maritime education options are on the rise, with recent estimates putting the number of schools providing some aspect of maritime study at over 500. Need to narrow your search? The Maritime Primary & Secondary Educational Coalition (MPSEC) exists solely to foster interest in maritime education and connect potential students to learning institutions.

Mariner Workforce Strategic Plan

MARAD completed and published its Mariner Workforce Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2023-2027 in accordance with the requirements outlined in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This strategic plan outlines MARAD's aims for the next five years to address issues with mariner recruitment, training, and retention; the plan also addresses demonstration and research priorities concerning these issues.


For questions about MARAD-run educational programs, or how to become a United States Merchant Marine, contact the Office of Maritime Labor & Training at (202)366-4142 or at