By Buddy Blouin
How you join the military can come in many different ways, and thankfully, many include receiving a quality education. Those who attend the Merchant Marine Academy aren’t just finding a great way to join military service; they're also receiving a top-level education and skills to use in a career for life. Learn more about what it takes to become a Merchant Marine and the benefits of attending this prestigious academy.

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Where Is the Merchant Marine Academy?

The Merchant Marine Academy is located at 300 Steamboat Rd., Kings Point, NY 11024. Here, you’ll find one of the world’s best training centers for making elite midshipmen. While you can become a Merchant Marine without graduating from the academy, it’s still a great route for anyone pursuing such a career.

What Is the Merchant Marine Academy?

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is an institution provided by the Federal Government used to create Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers for the Armed Forces. Those who graduate become part of a vital network of individuals working to help commercial and military transport over waterways in peacetime and during wartime. The course is not for the faint of heart and requires more credit hours from its students to earn their baccalaureate degree than any other federal service academy. Those who enroll will find themselves working on commercial and military vessels acquiring real-life experiences. In the end, a variety of endorsements are awarded to midshipmen who see the USMMA through, including:
  • A Bachelor of Science degree.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard license.
  • An officer’s commission in the U.S. Armed Forces.
These allow those who complete the coursework a great path to becoming an officer in the military and help them stay connected in the industry. After graduating, you’ll need to serve in one of the following manners:
  • By working five years in the U.S. maritime industry with at least eight years of service as an officer in a reserve unit of the U.S. military.
  • Alternatively, you can serve as an active-duty member of the U.S. military for five years.

How To Get Into Merchant Marine Academy

Getting into the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy requires above-average performance in academics. There may be some leeway depending on differing circumstances; however, here are the standards applicants should aim for:
  • Maintaining a 3.6 GPA or higher in high school.
  • An SAT score of at least 1310, though it’s recommended to achieve a score higher than 1420.
  • If taking the ACT, you should aim to score at least a 27 in total.
The acceptance rate of the Merchant Marine Academy is around 24%, making it a selective institution maintaining higher-than-average standards. In addition to the educational requirements, applicants must be at least 17 years old and can’t be older than 24 before July 1 in the year you would enter the USMMA.

Joanna Nunan Makes History

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan is making history at the USMMA after becoming the first female superintendent in the institution’s almost 80-year history. Nunan’s appointment comes after the resignation of Jack Buono earlier in 2022. “Her years of experience as a senior military leader — including command at sea — have prepared Rear Admiral Nunan to shape the future of the (academy) and help ensure the safety and success of its extraordinary midshipmen,” said the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. Under Nunan’s leadership, much more than any glass ceilings are in focus here. Sadly, the USMMA has been under fire for multiple sexual misconduct allegations. This includes two suspensions of its Sea Year program since 2016 after a cadet claimed she was raped by her cargo ship supervisor. Nunan’s experiences as a Veteran, including her time serving as the Coast Guard’s Deputy for Personnel Readiness, her MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, three Coast Guard merchant mariner licenses, nine years at sea, and her role as a military advisor for Homeland Security are just some of the highlights as to what she’s bringing to the table. During her time serving as the USCG’s Deputy for Personnel Readiness, Nunan was a member of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery Committee. The USMMA ship is clearly off course and in need of direction. If anyone can navigate the Merchant Marine Academy into smoother sailing, it’s Nunan with her distinct skills, experiences, and leadership.

Is the Merchant Marine Academy Free?

No, the Merchant Marine Academy is not free; however, it’s important to note that a majority of the expenses are paid for. This includes costs for enrollment, such as tuition, textbooks, room and board, and uniforms that are paid for by the Federal Government. The Academy's Office of Health Services also handles payment for basic healthcare, including some dental procedures. But there are still fees and expenses to consider:
  • Laundry and seamstress services are available and are part of the Midshipmen Fees imposed. These fees are listed and updated online and can vary from year to year.
  • Other expenses include the cost of a passport, TWIC card, an approved computer, your Plebe Kit, an Educational Kit, and health insurance, which is required.
Financial aid is available for those attending, which can help offset some of these costs and lighten the financial burden of attending.

How Much Do Merchant Marine Academy Graduates Make?

The amount you make in the military will depend on your rank, branch, and occupation. However, as a civilian, you can expect an average yearly salary reaching just over $83,000. The Merchant Marine Academy can set you up with a path to service, viable carrier options, usable skills, travel opportunities, a quality education, and so much more.

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