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About this course

This fully-sponsored cadet training programme leads to an FdSc Nautical Science, as well as the award of a UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) certificate of Competency as an Officer of the Watch (STCW'95 II/I OOW). The course also provides you with a direct pathway to enrol on the BSc (Hons) Maritime Management Top-up degree.

Officer cadet training schemes typically last for around three years and are split into five phases which alternate between academic studies and practical and safety training, and seagoing periods to gain shipboard experience.

You'll complete your academic and mandatory safety training with us. This training is complemented with work-based learning on board ship. You'll also do some practical training during your sea phases, which includes completing a MNTB Training Record Book. This will enable you to develop the professional competency needed for the initial MCA certification as an Officer of the Watch.

The scheme consists of five phases - three spent with us for academic delivery and two at sea gaining practical experience. The education and training programme consists of three distinct but complementary elements:

  • Academic education in conjunction with work-based learning on board ship to attain the Foundation Degree in Nautical Science, which provides a pathway to the BSc (Hons) Maritime Sciences (Top-Up).
  • Practical training on board ship, including completion of an MNTB Training Record Book. This enables candidates to develop the professional competency needed for initial certification by the UK’s MCA.
  • In addition to the academic studies, the MCA requires officer cadets to take a number of safety and survival courses during their cadetship.
  • Award-winning cadets

    Two cadets on the FdSc Nautical Science programme have recently won prestigious maritime awards in recognition of their achievements during their cadetship. Daisy Jarvis won the MCA Officer Trainee of the Year 2022 Award and Molvipa Takhiansok won the UK Maritime 2023 Bevis Minter Award. Read Daisy's and Molvipa's stories to find out about their cadetship journey and what winning the awards meant to them.

    What you'll study

    Phase 1

    • 22 weeks (this is approximate and subject to change)
    • Bridge Management
    • Coastal Navigation
    • Ocean Navigation
    • Ship Operations
    • Stability and Ship Construction
    • Work-based Learning (Operations)
    • Basic Safety Training Week (BSTW) (STCW short course)
    • Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (STCW short course)

    Phase 2

    • 30 weeks at sea (sea phase lengths are approximate and are subject to change)

    Phase 3

    • 21 weeks (this is approximate and subject to change)
    • Advanced Bridge Management
    • Advanced Navigation
    • Advanced Stability and Ship Construction
    • Cargo Operations
    • Maritime Law and Management
    • Work-based Learning (Management)

    Phase 4

    • 42 weeks at sea (sea phase lengths are approximate and are subject to change)

    Phase 5

    • 26 weeks (this is approximate and subject to change)
    • Training in Advanced Fire Fighting (STCW short course)
    • Efficient Deck Hand (STCW short course)
    • GMDSS (STCW short course)
    • Human Element, Leadership and Management (Operational) (STCW short course)
    • Proficiency in Medical First Aid (STCW short course)
    • Award of Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Nautical Science
    • Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (STCW short course)
    • MCA orals preparation
    • Successful completion of the MCA oral examination leads to the award of: Officer of the Watch MCA Certificate of Competency and end of cadetship

    How you'll study

    77% Course work
    22% Written exams
    1% Practical exams

    Where you'll study

    The main classroom teaching for this course is delivered from our St Mary's campus, located in Southampton city centre.

    All mandatory STCW maritime safety training courses are delivered from our Warsash campus.

    We have a full range of industry-leading training facilities including bridge simulators and ECDIS suites where deck cadets can learn and develop their passage planning skills and navigate ships in an environment that closely resembles the equipment and layouts found on a modern ship's bridge.

    female cadet studying a map at the St Mary's campus


    Operations room in the radio communications centre

    Radio communications centre

    The centre provides mandatory radio operations training for deck officers on large ships and superyachts.

    Cadets in the new maritime simulation centre

    Simulation centre

    As part of Solent's £43 million investment in maritime training facilities, the maritime simulation centre delivers the best in maritime training.

    A cadet practicing CPR on a dummy in the medical training centre

    Medical training centre

    The medical centre uses the same type of equipment found on board ships for mandatory medical training for ships' officers.

    Cadets training at the fire school in full gear

    Fire school

    Our purpose built fire school provides a realistic but safe environment in which seafarers can learn the vital techniques of fighting fires at sea.

    Lifeboat suspended at the end of the pier by the Hamble River

    Pier head and survival craft

    The pier head is used for maritime safety training for seafarers and safety training for those working on offshore installations.

    Knot tied around a mooring station

    Seamanship centre

    A fully-equipped facility allowing deck officers to undertake mandatory efficient deck hand training.

    How to apply

    Entry requirements

    A minimum of 48 UCAS tariff points. Plus GCSEs at grade 9 to 4 (A* to C) in the following subjects:

    • Mathematics
    • English
    • Science (with significant Physical Science content)

    Medical requirements

    Officer cadets must be in good health and capable of passing the Merchant Navy Medical Examination (ENG1). Navigation officer cadets must also have normal colour vision and be able to pass the MCA sight test, although corrective lenses may be acceptable in certain cases.

    Anyone contemplating a career as a ship’s officer would be well advised to take a medical examination and sight test as soon as possible to find out if there are any physical bars to their career aspirations.

    The MCA holds a list of approved doctors throughout the UK who are able to provide ENG1 seafarer medical examinations. This list can be found here.


    British shipping companies will normally only recruit UK or European Union nationals. However, MCA certificates of competency may be awarded to people of any nationality and the training programmes are open to all.

    A potential international candidate from outside the UK and EU should secure sponsorship from a suitable shipping company that will be able to provide appropriate sea service as part of the cadetship programme.

    International students should also hold a formal international English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificate of at least 5.5, as a good knowledge of written and spoken English is required to commence the programme.

    Application and sponsorship

    To apply for a foundation degree in marine operations, you must undertake a three-year deck officer cadet training programme (officer cadetship) approved by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), and meet the academic entry requirements as stated.

    The next step is to find a shipping company to sponsor you so that you can complete the sea service elements of the training programme. You should apply direct to the sponsoring companies for details of their recruitment policies and the availability of sponsorship.

    There are a number of UK sponsoring companies that recruit UK/EU nationals as officer cadets to work in the various shipping sectors of the merchant navy (for example, cargo, container, cruise, tanker, etc.), either individual shipping companies recruiting to fulfil their own staffing needs or training organisations that recruit on the behalf of their clients.

    Companies normally start the recruitment process around January each year for the entry in the following September or January.