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About this course

This fully-sponsored cadet training programme leads to an HND Nautical Science, as well as the award of a UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificate of Competency (STCW95 II/I OOW).

Officer cadet training schemes typically last for around three years and are split into five phases which alternate between academic studies, practical experience and safety training at the Warsash campus and seagoing periods to gain practical 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 at Warsash Maritime School and two at sea gaining practical experience. The training consists of four distinct but complementary elements:

  • A higher education entry course, designed to prepare new entrants for study at HND level.
  • Academic education to attain the HND in Nautical Science and the underpinning knowledge (UPK) requirements for the MCA/SQA written examinations.
  • 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.
  • What you'll study

    Phase 1

    • 14 weeks
    • Freshers’ week and general induction to the shipping industry
    • HE entry course, including:
    • Intro to General Ship Knowledge
    • Mathematics for Nautical Science
    • Intro to Navigation
    • Academic Study Skills
    • Intro to Ship and Port Operations
    • STCW pre-sea short courses – six days, covering PST, BFF, EFA, PSSR, PSA and PDSD.
    • Successful completion of the HE Entry Course leads to the award of: Certificate in Nautical Science.

    Phase 2

    • 39 weeks

    Phase 3

    • 23 weeks
    • Coastal Navigation
    • Ocean Navigation
    • Ship Operations
    • Stability and Ship Construction
    • Bridge Management
    • Maritime Trade and Transport
    • Preparation for SQA examinations
    • STCW short courses - EDH and MFA

    Phase 4

    • 31 weeks

    Phase 5

    • 45 weeks
    • HND Level 5 units (20c each):
    • Advanced Stability and Ship Construction
    • Advanced Navigation
    • Maritime Law and Management
    • Advanced Bridge Management
    • Cargo Operations
    • Technology Management
    • NARAS
    • Theory and Practice (Including ECDIS) – 4 weeks.
    • Preparation for SQA/MCA written and oral examinations
    • STCW short courses: AFF, PSC&RB, GMDSS, HELM(O) and NAEST(O)
    • Successful completion of HND Level 4 units, SQA/MCA written and oral examinations and STCW short courses leads to the award of the initial MCA Certificate of Competency and end of cadetship.
    • Successful completion of all HND academic assessments at the required pass rates provides full academic exemptions to Chief Mate/Master leveland leads to the award of: Higher National Diploma (HND).

    How you'll study

    14% Course work
    80% Written exams
    6% Practical exams

    Where you'll study

    The classroom teaching for this course is delivered from Solent University's St Mary's campus, located in Southampton city centre. All mandatory STCW maritime safety training courses are delivered from the Warsash campus. 

    Deck cadets using the simulation suite


    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 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.

    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.

    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.

    Knot tied around a mooring station

    Seamanship centre

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

    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.

    How to apply

    Entry requirements

    Four GCSEs at grade 9 to 4 (A* to C), including:

    • Mathematics (preferably Higher Tier)
    • Science (with significant Physical Science content)
    • English or a subject using English (for example, history, geography, RE) Or
    • Passes in four subjects in the Scottish Certificate of Education (as above)Or
    • Passes in four subjects in the Northern Ireland Grammar School Senior Certificate Exam (as above).

    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, the 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 technical English is required to commence the programme.

    Application and sponsorship

    To apply for a HND in nautical science, you must undertake a three year deck officer cadet training programme approved by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), and meet the academic entry requirements as stated.

    The next step is to find a company to sponsor you so 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 (eg, cargo, container, cruise, tanker etc.), either individual shipping companies recruiting to fulfil their own staffing needs or training organisations that recruit on behalf of their clients.

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