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Maritime Careers – a Hidden World of Opportunities

Maritime Careers – a Hidden World of Opportunities

27 May, 2020

Insights for Guidance Counsellors on contemporary maritime careers and advice on identifying students who may have an aptitude



  • Cormac Gebruers, Head of College, National Maritime College of Ireland.

Ireland and its people have a long and beneficial relationship with the sea that reaches back many centuries. It’s something of an oddity however that our symbiotic relationship with the sea is one that is too seldom recognised here at home. That’s the result of historical happenstance but a story for another day. It’s true also, that Irish people remain largely unaware that one our most sought after exports internationally is our nation’s maritime professionals.


Throughout our history, it has most often been during times of challenge, trial and crisis that Ireland’s relationship with the sea and the importance and quality of our maritime professionals has bubbled up into our national consciousness. So it is today. In the midst of a global pandemic, a light is being shone now on the critical role the sea and maritime professionals play for our island nation. It is overwhelmingly maritime professionals who are keeping global and regional supply chains going.


We have had no food shortages. There is plentiful fuel to power our electricity grid and transport systems. We have sufficient medical equipment & supplies to care for our sick and vulnerable. There’s been no interruption in the raw materials & manufactured goods necessary to keep our economy going. That this is the case is largely down to our nation’s maritime professionals. They are in the frontline on ships, in ports and running logistics & supply chain activities. Behind those frontline workers are a second equally critical layer of often unseen maritime workers operating and maintaining global maritime navigation systems & services and worldwide maritime communications. They design, build, manage and maintain the world’s 90,000 strong fleet of seagoing ships. There are maritime professionals responsible for crew recruitment, management & welfare, shipping finance, insurance, maritime security, regulation, quality assurance, search & rescue, and maritime education & training.



All these maritime technical and services roles, they are just a sample of the wealth of maritime related jobs out there. All of them are careers that give young people a meaningful way to make a real and positive contribution to the world. So how does a young person in Ireland get into these careers? Common to them all is the 3rd level entry point - an undergraduate programme at the National Maritime College of Ireland:

  • CR 094 BSc in Nautical Science
  • CR 095 BEng in Marine Engineering 
  • CR 805 BEng in Marine Electrotechnology

In each programme, alongside a CIT degree – NMCI is a constituent college of CIT - every successful graduate also attains a globally recognised professional maritime qualification under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (a United Nations body). This professional maritime qualification along with their CIT degree, is the key to unlocking a lifetime of career success in the maritime World.


Contemporary maritime careers are a far cry from the perception many have of them – a common misconception remains that a maritime career means a life at sea. Those days are long gone. While maritime careers still begin with a number of years working on seagoing ships to gain that knowledge and experience of the very unique workplace environment that is the sea, it is the case today that within 8 to 10 years of leaving second-level school, the majority of maritime professionals are ashore in very good jobs and with excellent prospects.


The formative years that most maritime professionals spend at sea are not a burden, quite the opposite is the case. They are considered by most of us who have had the privilege to work at sea to be some of the most exciting, rewarding and fulfilling years of our lives. For many, the life style associated with working at sea is such that they chose to spend their entire careers working on ships. For others, at some point they chose to come ashore. The choice of when and how that transition happens is theirs. By picking a maritime career, a student is also choosing to have great control over their career and the direction it takes.


With a CIT degree and a globally recognised professional maritime qualification, NMCI graduates have opportunities worldwide that most other 3rd level graduates can only dream of. It gets even better. There is always a demand for high calibre maritime professionals in Ireland in both the private and public sectors. With a global shift now to renewables in our efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Europe including Ireland is focusing more and more on the seas and oceans as our future source of clean energy. In Ireland, delivering our national Climate Action Plan is predicated on the large-scale generation incoming decades of power from offshore wind. A whole new industry that will be underpinned by maritime professionals is gearing up on our door step, right now.


Today’s Irish maritime professional is typically highly educated and trained, highly sought after internationally, very well paid, has a high quality of life, and a very rewarding career. They work all over the world and are held in the highest esteem by their peers in the maritime world. For the right individuals, it’s a wonderful career choice. So what characteristics make a good maritime professional? It’s not a career path for everyone, it’s important to make that clear at the outset. Working in a maritime job at sea or ashore is at times very demanding and challenging. Certain personality traits are needed and there are also certain health requirements that have to be met because of the sometimes demanding nature of roles, especially at sea.


Maritime careers suit people who are resilient and self-sufficient. At second level, a student with an aptitude for a maritime career will typically be a solid academic performer. A reasonable but not advanced ability in maths and technical subjects is necessary. Successful entrants tend to be practical people who lean toward hands-on activities. Maritime professionals are almost universally generalists. They are problem solvers and they enjoy being outdoors. They don’t mind their own company and will often chose to work independently though they are also entirely comfortable working in team environments. They are disciplined and self-motivated. They work hard but also enjoy life to the full. They are outgoing and introverted in equal measure, easy going but attentive to detail. They are often natural but unassuming leaders. If you have students who display a number of these traits, they may well have an aptitude for a maritime career. Please encourage them to contact NMCI to learn more. A maritime career may be just the one they never knew existed, but is perfect for them.


A last word - sometimes the love of the sea will be very apparent in a student (in which case their career decision is very often already made and your role will simply be to guide them!), however that’s not always the case. It’s not only students who come from maritime backgrounds who are suited to maritime careers - a growing number of NMCI’s most successful graduates come from backgrounds and communities with no obvious maritime connection.

Please contact Cormac Gebruers, Head of the NMCI by email should you have any questions or require further information on maritime careers or NMCI.


Further information:

The National Maritime College of Ireland is a constituent college of CIT and Ireland’s national institution for the education and training of maritime professionals including civilian (“merchant”) and naval seafarers. NMCI’s mission is to meet the maritime and related education, training, research & innovation needs of the Irish state and its citizens, to support the economic and social growth of the Irish nation and to enhance Ireland’s reputation in the maritime world.

NMCI is a partnership with the Irish Naval Service. Opened in 2004, NMCI is a 14,000sq.m. high-tech facility designed on the “virtual ship” concept. The College is operated under Ireland’s first 3rd level Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract. The College graduates circa 100 professional mariners and advanced supply chain professionals each year and provides education & training and continuous professional development to 600 Irish Naval Service personnel and 3,500 maritime professionals from all over the World annually. NMCI is located on the shores of Lower Cork Harbour near the village of Ringaskiddy, the Irish Naval Base and the Port of Cork’s new port development.

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