Answers to Questions About a Maritime Career with MSC
Do I need seagoing experience to join MSC?
Seagoing experience is a basic requirement for nearly every position at MSC. The only position where seagoing experience or skilled training is not required is the Supply Utilityman position. Please review our Now Hiring page to learn more about our open positions.
What if I have good technical job experience, but no sea time?
This really depends on the position you are interested in. Very few positions require no sea time – however, there are a few apprentice type programs designed to offer those with technical experience the chance to earn sea time. To learn more about these positions, please call (866) 562-7672 or meet a recruiter at one of the upcoming career fairs. Click here to see the schedule of events.
What is a TWIC card and how do I get one?
A TWIC (Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential) card is a security clearance required for all prospects prior to applying with MSC. It provides U.S. maritime workers unescorted access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels regulated under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. It is a Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Coast Guard initiative and a requirement for obtaining your MMC which is a minimum employment requirement for Military Sealift Command. To obtain a TWIC card, schedule an appointment online and visit one of their 150+ offices nationwide. More about the TWIC process can be found here.
Is Military Sealift Command part of the Navy?
Yes, but because many MSC ships are operated by civil service mariners, the CIVMARs serving aboard our ships are not subject to the same military rules and regulations as are Navy personnel.
How do I apply for a postion with MSC?
- The first step will be to create a profile by completing the Information Request Form (IRF), even if you have completed one online or at a job fair in the past. Click here to Start the Process.
- After completing the IRF a confirmation email will be sent to you to verify/confirm your email address. MSC will use the email address associated with your profile/account to communicate with you about upcoming opportunities and other important updates.
- After clicking on the link to confirm the profile creation you will be prompted to complete the remainder of the extended profile. Note: This can be done when there is an open position you are interested in applying for, or sooner if you want to ensure you are ready when your desired position opens.
- You will need to complete all of the extended profile before an application can be submitted. You will be asked about your education, prior relevant work experience, prior federal and/or military service, and other background information. After entering this information you will not need to re-enter it in the future. These answers will be used to complete an MSC employment application and your resume so please be as detailed as possible.
- You will then be prompted to enter information about your credentials such as your Merchant Mariner’s Credential (MMC), your TWIC (Transportation Workers Identification Credential) card, and your U.S. Passport. An application will not be created, and cannot be submitted, until this information has been entered.
- Once you have completed your extended profile you will be given the opportunity to view open positions, enter your responses to the Evaluation Criteria statements (KSAs) relevant to the position you wish to apply for, submit an electronic application for employment and print a copy for your reference. Note: The information shared in this section is important as it will be used to evaluate your skills and experience.
- The secure website will save this information in your profile and will allow you to update as necessary when you are ready to submit an application for employment with MSC.
- Each time your profile is updated you will be sent a confirmation email for your records.
- After you have successfully submitted an electronic application you will be sent a confirmation email letting you know that MSC has received your application for consideration. You will be able to track the status of your application through your profile. If your application is missing any documentation/information you will be notified via email.
How do I apply to cadet ship with MSC?
Please speak with your Academy Career Services/Placement department for more information on this process. They are in regular contact with our training department.
Because I apply with MSC to cadet ship, does that mean I am guaranteed a job when I graduate?
No, as you prepare for graduation, you will need to resubmit an application for employment with MSC. Be sure to include copies of your documentation from your previous sailing experiences with MSC with your application. (This includes an SF-50 which can be obtained by contacting the CIVMAR Support Center at (866) 562-7672.)
Can I apply for a permanent position using my Cadet MMC?
Yes, but you will only be made a conditional offer until you have possession of your license, assuming all other minimum employment requirements are met.
How often does MSC come to the academy campuses?
MSC has a continuous presence at the academies. We attend all of the career fairs and also host presentations and interviews on campus annually. If you have any questions about career opportunities with MSC, we have left information in the career center or you can call the CIVMAR Support Center at (866) 562-7672.
Can I request the type of ship or coast I want to sail from?
You can make requests to your Marine Placement Specialist, but placement depends on the manning needs of the Command.
How much will it cost to get a TWIC card?
The standard fee to obtain a TWIC card is $129.75. If an applicant has already undergone a comparable threat assessment in connection with an HME, a FAST card, or holds an MMC or License, they are eligible to pay the reduced fee of $105.25.
Is a TWIC card required to work for MSC?
Yes, all MSC CIVMARs are required to carry a TWIC card while underway. All applicants must possess a TWIC card prior to applying, as it is a requirement for obtaining your Merchant Mariner’s Credential (MMC).
Where can I get a TWIC card?
There are over 140 TWIC registration offices nationwide. For more information about TWIC cards or to schedule an appointment at a TWIC office, please visit https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/locator
Does prior military or federal service count to accruing annual leave at a higher rate?
Yes, all prior federal service, including military time, counts in determining the accrual rate for annual leave.
Does MSC offer healthcare insurance?
As an employee of the Federal government, MSC CIVMARs qualify for over 20 different healthcare plans (including family coverage) as well as life insurance with options.
Does MSC offer a federal retirement package?
Yes, the Federal Employment Retirement System and a Thrift Savings Plan, similar to a 401K program, are available to all civil service mariners. MSC’s retirement plans will be explained in detail during New Employee Orientation (NEO).
What determines overtime pay?
Any work performed in excess of eight hours per day, Monday through Friday, counts as overtime, along with any work performed on Saturdays, Sundays or national holidays.
How are the pay scales established?
Base salary ranges per position are set by federal guidelines. A CIVMAR’s actual pay is determined by his or her rating. Remember, a CIVMAR’s total income is greatly affected by how much overtime pay he or she earns, and in many cases although it is not guaranteed, and depending on the ship’s operational schedule, the command provides opportunities for overtime.
How often will I get paid?
CIVMARs are paid every two weeks (bi-weekly) by direct deposit. All CIVMARs are required to use direct deposit. If you need cash while onboard ship, you can take a draw against your pay once every two weeks if you so desire.
What does MSC pay?
Your job and your rating determine your base pay, and your overall wages depend on overtime and your ship assignment, etc. The pay rate for orientation and mandatory training will be paid at your permanent rate for the position you accept, and will remain the same or increase depending on the class of ship to which you are assigned. A link to MSC’s current pay scales can be found here.
What positions are currently available?
Visit the Now Hiring page to view our open position list.
What are normal working hours?
Normal working hours onboard ship depend on your position and whether or not you are a day-worker or a watch stander. These will be explained to you during training and again once you report onboard. Since all CIVMARs are salaried, all are required to work an 8-hour day at the minimum.
What if I do not want to take vacation at the end of my four month tour? Can I stay on the same ship?
You are not required to request leave. You may extend your tour onboard by simply not requesting relief and thereby accrue additional paid time off usable when departing the vessel. However, if the ship has to reduce manning, you may be paid off or assigned to another ship depending on the manning needs of the Command.
When am I eligible for relief / vacation?
You will become eligible for relief/vacation once you’ve completed a four-month (120-day) tour of duty. You will need to give MSC a 60-day notice if you want relief, therefore, you can request it two months after your tour begins. If you cannot get relieved on time, you may be eligible for additional compensation. When this compensation begins is based on ship assignment. CIVMARs are required to follow proper relief guidelines before they leave the ship. You’ll learn about this during New Employee Orientation (NEO).
Do MSC ships have doctors or dentists onboard?
We have a Medical Services Officer (MSO) onboard most of our large seagoing vessels for minor routine matters and medical emergencies. In the absence of an MSO, the Chief Mate and/or Master are EMT qualified. There are no doctors or dentists onboard.
What if I have a family emergency?
The American Red Cross handles coordination for all family emergencies. During orientation, training and at sea, your family should contact their local chapter of the Red Cross about the nature of the emergency. The Red Cross will then notify MSC with details of the emergency and possible next steps. MSC will then notify you. Incidentally, while onboard ship, every mariner has limited access to email in order to stay in touch with family and friends.
Do I earn sick leave?
Yes, all federal employees earn sick leave at a rate of 4 hours per pay period (13 days annually).
When on leave do Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays count as part of leave?
No, only normal work days are counted as leave. For example 12 days of leave equates to 16 calendar days leave (assuming no holidays).
How is vacation time determined?
Leave or vacation is broken into two major categories – Annual Leave and Shore Leave. Annual leave is based on the total amount of federal service a person has. For a new employee with less than 3 years of federal service, annual leave is earned at four hours per biweekly pay period (13 leave days). An employee with 15 years or more of federal service earns a maximum of 8 hours per pay period (26 leave days). When assigned to a ship a CIVMAR earns Shore leave at a rate of 1 day of leave for every 15 days attached to a ship. At the end of normal 4 month assignment a CIVMAR with less than 3 years federal experience will earn 12 days leave (4 annual and 8 shore).
How much time is spent in port?
MSC has many different types of ships with different missions. Some vessels are underway more often, and while others make frequent stops at ports around the world or are assigned to a ship yard for repairs.
What is your ship assignment rotation?
A typical ship assignment rotation is four months (120 days) and then the CIVMAR is eligible for leave.
When does my tour of duty start onboard ship and for how long?
Your tour of duty starts after you have completed mandatory training. As most new CIVMARs are assigned to East Coast ships, your first four-month tour starts the day you arrive onboard the ship, regardless of where the ship may be located.
If I get assigned to a coast, but do not have a ship assignment, where will I work from?
Each coast is supported by a CIVMAR Support Unit (CSU). The CSU East is located at the Naval Base in Norfolk, VA. The CSU West is located at the Submarine Base in San Diego, CA.
When will I know my coastal assignment?
Coastal assignments are determined by the Marine Placement department. Your individual Marine Placement Specialist will review your folder once you’ve completed orientation. You will be notified of your coastal assignment before you finish training at our training site in NJ or CA. Newly hired CIVMARs are assigned to a coast based upon MSC’s needs. You’ll be able to talk with Marine Placement Specialists at the last session of New Employee Orientation (NEO).
When do I find out what my assignment is?
After completing NEO, newly hired CIVMARs will be given either an East Coast or West Coast shipboard assignment from their Marine Placement Specialist. Placement will depend on the individual position and manning needs of the command. Most CIVMARs will sail from the East Coast on their first assignment.
Who pays for my travel to MSC once hired?
All newly hired CIVMARs are responsible for travel from their home to MSC in Norfolk, Virginia. Pay begins as soon as you begin New Employee Orientation (NEO) training.
If my application is accepted and I’m hired by MSC, do I have to relocate to work for MSC?
No, you can live wherever you want. However, it is the CIVMAR’s responsibility to pay for their transportation to the Pool that they are assigned to – either San Diego or Norfolk
What is the Pool?
The Pool is part of the CIVMAR Support Unit (CSU). All CIVMARs without ship assignments report to the CSU / pool to wait for their next assignment.
What happens after training is finished?
When you complete training, you’ll travel to your first ship assignment or to the Pool until you receive your first assignment.
Am I required to pay for living accommodations during the New Employee Orientation training?
During both the new employee orientation and mandatory training, MSC pays for hotel expenses unless you live within 50 miles of the local area. You will also receive a food per diem and will be provided transportation to and from the hotel and training sites. You will need to bring with you enough funds to cover one week of meal expenses.
Following New Employee Orientation at MSC, how long is the training and what does it consist of?
Upon completion of new employee orientation, all newly hired CIVMARs attend mandatory training at MSC’s training facility in Freehold, NJ or in San Diego, CA unless it is determined and documented that you’ve previously had this training. Mandatory training consists of CBR-D, NAVOSH and Shipboard Firefighting classes and lasts up to 4 weeks.
What is covered in New Employee Orientation?
New Employee Orientation runs for 4 days and consists of the following subjects:
- Government Employee Paperwork
- Employee Relations
- Legal – Standards of Conduct
- Placement on Vessels
- Wages and Manning
- Sexual Harassment
Where does New Employee Orientation take place?
All newly hired CIVMARs report for new employee orientation at MSC headquarters in Norfolk, VA. New employees are normally scheduled for orientation on a weekly or biweekly basis throughout the year. Upon completion of orientation, new employees then travel to the MSC Training Centers in Freehold, NJ or San Diego, CA. New hires typically sail from the East Coast on their first assignment.
Does MSC offer paid upgrade training?
MSC prides itself on merit promotions from within and paid upgrade training is available for CIVMARs based on their career path. When hired each CIVMAR is assigned a Marine Placement Specialist who you will be able to work with to discuss career objectives and upgrade training.
After applying, how long does it take to get hired?
The duration between application submission and being hired is based on manning needs, the completeness of your application, and other factors; the best way for you to expedite this process is to submit a thorough and complete application. If you have submitted an application and are wondering about the status, please contact the CIVMAR Support Center at (866) 562-7672 or via email.
Our goal is to make selections within 30 days after the job announcement has closed. However, changes in manning requirements may extend the selection process. After you have been selected and accepted a job offer, the pre-employment process takes on average 30-60 days to complete.
Your final offer of employment is contingent upon successful completion and passing of pre-employment requirements that include drug testing, medical clearance, English Language Competency testing (if applicable) and completing the security clearance documentation using the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (EQIP). Do not resign from your present job during this process.
If I am currently taking prescribed medication, will that disqualify me from employment?
Not necessarily. The MSC Command Medical Officer reviews all conditions and prescribed medications and makes a decision on a case-by-case basis. You must bring at least a six-month supply of all prescribed medications with you on all shipboard assignments.
Do I need to be former Navy to qualify for a position with MSC?
No, you do not have to have a Navy background to be employed by MSC. Although many of the at sea skill sets acquired in the Navy are easily transferable to positions within MSC. Former Navy personnel represent just one segment of the backgrounds that make up our workforce. MSC hires from a variety of different backgrounds to fill our positions.
Are there other issues that may prevent me from being hired?
If you owe back child support and have not made arrangements through an approved court order to make payments you will not be able to obtain a passport.
Any applicants applying for positions that would require them to work aloft will be required to meet specific weight restrictions in order to be considered for employment as a civil service mariner (CIVMAR). (Click here to see the Department of the Navy Human Resources Advisory 2013-3 for specific positions and requirements).
Will a previous felony conviction prevent me from being hired?
All civil service mariners (CIVMARs) are required to be able to obtain and maintain a security clearance. In accordance with the Smith Amendment anyone who has been incarcerated greater than 365 consecutive days is not able to get a security clearance, which is a minimum employment requirement of MSC. In addition, criminal or dishonest conduct may be an appropriate consideration in deciding suitability of an applicant for hire or re-hire as indicated in 5 CFR 731.202 (b) (c).
Are there opportunities to work for MSC on land?
MSC hires ashore positions through USAJobs.gov. For more information about ashore job opportunities and application procedures visit www.msc.navy.mil/employment. If you have any questions, please e-mail them.
How often do MSC vessels go to sea/stay in port?
MSC ships operate worldwide and their schedules vary according to the ship and its mission. Some ships have more underway time than others; some ships make frequent stops at ports around the world.
Who takes care of the records for MSC employees?
CIMARs personnel files – payroll, ship assignments, processing, benefits, etc. – are handled by Military Sealift Command (MSC).
Where is MSC located?
MSC is located in Norfolk, Virginia. The Marine Employment Division and the location of New Employee Orientation is on the Norfolk Naval Operations Base.
When accepting a marine position with MSC, what type of employment am I being offered?
MSC hires mariners into Federal government (excepted service) civil service positions with full benefits. You are appointed the day you report for processing. You will remain a government employee until you officially resign or your employment is terminated. All appointments include a one-year probationary period.
Do MSC employees wear uniforms?
The Civilian Mariner Personnel Instruction (CMPI) identifies specific uniform requirements for licensed and unlicensed ratings serving onboard MSC vessels. Uniform requirements will be discussed if a job offer is made.
What is involved in the drug tests and physical examination?
The first drug tests and physical examination required to obtain your Merchant Mariners Credential are required by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In addition to good general health, you must be able to meet certain physical demands of the job. Employees also must have uncorrected vision no worse than 20/200, correctable to 20/40, plus color-sensing ability and adequate hearing.
The other set of drug tests and physical examination are part of MSC pre-employment process. After you have been selected, offered a job, and you have accepted the offer, MSC will schedule a physical exam and a pre-employment drug test at the nearest MSC authorized testing facility. These tests are paid for by MSC. MSC is a drug-free workplace.
I am currently in the Reserves – will that prevent me from working with MSC?
No. If you are hired as a CIVMAR and your reserve unit gets activated, your job with MSC will be held. More specifics of this program and the CIVMAR’s responsibilities will be explained during New Employee Orientation (NEO) in Norfolk, VA.
Do I have an obligated service requirement when I work for MSC?
No unlike the military, you do not have an obligated service requirement with MSC. You can resign at any time.
After getting a MMC and applying for an MSC afloat position, then what?
If we select you for an opening for which you qualify, we’ll contact you and ask you to take the following steps:
- First, we’ll arrange a medical screening and drug test at our cost to be performed near your home.
- After passing these tests, you’ll be eligible for official processing at Military Sealift Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Travel to Norfolk is your expense and will not be reimbursed. Once you report for New Employee Orientation (NEO), you’ll start to earn pay and benefits.
- Upon completion of New Employee Orientation (4 days), all newly hired CIVMARs attend mandatory training sessions for 3-4 weeks at the MSC training facility in Freehold, NJ or San Diego, CA.
If I fulfill the employment requirements of a Merchant Mariner’s Credential, a TWIC card and a U.S. Passport, am I guaranteed a job with MSC?
No, MSC does not guarantee employment. Hiring is also based on meeting the minimum employment requirements and evaluation criteria for each respective position. Click here to review the Evaluation Criteria for each open position.
Where can I get my physical and drug test for the MMC?
The U.S. Coast Guard requires a general physical and specific drug test prior to issue of an MMC for any rating. Guidelines are provided in the USCG Merchant Mariner Credential Application package. If currently active duty your physical can be accomplished at the base medical facility. A drug testing letter from your Command/Commander stating you participate in the random drug testing program is sufficient to submit to the Coast Guard for physical and drug testing criteria. The drug testing letters are valid for 6 months.
How do I get a Merchant Mariner’s Credential (MMC)?
Once your TWIC card is being processed, you’re ready to apply for your MMC. Applications can be submitted either electronically or via mail to one of the Regional Examination Centers of the U.S. Coast Guard. Click here for a list of Coast Guard Regional Examination Center locations. DO NOT send your MMC application to the National Maritime Center, this will slow processing time.
I am preparing to leave active duty and am interested in a job with MSC, what do I need to do?
You may be transitioning from the Navy in 3 days, 3 months or 3 years – regardless, you should begin to think about how you can turn your sea time and skills you built while on active duty into a great paying civilian career.
To apply for a position with MSC, there are two CRITICAL documents you must possess: A U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner’s Credential (MMC) and a U.S. Passport.
- Complete an Information Request Form (IRF).
- Get a copy of your Sea Service Transcript from your Commanding Officer documenting your shipboard experience. Your sea time MAY count towards the Able Seaman qualifications if your rating is: BM, OS, QM, SM, RD or GM. Your sea time MAY count towards the QMED qualifications if your rating is: BT, DC, EM, EN, GS, GSE, GSM, HT, IC, MK, MR, MM, TT.
- Submit this document and your MMC application to one of the U.S. Coast Guard Regional Examination Centers and ask to apply for the highest rating possible.
- Once you have your MMC, you can log into your profile (that was created when you completed an IRF) and submit an application for any positions that are open and you meet all the minimum employment requirements.
For more specific information, please call (866) 562-7672 or email and speak with a recruiter.
I am former Navy, what positions would I qualify for?
Where can I get a copy of my military records?
A copy of your military records can be requested by visiting http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
I am a veteran; how do I obtain the required DD-214?
To obtain these documents, visit http://vetrecs.archives.gov/.
I am a veteran; do my Veteran’s Preference points affect my employment opportunities with Military Sealift Command?
Yes, they can. Specifically, it depends on what your veteran’s preference point ranking is. Please refer to the website, http://www.fedshirevets.gov/hire/hrp/vetguide/index.aspx, for more details on veteran’s preference.
How do I get hired?
First, complete and submit an Information Request Form (IRF) either through the website or in person at a recruitment event. After completion of the IRF, if the applicant meets the minimum employment requirements for the position they are interested in he/he can complete and submit an official MSC application package. All those who apply for employment are screened for all necessary paperwork, and then they are added to a certificate list for the position for which they are applying. If you’re selected, you’ll be contacted and offered employment. We’ll give you a reporting date and discuss with you some of the specific job duties you’ll have. (All applicants applying for employment do not necessarily get hired. Veteran’s preference is a factor in the hiring decision.)
Do I have to be a high school graduate to join MSC?
No, there are no educational requirements for employment; however you must pass an English Language Competency Test.
What are the basic requirements to join MSC?
- At least 18 years of age.
- A United States citizen with a valid U.S. Passport.
- Capable of speaking, understanding, reading and writing the English language. Some positions are required to pass an English Language Competency test.
- Applicants must have a Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) and a valid Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, and with at least ten (10) months of eligibility remaining on it before it is due for renewal.
- Capable of passing an MSC-administered physical examination. Due to often strenuous shipboard duties and extended periods at sea, all applicants must meet MSC medical requirements. Any applicants applying for positions that would require them to work aloft will be required to meet specific weight restrictions in order to be considered for employment as a civil service mariner (CIVMAR). (Click here to see the Department of the Navy Human Resources Advisory 2013-3 for specific positions and requirements).
- Drug free and submit to urinalysis in accordance with the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.
- Able to obtain and maintain a security clearance
What’s the difference between MSC and the regular U.S. Merchant Marine?
There are a few differences. MSC CIVMARs work for the Federal government; regular merchant mariners work for private shipping companies. We supply the Navy; commercial merchant mariners most often supply private industry.
What is a CIVMAR?
A civil service mariner, or CIVMAR, is a federal government employee who pursues a civil service, Navy career while assigned aboard U.S. government-owned ships that support Navy’s warfighters and warfighting platforms around the world. CIVMARs account for 80% of our workforce, their service is the backbone of our mission and plays a vital role in the Navy’s ability to operate forward every day.
Because our ships are operated by civilians, crewing levels and crew organization about our vessels reflect the standards found about civilian commercial ships rather than combatant ships.
Additionally, the crews are divided between licensed and unlicensed personnel. Licensed personnel (i.e. the ship’s master and chief engineer) hold a current, U.S. Coast Guard-issued license, which is obtained through a combination of sea time and successful completion of a licensing exam. Although the division between licensed and unlicensed personnel aboard our ships may be compared to the officer/enlisted relationship aboard combatant vessels, a more appropriate analogy is the management/labor relationship in the civilian industry.