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About the course

If you have a sense of adventure and you’re looking for a career that’s more than the usual ‘9 to 5’, training to become a navigating officer in the UK’s merchant navy will provide you with the opportunity to broaden your horizons and travel the world while you work.

Studying at the world-renowned Warsash Maritime School on a fully-sponsored three-year officer cadet training programme, you’ll combine the necessary skills and knowledge with work-based learning on board ship to leave you well-prepared to begin your career as a qualified ship’s officer in the Merchant Navy.

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

To enrol on an officer cadet training scheme, candidates apply directly to shipping companies, not through UCAS. This is because officer cadet training is fully sponsored by the shipping company, covering course fees and also providing the means for gaining the mandatory work-based learning on board ship. Cadets will often also receive a small salary or living allowance while they are training.

During training at Warsash, deck cadets are taught the necessary academic underpinning knowledge, allowing them to develop a detailed understanding of the safe operation of a modern merchant vessel, as well as the activities of the maritime industry, both at sea and ashore. 

This course has been accredited by a professional body.
Professional accreditation
This course has access to Solent's specialist facilities.
Specialist facilities
This course has an option to start in January.
January start available
After successfully completing your studies, there's an opportunity to continue your studies at Solent.
Further studies
If you apply for this course with a sandwich year, you have the opportunity to undertake a year in industry between your second and third years.
Sandwich year

Officer cadet training is fully sponsored by shipping companies and candidates apply direct to shipping companies for sponsorship. The training scheme is accredited by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and administered by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB).

What does this course lead to?

This programme will lead you to employment as a certified bridge watchkeeping officer on board a commercial (merchant) ship.

Who is this course for?

This fully-sponsored training programme is a must for those who wish to become a deck officer in the Merchant Navy. The course is suited to those who are looking for an interesting and varied career, and is ideal for those with strong mathematics and physical science skills.

Facts and figures

Fees icon

Fees and costs

Tuition fees

Successful applicants will have their course fees paid and be provided a training allowance by the UK sponsoring companies throughout their training.

For further information, please visit our tuition fees page.

Bursaries and scholarships

Solent University offers a range of bursaries and scholarships that provide financial assistance or waive fees for tuition or accommodation. Each bursary or scholarship has specific eligibility criteria. Check out our bursaries and scholarships pages to find out more.

Graduation costs

For graduates in 2020, there is no charge to attend graduation, but you will be required to pay for the rental of your academic gown (approximately £45 per graduate, depending on your award). You may also wish to purchase official photography packages, which range in price from £15 to £200+. Graduation is not compulsory, so if you prefer to have your award sent to you, there is no cost. Extra guest tickets will go on sale after results publication and will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis. The cost per ticket was £15 in 2019, but this fee is subject to change for future years. Please note, we do not guarantee there will be any extra tickets available to purchase.
Key entry requirements icon

Key entry requirements

  • GCSE grade 4 or above in at least mathematics, English and science, plus one other (previously grade C).
  • Entry to this course is through a sponsored cadetship; please see the Warsash Maritime School website for details.
  • For further information about UK, EU and international qualifications, please refer to our course entry requirement statement

English language requirements

Applicants who do not have English as their first language will be required to demonstrate an approved level of proficiency in the use of the English language. The agreed minimum requirements for this course are:

  • IELTS minimum 6.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each individual component
  • TOEFL IBT minimum 80 with a minimum of 20 in each individual component
  • Duolingo English Language Test - 100 overall with minimum of 90 in each component
  • or equivalent.

Qualifications are checked before enrolment, and international students must bring their original certificates or certified copies when coming to study at the University.

Pre-Sessional English programme

The University also offers a pre-sessional English programme for international students who wish to improve their level of English before starting a degree course.

Study location

Industrial Placement

Got a question about this course?

Contact our Solent team:

If you are a UK, EU or EEA applicant please contact 023 8201 5066 If you are an international applicant please contact 023 8201 5066

How to apply

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 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 behalf of their clients.

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

How to apply 

What you'll study

Year one

  • Maritime Analytical Methods
  • Navigation
  • Ship Operations
  • Work Based Learning (Operations)
  • Meteorology
  • Shipboard Management

Year two

  • Voyage Planning
  • Cargo Operations
  • Marine Operations
  • Command Management
  • Work Based Learning (Management)


Web-based learning

Solent's virtual learning environment provides quick online access to assignments, lecture notes, suggested reading and other course information.

The Student Hub

The Student Hub is a central space where you can access all of the information and support you need during your time at University.

Professional and experienced staff can help resolve any query, and if they cannot answer the question themselves they will find the person who can.

Career support


Warsash Maritime School has 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.

Teaching is delivered by experienced academic staff with a strong maritime background, most of whom have previously served at sea or are current seafarers. Officer cadet training is the beginning of a clearly defined seagoing career path, which also provides grounding for a shore-based career.

Your future

Suitable roles for graduates include:
  • Merchant Navy deck officer
  • Assistant marine superintendent
  • Safety manager
  • Marine logistics and co-ordination
  • Shore-based fleet operations
  • Maritime administration.

Industry links

Warsash Maritime School is a world leader in maritime education and training, with close links to the marine industry. The extensive professional experience of academic staff ensures that the course draws on real-world case studies and equips you with practical, readily applicable knowledge and skills.


As part of the sponsored merchant navy officer cadetship you will carry out training at sea in your sponsoring company’s vessels.

Get ready to find your place

You can still experience life at Solent at a virtual open day! Hear from course tutors, take virtual campus and accommodation tours, and chat to us live.

Register for a virtual open day