A maritime academy is a technical school, focused on teaching practical skills which can be put to use on the ocean or in industries related to the ocean. In addition to training sailors, it also offers classes in maritime law, international business, engineering, technology, and many other fields directly related to careers on the high seas. Graduates of such an academy are prepared for careers in shipping, the merchant marine, or another maritime industry of choice.
People have taken advantage of the training offered at maritime academies for hundreds of years. Early ones offered training in seamanship including navigation, officer's training, handling of ships, and how to conduct yourself while on board a vessel. As international business has expanded, training has expanded with it, and students at a maritime academy today choose an area of focus just like they would at a general education college. Programs range in length from summer short courses for high school students to full length four year training programs culminating in advanced degrees.
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A maritime academy offers a combination of classroom and hands-on experience. Most have at least one learning vessel which students can use on long and short cruises to learn how to handle a commercial vessel, conduct business, and function as a team on the high seas. Classroom training topics include navigation, law, business, engineering, weather science, and a variety of other relevant topics. Students also usually have the opportunity to interact with equipment used on ships and to explore commercial ship yards and offices. In addition, students at many maritime academies are expected to adhere to a standard of physical fitness and take courses to that end as well.
Maritime academies are as widely different as private four year colleges, and students interested in studying at such an academy should research all their options before making a decision. Especially if the student intends to enter the merchant marine, a maritime academy which is certified by the merchant marine should be chosen. Students interested in engineering or technology may want to choose a four year academy which offers extensive training in these areas of interest, while people who want to explore international law and shipping regulations should think about an academy with a large legal program.
Depending on the type of school, students may graduate a maritime academy with a Bachelor of Science, Merchant Marine Officer's License, or a Naval Officer's Commission. These certifications will allow the student to pursue a career on the ocean or on shore handling maritime business.