How to become a Deck Officer

Hi I’m Jessica, I started working at Viking Crew as a Cruise Placement Consultant last August. My current job role in the company is to help to recruit Deck and Technical personnel for several cruise ship clients that we work with. Before joining the Viking family however, I worked onboard cruise vessels as a Deck Officer with Royal Caribbean.

Firstly, What is a Deck Officer?

At sea we currently have around 53,000 merchant ships sailing all over the world transporting various cargos/passengers. Onboard these ships we need a skilled team that are trained to safely navigate the vessels from A to B. This team typically consists of the Captain, Chief Officer and Watch officers who each, typically for 8 hours a day, are on the bridge responsible for the safe navigation of the vessel on behalf of the Captain. As well as navigation the duties of a deck officer may also involve the up keep of all safety equipment, security rounds, cargo operations and training of the ship’s crew as well as social events with guests (passenger vessels).

How did I get into this job?

Many people within the industry became interested in this career as they already had family members at sea, I however come from a non-seafaring background. I first became interested in a seafaring career through the Sea Cadets, a youth charity that I joined when I was 13 years old. This gave me a taste of a life at sea however was more focused on the royal navy side of the industry which wasn’t suited for me. I therefore started to investigate other avenues that I could pursue in order to get myself to sea and came across an open day advertised at Warsash Maritime Academy Southampton (One of the maritime colleges in the UK) which I jumped at the opportunity to attend. At this open day many companies attended and spoke to potential new trainee officers (cadets) and this is where I met a representative from Royal Caribbean. After a few interviews and on successful completion of my A levels I was offered a 3-year sponsored place at the academy and joined in September that year.

During my training I didn’t realise just how much I would learn, get involved in and the places that I would visit. The training for a Deck Officer consists of alternating college and sea time, at college I learnt all about the theoretical side of the job with subjects such as voyage planning, celestial navigation and tides, to name a few, which were put into practice onboard. As well as navigation during my cadetship I learnt so many more skills - this included First Aid, Personal Sea Survival and even Firefighting! During my sea time onboard as a cadet and later as a qualified officer I have worked onboard 6 mega cruise vessels and had the amazing opportunity to sail all over the world on cruises to the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and many more!

How do you apply?

You can join the merchant navy and start a cadetship from the age of 16 or 18 (dependant on the company). There are certain academic entry requirements and generally, you will need at least four GCSEs grades A-C (or equivalent) which should include English, maths and science. You must also have good eyesight and be physically fit so that you can maintain a safe watch and fulfil all your duties required onboard. As well as a Deck officer cadetship placements, here at Viking Maritime Group we also offer similar Engine and Electro-Technical Officer programmes (Please see Chiltern Maritime for more information on our cadetships).

My time onboard as a cadet and as a qualified officer has been an absolutely incredible journey which has allowed me to travel all over the world and be involved in some amazing experiences, coupled with coming out of it all debt free! My position onboard has now helped me to move into the next stage of my career, working for Viking, to continue to look for Deck and Technical candidates of all ranks to work onboard as I did before.

Jessica Dickson, Cruise Placement Consultant