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9. US Merchant Marine Academy
Their motto is “Deeds not words,” and there is no other service that better exemplifies this creed than the Merchant Marine Service. While very few consider the importance of sea transport, suffice to say that the military does.
In fact, because the U.S. Navy does not maintain the necessary sealift capacity to move high numbers of military formations (personnel, equipment, supplies) to diverse locations around the world, the Merchant Marines (which are basically privately owned, U.S. flagged transports) provides this ability for the armed forces.
Of course, the Merchant Marines also provide the lifeline of international commerce as the means for moving goods across the world’s waterways. To further this endeavor, it became apparent that an institution of higher education was needed to develop seafaring officers.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) was established in 1942 for this very purpose end is one of the 5 federal service academies that train its students for military (or in the case of the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, military related) service.
Located at Kings Point, New York, USMMA enrolls a little over 900 undergraduate students. Getting in, however, is not easy.
In fact, an excellent high school student might find it easier being accepted by Harvard or Yale. Aspiring candidates for USMMA must have strong SAT/ACT scores, write an essay, provide 3 letters of recommendations, pass a medical and physical fitness examination, and obtain a nomination from a member of Congress (either a U.S. Senator or Representative).
If successful, and after a period of indoctrination the summer before the first school year at USMMA, students are welcomed into the Regiment of Midshipmen. As with all federal service academies (and one of the attractive features of attending), all expenses are paid by the government, and each student receives a monthly stipend.
Life, however, in the regiment is about what one would expect for a military academy. When Midshipmen take their oath of office in their first year, they become members of the U.S. Navy reserve. In other words, welcome to the military!
A regimented military environment is the norm at USMMA, but unlike the other academies (with exception to the Coast Guard Academy); the emphasis here is maritime in nature. Midshipmen focus their academic studies in one of two maritime-related areas: marine transportation and marine engineering.
Courses of study lead to a Bachelor of Science degree in 6 different majors, as well as maritime accreditation and licensing. Additionally, USMMA midshipmen are provided a heavy course of practical experience.
Between their sophomore and junior years, midshipmen are required to serve as cadets on operational U.S. merchant ships. During this time, students will visit, on average, 18 foreign countries and spend almost a year away from the academy.
With four years of intense academic study, leadership development, physical and military training, midshipmen have a number of options available to them upon graduation.
Unlike the other service academies that require several years of active duty service upon graduation, USMMA graduates are responsible to fulfill their government obligations on their own accord. Essentially, USMMA graduates have the option of either obtaining employment in an approved civilian maritime occupation, or serve as an officer in one of the 4 branches of the U.S. military.
Graduates leave the academy with a B.S. degree, a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve (unless they choose to accept an active duty commission), and an unlimited license as a merchant marine officer (3rd mate or 3rd asst. engineer). In short, if one is looking for a career on the seven seas, as well as a superior quality education, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is a very attractive option.
Alumni: Mark Kelly, U.S. Naval captain, space shuttle pilot, and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords of Arizona.
Related article: Top 10 Military Specialty Schools In The United States