Merchant Mariner Credentials and STCW Certification at a Glance
These credentials are a type of maritime certification obtained by application through a U.S. Coast Guard Regional Examination Center (REC). The application process requires the completion of the application form and payment of the initial fees.
For mariners who began service or training after August 1, 1998 you must comply with the STCW-95 standards before you’re issued credentials, which is a separate process that can include several different courses and exams depending on the type of employment in which you're involved. Nearly every mariner employed on a vessel greater than 200 gross register tons will need to comply with the STCW-95 standards.
Obtain Your STCW Certification before Merchant Mariner Credentials
Your certification doesn’t require credentials, but your MMCs may require certain components of certification. MMCs are generally necessary for those employed in the deck, engineering, or steward’s department of a ship weighing more than 100 gross register tons.
Depending on the type of profession in which you're employed or are seeking employment, you’ll need to show proof of certification for various courses. It’s best to talk to your employer about the credentials necessary for your job so you don’t overlook any requirements when seeking certification or obtaining credentials.
Neither certification is a guarantee that you will find employment in the maritime field. However, by holding these certifications you will be more qualified for additional jobs. Taking the initiative to seek these credentials on your own can also be a positive sign to your employer that you’re seeking to move to a higher position within your vessel.
The Big Difference: Courses and Exams
Technically, the major difference is that the STCW requires attending courses and passing proficiency exams while the MMC is mainly an application and fee process. However, because the MMC requires compliance with some components of the STCW-95 certificate, both types of maritime credentials will require some class time and testing.
The certification process can involve several multi-day courses that include classroom instruction, field exams, and written tests. The field exams involve practical training such as safety skills and firefighting onboard a vessel. The written exams are designed to ensure those who become STCW certified are aware of the proper procedures and protocol of various safety and job duties onboard commercial vessels.
Studying for the STCW exams is an important part of the certification process, as you’ll have to re-take the exam if you don’t pass the first time! There are many STCW test preparation programs to help mariners preview the testing formats, review sample questions, and get a refresher on taking standardized tests for certifications.
At STCW Online we offer STCW practice tests to help prepare U.S. mariners to take the deck exam and Coast Guard tests for their certification. If you want to improve your chances of passing the written portions of these exams, visit our website to sign up for your FREE membership. We offer access to practice tests, study aids, classroom instruction and test locations, our STCW online forum, and maritime job opportunities.