Deck Cadet Job Description

Be it on a military vessel or a luxury cruise liner, a Deck Cadet assists in the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the ship. They may help with preparations prior to departure, navigation, safety and maintenance duties and cargo related issues. Deck Cadets are found on just about every type of seafaring vessel.

Deck Cadets can be thought of as apprentices who study under the guidance of a duty officer. Their rank is considered the lowest on most vessels, but is a necessary and mandatory step towards achieving higher ranks as a ship officer. Deck Cadets learn the ins and outs of running a ship and all the proper processes and protocols involved. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Water Transportation Workers, which include Deck Cadets, can expect a job growth of 9 percent through 2024, adding about 7,200 jobs during that period.


Deck Cadet Duties and Responsibilities

The duties of a Deck Cadet will differ depending on the type of vessel they work on, however, there are several core duties most Deck Cadets perform. A review of current job listings identified the following primary tasks and responsibilities.

Prepare for Departure

Deck Cadets are involved in the preparations made prior to departure. This will vary depending on the kind of ship, but most Deck Cadets will be responsible for inspecting all lifesaving and safety equipment, supervising the loading and storage of cargo or the onboarding procedures of passengers and reviewing and getting acquainted with the routes they will take.

Assist in Navigation Tasks

Deck Cadets will often undertake navigation responsibilities once at sea. They do so under the supervision of an officer or captain. They will learn how to maneuver the vessel under different weather circumstances, how to engage in traffic negotiations with other ships and how to moor the vessel once in port. These skills are an important step towards becoming an officer so Deck Cadets can expect to get many hours of practice in navigation.

Keep Records

The regular logging of ship information in a logbook or position report often falls to the Deck Cadet. The recordkeeping of vessels is an important step in the apprenticeship of the Deck Cadet and they are often tasked with ensuring all the information is accurate and timely. For those working on commercial ships, getting an education in the business aspect is also a requirement. Deck Cadets on commercial ships may be expected to handle paperwork and understand basic legalities of the business to best perform their duties.


Deck Cadet Skills

A successful Deck Cadet must be highly organized and possess excellent communication skills. They must work well in team settings, but also display leadership traits. An eye for detail and the ability to prioritize tasks is also important. Employers seek candidates with these traits as well as the following.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Deck Cadet with these core skills. Focus on the following if you wish to become a Deck Cadet.

  • Knowledge of shipboard operations
  • Shipyard experience
  • Physically ability to meet demands of job that may include, lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs, standing for long periods of time and being confined to small spaces
  • Basic knowledge of safety protocols

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your skillset and broaden your career options.

  • College degree in area such as Marine Transportation
  • Military experience
  • Riggers certification


Deck Cadet Resources

There are additional informational resources available on the Web for those interested in working in the maritime field. We scoured the internet and found these links full of learning opportunities and the latest industry news.

On the Web

Maritime Administration – This is the United States Maritime Administration website and is full of information and resources regarding waterborne transportation. From education opportunities to data statistics, anything related to the maritime industry can be found here.

MAERSK Deck Cadet Education Programme – The Maersk Group owns one of the world’s largest container shipping companies and operates in 130 countries across the globe. Their Deck Cadet Education Programme prepares new recruits for the rigors of life at sea and introduces them to the work environment of the Maersk Group.

Royal Caribbean International Cadet Program Royal Caribbean operates its own hiring and training program for cruise liner navigators. Their program is selective and rigorous and aims to promote the best qualified candidates to the rank of navigator of their luxury cruise ships.

Deck Cadet Books

Civil Maritime Careers: Merchant Marine – This book gives readers an idea of what types of careers one can find in the maritime industry. From captains to mates and pilots, this is a great resource for those considering making a career on the high seas.

So You Want to Work on a Boat – A practical guide for anyone wishing to work on commercial vessels. It covers all the different types of jobs and their duties as well as guidance on writing resumes and cover letters.

Opportunities in Marine Science and Maritime Careers – This resource book provides information on the wide selection of jobs found in the maritime industry.

Industry Groups

The American Waterways Operators – AWO is an association for U.S. waterway operator professionals working on tugboats, towboats, or barges. They offer members access to latest industry research studies, career development opportunities, and expert career and legal advice.

Passenger Vessel Association – Established in 1971, PVA has served the needs of passenger vessel operators by providing access to industry experts, campaigning for industry rights and regulations, offering safety and compliance tools, and hosting meetings and events for industry professionals to gather and share ideas.


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