The United State Merchant Marine Academy is a small, highly elite military service academy, one of the five federally-chartered institutions for the education and training of military officers. While the need for organized, intensive training of Merchant Marine officers had been noted since tragic fire on a passenger ship in 1934, the Merchant Marine Academy was not officially founded until 1943, when WWII created a desperate and immediate need for trained officers. Today the Merchant Marine Academy is afforded the dignity and respect of the other, older military academies, recognized as the West Point of the Merchant Marine.
Students in the US Merchant Marine Academy are titled “midshipmen” (the equivalent of cadet at other academies). Admissions are extremely demanding, including not only high academic marks, but passing a physical exam, showing evidence of upstanding moral character, and receiving an official recommendation from a member of Congress. Graduates must also receive security clearance to earn their officer commission in the Armed Forces.
After a stringent two-and-a-half week initiation period, including marching, physical endurance exercises, and introduction to the rules of order, students work toward bachelor’s degrees in one of six areas: Marine Transportation or Maritime Logistics and Security for positions in areas like maritime law and navigation; Marine Engineering, Engineering Systems, or Engineering and Shipyard Management for more technical roles; or Maritime Operations and Technology. These highly specialized courses of study prepare graduate for officer status in military, government, or private civilian maritime capacities.
As a military academy, student life in the US Merchant Marine Academy is highly regimented, with camaraderie, team building, and character development prioritized highly. Courses are highly intensive, rather more rigorous than the conventional college experience, but midshipmen are adept at finding ways to blow off steam. Intramural and club sports are very popular and exceptionally competitive, alongside official varsity athletics, while the twice-yearly rotation of the regimental band makes it a uniquely attractive option.
Ethics and character development are important parts of academy life as well, understandably, as the purpose of academy education is to provide disciplined, trustworthy leaders for a dangerous, crucial service. Students attend leadership conferences and exercises, and take part in groups like the Kings Point Moral Science Society, an organization that discusses ethical issues and develops programs and activities to increase ethical and moral awareness on campus.