Choosing a Major

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by ComeAbout, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. ComeAbout

    ComeAbout Member

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    Looking for advice on choosing a major.
    My plebe DS is taking KP100?, which is supposed to help him decide, but I have my doubts.
    My nephew, his cousin, graduated deck in '03 and is doing well. He has repeated the scary stuff about how hard Engineering is, and I'm not sure if its that, but my son has always thought he'd want deck. But DS seems to be good in math and science, without much studying it seems, and so I'm wondering if he's wasting some talent he may have, and what may be more opportunities for employment after graduation, by dismissing Engineering. He agreed to preliminarily choose Engineering his first trimester, so I guess he has until October when he has to choose. Even though I've asked him to keep an open mind, and I don't think he's struggling with his classes, every time I ask about his major, he says he's changing to deck.
    At parents weekend, I tried to see as much of the "Engineering side" as I could. Although I know what I saw was very limited, I came away with the feeling that unless you're a real "motor head", Engineering is not for you.
    I remember showing some friends the catalog, they noted the pix of the below waterline operations looked like scenes from "Dirty Jobs".
    So my experience so far has reinforced my initial point of view of why would anyone want to work below the waterline? Hot, noisy, can't see where you're going...
    So maybe my question is, what is the down side of choosing deck?
    Any advice helping to decide between the two would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks.
     
  2. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Great question...

    Well where to start to answer this one. Why "deck", why not "deck", why "engine", why not "engine".

    First let me say the bottom lines here are going to be:
    1) The choice is between two great options because at the end your son will graduate with a degree from USMMA and array of options and opportunities that generally lead to a very bright and successful future.
    2) Regardless of which is harder/easier - that is an entirely separate debate and my reaction is pretty much in 90% of the cases if they got into USMMA, they can successfully navigate either curricula and graduate.
    3) It really has to be their choice, this is the start of their real journey through adulthood that will continue long after we as parents are gone. Of course we are their parents and I have no doubt in addition to all the unsaid influence we have on them, your child is probably discussing this choice and decision with you, as did mine. You know them well but in the end I found this time in our DS' life - his plebe year - the hardest for me to give him good advice. So often he was really looking for a sounding board rather then a lot of specific advice, he was becoming a man on his own and often I still saw him as a teenager, but truth be told he was much more than that already. You probably saw some of that last weekend, I know we did back three years ago.

    Last general disclaimer/point, remember that the current service obligation states:
    So if the economy is such that you can "sail on your license" there's really not any downside more or less to being either a "deck" or "engine" officer. They are pretty similar lives other than your daily tasks aboard the ship and the benefits and drawbacks of a career "at sea" are not too different based on the choice of major. Of course differences do come into play when you look at the shoreside career opportunities.

    Now the direct answers to your question the downside of "deck".

    Answers will vary but here's my opinion, I was a "Deck" major/graduate almost 30 years ago so that's my perspective.

    The first is really the downside of any of the six available majors at Kings Point - they are not - none of them, generic degrees that have a majority of their focus being on teaching the students "how to think" - rather for lots of reasons they are filled with pouring a ton of material into your brain quickly. That's just a function of Kings Point - it's really a six year program crammed into four years: a four year B.S.; one years worth of vocational training on campus; and one year of co-op/internship (sea year). A liberal arts or basic science BA/BS it certainly is not.

    The second downside varies by which of the three "deck majors" they choose: Logistics and Intermodal Transportation; Marine Transportation, or Marine Operations and Technology (aka "Shopper"). As your question seems to be rooted in what are the differences in career options for new grads I'll confine my answer here and note that the downside of deck vs. engine is generally more pronounced right now in this economic down-cycle then it is during an up-cycle where just being a USMMA graduate generally left all new grads with multiple good offers in June.

    I would first say if they want to go active duty there's not much difference in the midterm and they could get some input and advice from the on campus liaisons as to what impact their choice of major will have on their career as a Junior Officer.

    Assuming that's not your focus and it's related to your career choices as a new grad in the maritime industry my "gut" and basic feel is that the biggest drawbacks come with the choice of so called "straight deck" - Marine - as a major, if you aren't thinking about getting either an MBA or JD relatively early in your career (in which case its a GREAT choice.) In the case of a Marine Transportation Major, private industry is apt to look at you for shoreside employment as very similar to a Business Major graduate from any good program with a solid co-op/internship program. Outside of course the "Kings Point Family' which I think we have to leave aside in answering this question. In the case of "Shoppers" - you'll likely be looked at as having a "weird" degree, some especially A&D companies might like that you have some technical courses and practical experience to back it up, other companies will look negatively to the fact that getting those courses in was at the expense of you receiving some introduction to financial analysis, etc. Logistics and Intermodal Transportation grads are likely to looked at and compared to grads from good Supply Chain Management program grads from places like Penn State, Emory-Riddle, etc.

    Now compared to Engineering majors this type of downside translates, IMO as follows. Compared to engineering grads, especially those with the ABET accredited degrees: Marine Engineering Systems and/or Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management, new grads in the "Deck Majors" will likely be looking at starting salaries that are 15-20% lower and fewer choices/offers in today's market (which may not persist through 2015 - I know I hope things improve by then). The engineering grads will be compared generally to young grads with B.S.M.E.'s That's not a bad thing and in large part the reason why for last year's Plebe class (2014) almost 75% indicated they wanted to go "engine". However as you noted the engineering curricula at KP is very hands on and practical in it's areas of study and the shipboard jobs are at times hot and dirty. If working literally inside a large slow speed diesel engine puts a smile on your face then KP is one of the few places your time studying engineering is where you'll have a smile on your face. If you'd rather have a career seeing the world looking out the bridge window and trying to see how to make sure you operate the ship most efficiently over it's scheduled route then "deck" is for you. I say that because 5 years into a shoreside career, the salary gap for those who are having successful careers tends to be negligible when comparing "Deck" vs. "Engine".

    Its corny but I wouldn't sweat it too much (choice of majors). Truth be told is most of my peers like myself "30 years out" are well into our second or third careers and the biggest things we learned and got out of USMMA are not related to the specifics of our majors or degrees but rather the qualities and things we learned related to leadership, perseverance, self confidence and teamwork.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2011
  3. Lynpar

    Lynpar Member

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    Great information, great topic! But what is a JD? ( Jasperdog referred to it along with an MBA, that one I know,,, Norwegian Hillbilly here) My DS who is currently tAking the engine side of KP100 said he has heard " more people are scared away from Deck than are drawn in to Engine" Interesting to see what choice he will make. He also has said Logistics may be a better path if a Law Degree is considered. Thoughts? He will be a very mechanically inclined deck officer or an engine officer ( right term?) with great people and organizational skills. Works either way!
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2011
  4. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Juris Doctrate - aka a law degree. For me, if I was trying to decide between "straight deck" i.e. Marine Transportation or Logistics and Intermodal Transportation, I'd pick Logistics and Intermodal Transportation. But my understanding from some current midshipmen is they find the curricula in the Logistics major somewhat repetitous during the third and second class years. I don't really understand why they say that but I have heard it from more than one, perhaps a current mid can comment/explain. I do know many graduates from all majors both deck and engine have gone on to Law School and then had very successful careers as attorneys.
     
  5. marinermom

    marinermom Member

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    I'm so glad this question was asked - I was actually signing on to ask the same thing. My DS Plebe is also not sure and initially has signed on for Engine. Many who have graduated as Engineers have told us that it's much easier for Engineers to find a job as opposed to Deckies. We don't know if this is actually true and the reasons why. Jasper Dog - do you know if this is a factual statement? I am most interested in the pro's vs con's of Deckie vs Engine. Would someone out there with experience and knowledge on the subject be willing to make a list? With very little time to actually think or process anything, it would be great to be able to forward an answer to my DS that would shed some light on the subject, from someone who hasn't just graduated, but has experienced life and can look back with some advice for the new guys. Thanks so much in advance!
     
  6. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    You hit the nail on the head. I have also found that these characteristics are in demand ashore. There are often times when we meet with new clients that find out I am a USMMA alum, and they state, "Oh, you have a Kings Pointer" (and don't grimace).

    I am in my third career. I sailed for seven years, then came ashore to work for ABS as a field surveyor. As an engineer, this is not an uncommon transformation, once we settle down a bit and start to raise a family.

    I then changed careers again after 10 years with the Bureau and started working as an Energy Loss Aduster, but also still do some marine surveys when necessary, and also handle the odd marine claim. As an engineer, it does make some of my work better to understand, as offshore engineering (the energy area where I specialize) is still engineering AND marine related. I also often handle claims for marine vessels and floating drilling equipment used in the offshore exploration and construction industries.

    I should also state that when I here a reference to someone who is a "Kings Pointer", there is no further reference to whether they were mates or engineers.

    Having gone through the engineering program (not systems, however), I did find that being a bit of a gearhead was helpful. There are also times when the job is hot, dirty and just plain nasty. Scraping soot buildup off of superheater tubes in a boiler in the Borneo heat isn't a fun job, but it makes for good stories later.

    The important thing is to make it to graduation and not get in too much trouble. Or at least get caught getting into too much trouble.
     
  7. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    There are some from my class that have gone on to spectacular careers. One in particular was a deckie and another was a dualie. They certainly drive better cars than I do.
     
  8. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    it sounds like he was talked out of what he really wants to do in favor of what someone else things he should do to avoid "wasting talent". Big red flag to me here. First off, being good at math and science does not automatically a good engineer make. Secondly, if he doesn't like the major I would be surprised if he does particularly well. I knew some very bright systems majors who struggled through some engineering classes that were more sweathog in nature because that really wasn't the type of engineering that interested them so I really don't see someone lasting too long who really would rather be topside. I also knew a deck major who was struggling academically and getting close to disenrollment. She wanted to switch to engine and they almost laughed her out of the office. She stuck to her guns and got what she wanted and graduated with pretty good grades.

    Deck vs Engine ... Ahhhhhh, the eternal question. I suspect that some of the engineers earlier advantages have to do with understanding what they are. Everyone knows what an engineer is but unless you already know what KP is and what the Marine Transportation curriculum is you would probably put it more in line with a BA instead of a BS. I have never had a problem getting a job as either a Marine Engineer, Mechanical Engineer or a Systems Engineer. I don't know how the curriculum is different with trimesters but when we did quarters, the straight deck guys only took three quarters of calculus. I knew a fair number of people who chose deck for that reason. Other than that the biggest advantage I can see for deck for some people is that they like it. That's a pretty big one and trumps all the pay and employment advantages of being an engineer. If someone likes it he will be good at it, if he is good at it he will have professional success and the jobs will find him. I've had a couple captains whose phones never stopped ringing with jobs looking for them.
     
  9. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    I was a deck major for one reason: business.

    I felt as a deckie (wasn't super interested in the engine room anyway) that I was getting more of an exposure to a "business major" in addition to my maritime training that would make me marketable to any number of companies. (At the time I had no idea I'd be going to medical school)

    BTW as Cmakin notes after several years out you rarely even ask if someone was a deckie/engineer....case in point: met a dentist yesterday at my command who is a '92 grad because we were both sporting the sea chicken with pride. Didn't even come up as to what major we were.
     
  10. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    Yeah, it is funny how our careers run. In school, I had absolutely no idea that I would be in the insurance part of our industry. I probably would have paid more attention in that segment of the Nautical Science course(s) that we took as engineers.
     
  11. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    M Boone per chance ... He was deck. I sat at his lunch table. Just more proof of how small the KP family really is. The degrees of separation between all of us are pretty few.
     
  12. KP2015MOM

    KP2015MOM Member

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    so to get more specific on the question of majors.....

    When does the Class of 2015 systems engineers know what minors will be offered? Hoping DS could go LNG/Petro or offshore engineering but probably mechanical. Have not heard much about LNG being offered?
     
  13. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    I would hesitate to refer to the specialty options as minors. I know they use that word on the website but I think that is just to give it context. They may be "like" a minor but that doesn't make them minors just because it is the same amount of credits as a minors.

    It's like when the shopper program was new they used to say it was "like" a minor in engineering so all the shoppers were putting it on their resume that they had minors in Marine Engineering. Unless it says it on their diplomas, it's not a minor.
     

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