The Cost of BECOMING a Seaman – Expenses from School to Ship

by | Last updated May 9, 2024 | Career Guide | 0 comments

For the uninitiated person, becoming a seaman looks deceptively easy. Thousands of new graduates flood the seafaring industry every year hoping to fulfill their dreams of seeing the world for free while getting paid in hundreds or thousands of dollars.

These new cadets, fresh from their school, aspire to help their families by becoming a seaman. This is the image that most seafarers and would-be seafarers picture when they start their careers in maritime schools.

And many young students are following in their footsteps because of the promise of high pay and uplifted social status visible on social media.

But before you enroll in a maritime school and take a seafaring course, think first if your parents can afford the expenses for your education, training to get on board, and the money you’ll need while applying in Manila. That doesn’t even include the hardships, rejections, and false hopes you’ll experience.

But if you are really serious about getting a career at sea, here are the possible expenses you will incur from your college studies until you step on your first vessel and become a true seaman. That would take you some years if you don’t have a backer or are not part of any scholarship programs.

Cost of Becoming a Seaman

Tuition Fees

This varies greatly from Php20,000.00 to about Php90,000.00 per year depending on which school you attend. But let’s just say we take Php35,000.00 as our number for computational purposes.

Aside from the tuition fee, there are also some miscellaneous fees that the cadet must shoulder. These include books, some contributions, and materials for exercises (plotting sheets, charts, parallel rulers, workbooks, etc.). Let’s say this number is Php3,500.00 per year.

If you manage to study on the top maritime colleges in the country, your tuition fees could be higher.

Other School Expenses

Now if your school is far from your home, you have to find a boarding house or dormitory. Let’s assume the monthly rate for your boarding house is Php2,500.00 per month inclusive of water and electricity.

Aside from that, let your monthly operational expenses be approximately Php5,500.00 inclusive of fare, meals, snacks, load, school supplies, internet research, DotA, nightlife, etc.

Most school year starts in June and ends in March. We all know we have semestral breaks, holidays, and weekends that would reduce our daily expenses and boarding house fees.

But we also have days when we spend more than our budget like some emergencies, excess fares for a few days vacation at home, beers, or that extra 1-hour extension during DotA or other games.

So let’s compute our expenses on a nine-month basis per school year and since we have to study until the third year, let’s take the numbers above and put them into place.

For One Year of Study

Tuition fees and school expenses for seaman

Php110,500.00! That’s just in the first year. But we have three years for our academics so that amount would be Php331,500.00.

Who says becoming a Seaman is easy?

Take note that we did not take into account the savings that you might make or other expenses that may offset the calculations above. This calculation also assumes that you are not living with your parents or relatives thus having a high cost on your shelter and everyday expenses.

But at least we have a rough idea of how much we’re going to spend on this course. Nowadays, becoming a Seaman is very expensive. Are you ready to tackle that amount?

But wait, there are still more!

Travel Documents

A Philippine Passport and Seaman’s Record Book (SIRB) or Seaman’s Book are the basic requirements for those who want a career at sea. There is also a vaccination that you must have called the Yellow Fever Vaccination. You can get them even during college days as long as you have the necessary requirements.

Computation of basic travel documents like passport, seaman's book, yellow fever vaccine, and their amount.

I also made an easy tutorial guide on Renewing your Seaman’s Book, Renewing your Passport, and Getting or Renewing your Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. You can check them out on those links to have a fair idea of what lies ahead.

Training and Certificates

Your pocket does not rest after graduation. There are also trainings that you must attend. This is a requirement for going on board. No certificates, no shipboard experience. So how much would this be? Let’s see.

A first-time Cadet (Deck or Engine), Messboy, OS, or Wiper will have similar training but still largely depends on their company. Here are the following together with their approximate costs.

Most Common Entry-Level Training for Seafarers

Training of a newly-graduate seafarer including the price.

So we now have an approximate cost of the training that you will have to apply in order to board a ship. But these are the minimum requirements.

Some agencies require their cadets to have more sets of training like Maritime English, Anti-piracy Course, Basic Training for Oil and Chemical Tankers, Basic Training for Liquified Gas Tankers, Crude Oil Washing, etc.

Keep in mind that more training means more expenses.

Daily Expenses

Aside from the training costs, you also have to pay for your daily expenses and boarding house if you are away from home. Let’s assume that you spend Php400.00 every day for your boarding house, food, travel snacks, and others.

Instead of 24, let’s assume this to be 30 days to cover up Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. That will be another Php12,000.00.

Cadets wearing uniforms of white t-shirt, navy blue shorts and caps, and backpack in formation near a huge cargo vessel.

Another thing to consider is finding a company. Assuming you don’t have a backer. You have to spend months and months applying for an agency and then spend some more time as a utility cadet with or without allowance.

Let’s say it took you three months to find a company and another six months as a utility cadet. Every month, you spend Php15,000.00 which includes boarding house, food, transportation, snacks, and whatnot. In 9 months, you will spend Php108,000.00!

Becoming a seaman today is really quite expensive when we add these things up. but if you know some tricks to properly apply and easily get hired even without a backer, you’re waiting time could be shorter.

Apprenticeship is Not Free

But wait, we almost forgot one thing. Most companies require cadets with shipboard experience of at least 6 months to one year.

Unfortunately, local shipboard apprentice is quite expensive nowadays requiring fees in exchange for a sea service experience on board.

The price would vary but let’s assign Php15,000.00 as our number.


To wrap everything up, here are the rough numbers that we come up with.

Approximate expenses of becoming a Seaman.

Note that this is only an estimate and not the final numbers. There will be factors that would offset these numbers to make it bigger or lesser.

What’s more, inflation could jack up the prices every year. The point here is to come up with a number that you could base on so you can prepare and not be surprised.

Final Thoughts

Considering the cost of becoming a seaman nowadays, is it still sound to pursue this course? Remember that you have to be away from your family and many seafarers end up broke during their vacation despite their huge income.

But when you become a seaman, all those hardships will pay off greatly. You get to travel to different places and earn money.

You have the privilege of changing the world too because the maritime industry is the backbone of world progress.

Additionally, you will Learn Things On Board That You May Never Learn Anywhere Else. You can even find women dominating in this male-dominated industry like my friend whom you can read about here in The Life Story of a Japanese Sea Woman.

To all those who persevere in the challenges this profession puts up, may you find success in your endeavor and,

May the winds be in your favor.



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