Frequently Asked Questions



How do I apply to the cadet programme?

Full instructions on how to apply are available here.

When does the cadet programme start?

The cadet programme starts in September each year.

Entry Requirements

What exams do I need to have to become a cadet?

Normally you should have a minimum of four National 5s (or GCSE or Standard Grade passes at Grade C/3 or above), including English, Mathematics and a Science based subject.

OR, you can complete the Cadet Programme Preparation course which provides an alternative access pathway to the Cadet Programme.

Other equivalent qualifications and/or relevant experience may also be accepted.

Are there any age limits to becoming a cadet?

No. So long as you are medically fit (can pass an ENG1 medical examination) you can apply to become a cadet.

Medical Requirements

How fit do I have to be to become a cadet?

You must be sufficiently physically and mentally fit to work at sea and pass an ENG1 medical examination (see next answer).

Do I have to pass a medical examination?

Yes. You will have to pass a medical examination (known as 'ENG1') to demonstrate that you are physically and mentally fit to work at sea. The ENG1 examination assesses your health and fitness (including your eyesight) against standards set by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) based on international maritime guidelines. Further information about the ENG1 medical examination is available on the MCA website or you can contact us for advice.

Can I still become a cadet if I wear glasses?

Yes, you can pass the eyesight part of the ENG1 medical examination if you wear glasses, provided you meet a minimum acceptable standard without glasses. Other medical issues that affect your eyesight may prevent you from passing an ENG1 medical examination.

Can I still become a cadet if I am colour-blind?

Maybe; depending on the severity and type of your colour vision loss. You must have an acceptable standard of colour vision to pass the ENG1 medical examination. The minimum acceptable standard is different for deck and engineer officers.

NOTE: If you have been diagnosed as colour blind using a standard colour vision test (Ishihara plates) you can undergo an additional test to more precisely measure the severity and type of colour vision loss that you suffer from. If you pass this additional test you can be classed as medically fit.

Further information about colour vision tests is available on the MCA website or you can contact us for advice.

Being a Cadet

Are cadets employed?

Yes, as a cadet you will be sponsored by a shipping company (or other agency) as a trainee ship's officer. The shipping company arranges and pays for your training, both at Shetland UHI and at sea on board the ships that it owns or manages. As a cadet you will be paid a training allowance throughout your training, but you will also be subject to the terms and conditions of your sponsoring company.

How much will I be paid?

As a cadet you will be paid a training allowance by your sponsoring company. The exact amount, and other terms and conditions, varies between companies but may typically be around £175 per week while you are training ashore. You may receive a bit less than that while you are training at sea (but you will have fewer living expenses).

Starting salaries for newly qualified ships' officers are typically about £20,000 per year. Experienced officers can earn up to £42,000 per year and highly experienced officers up to £80,000 or more, depending on ship type and employer (figures from National Careers Service).

What expenses will I have?

Your employer will pay your course fees and other training costs, and will pay for your travel when you join or leave your ships.

You will have to pay your living expenses while at Shetland UHI, and may have to pay for your uniform.

What kind of ship(s) will I sail on?

Potentially any kind, anywhere in the world. Different shipping companies tend to own or operate different kinds of ships so the type of ships you sail on as a cadet will depend to some extent on which company you are employed by.

Once you have completed the cadet programme and obtained your Certificate of Competency you will be qualified to work on any type of ship, regardless of what type you worked on as a cadet.

Will I have to work for my sponsoring company when I finish the cadet programme?

Some sponsoring companies may require you to work for them for a certain period of time if they offer you a job at the end of your training, or to pay back some of your training costs. The exact nature of any commitment will depend on the details of your contract with your sponsoring company.

Will I have to wear a uniform?

Yes. Cadets are required to wear a uniform, which you will have to buy.

Will I get any holidays while I am a cadet?

Yes. You will get breaks at Christmas and Easter when at Shetland UHI and will have some time off between ships during your sea phases. Your employer may also grant you holiday leave on request (depending on the individual company's terms and conditions).


Any other questions?

If you have any other questions, require any advice or guidance or would like discuss becoming a cadet, please contact us or email