Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Service Obligation


At the Academy you will receive an excellent education and the skills necessary for a successful career. Since the Federal Government has a substantial investment in your education, you will be required to fulfill the terms of a service obligation after graduation. Questions regarding the Service Obligation can be directed to the Maritime Administration by email or by phone (202) 366-7618.

The Academy - U.S. Navy Relationship

The U.S. Department of Transportation, through its Maritime Administration, is primarily responsible for America's merchant marine and the education of merchant marine officers. However, a strong relationship exists as well between the Academy and U.S. Navy. Because of national defense requirements, the Navy is interested in the maintenance of a viable U.S. merchant marine, manned by well-trained U.S. citizens who possess an understanding of naval procedures, so that merchant ships can operate with the Navy in peacetime or during war or national emergency. In addition, Academy graduates historically have been a source of active duty naval officers in times of mobilization or during emergency situations. The Navy assists in promoting a strong merchant marine by maintaining a Department of Naval Science at the Academy which indoctrinates midshipmen in the administration and operation of the U.S. Navy through formal classroom training in each of the four years of a midshipmen's course of instruction. The Department of Naval Science is staffed by active duty naval officers and enlisted personnel.

Naval Reserve Appointment

Any U.S. citizen who applies to the Academy also applies for an appointment as Midshipman, Merchant Marine Reserve, and U.S. Navy Reserve. Your application will be reviewed by the Officer-In-Charge of the Department of Naval Science. To qualify for a Midshipman appointment you must have satisfactorily completed the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) entrance physical. You must also complete an Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire (EPSQ) prior to reporting to the Academy.

The ESPQ is an honesty and loyalty check required prior to receiving a security clearance. This questionnaire must be honestly and thoroughly completed. Issues that will cause a problem include failure to report an arrest by civil or federal authorities, and processing a non-U.S. passport, or dual country citizenship. If any of these issues apply, you should contact the Academy's Department of Naval Science for clarification of Navy policy and for guidance on resolving the issue.

In the event that a midshipman fails to display the qualities of leadership, character, and aptitude expected of a prospective commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET) may terminate the midshipman's appointment. The midshipman is also separated from the Academy is such a case.

Naval Science Program

All midshipmen are required to take a program of courses administered by the Department of Naval Science. CNET, located in Pensacola, Florida, prescribes the naval science curriculum and furnishes required textbooks, references and training aids. Naval science courses include Introduction to the Merchant Marine Reserve; Naval Science for the Merchant Marine Reserve Officer; Advanced Naval Science for the Merchant Marine Reserve Officer; Fundamentals of Leadership and Ethics; and Independent Study. Naval Science courses are part of each student's complete course of instruction and must be satisfactorily completed as a prerequisite for graduation.

Your Service Obligation Contract

As required by Title 46 Appendix United States Code, each student entering the Academy who is a citizen of the United States must sign an agreement committing themselves:

  • To complete the course of instruction at the Academy, unless separated by the Academy;
  • To fulfill the requirements for a license as an officer in the merchant marine of the United States on or before the date of graduation from the Academy;
  • To maintain a license as an officer in the merchant marine of the United States for at least six (6) years following the date of graduation from the Academy;
  • To apply for, and to accept if tendered, an appointment to serve as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, (including the Merchant Marine Reserve, U.S. Navy Reserve), U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, or any other Reserve or National Guard unit of an armed force of the United States, for at least eight (8) years following the date of graduation from the Academy;
  • To serve the foreign and domestic commerce and national defense of the United States in the maritime industry, in one of the occupations approved for USMMA graduates (see below), for at least five (5) years following the date of graduation from the Academy:
    • As a merchant marine officer serving on vessels documented under the laws of the United States, or on vessels owned and operated by the United States or by any state or territory of the United States;
    • As a commissioned officer on active duty in an armed force of the United States or in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
    • As an employee in a United States maritime- related industry, profession or marine science (approved by the Secretary of Transportation), if the Secretary determines that service under subparagraph E.1 above is not available to the individual;
    • By combining the services specified in subparagraphs E.1, E.2 and E.3; and
  • To report to the Secretary of Transportation on the compliance with these requirements.

Breach of Service Obligation Contract

If the Secretary of Transportation determines that any individual who has attended the Academy for more than two years (i.e., commenced their second class [junior] year or beyond) has failed to fulfill the part of the agreement described above in subparagraph A, that individual may be ordered by the Secretary of the Navy to active duty in the United States Navy for a period of time not to exceed three years unless a hardship waiver is granted by the Secretary of Transportation.

The period of obligated service of armed forces enlisted members who are admitted to the Academy and accept appointment as Midshipman, Merchant Marine Reserve (MMR), U.S. Navy Reserve (USNR) may not be terminated because of that appointment. If an enlisted member of any armed force accepts an appointment as a midshipman and is subsequently disenrolled from the Midshipman, MMR USNR Program for any reason other than appointment as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, or a physical disability, he or she may be required to resume enlistment and shall complete the remaining period of his or her military service obligation (MSO) in compliance with Title 10 United States Code, Section 516.

Appointment in the U.S. Navy Reserve

In order to comply with your Service Obligation Contract you must apply for and accept an appointment as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, or any other Reserve or National Guard unit of an armed force of the United States. With the recommendation of the Officer-In-Charge, Department of Naval Science, and the Academy superintendent, you will receive your appointment at graduation. Although officer appointment applications may be made to any armed force, the majority of graduates will be appointed as ensigns in the Merchant Marine Reserve, U.S. Navy Reserve. After appointment as Ensign, USNR, you must perform satisfactorily in the Navy Reserve for at least eight (8) years. An individual's requirements and options under this program will vary depending on whether the graduate is working at sea or ashore. Details will be provided by the Naval Science Department either through their course of instruction or upon request.

Last updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Applications for the Class of 2027 Open May 1

Learn more about the requirements and expectations of Midshipmen.