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MBA after Merchant Navy with 660 GMAT

MBA after merchant navyA career at sea can be very demanding. The most attractive feature that draws mariners at a very young age to the industry is – the attractive tax free salary package. However beyond a certain stage, it’s not so much about the hard-earned crores stashed away in the banks, but about tackling the other problems that start popping up.

Many sailors look for a more stable career and better work-life balance after saying good-bye to their merchant navy jobs.

But unlike many other industries where you could build a range of skills and expertise, the highly specialised experience in shipping can become a stumbling block in the quest for new jobs after leaving merchant navy.

A few shippies who feel they’ve reached the zenith of what a shipping career has to offer start looking at ways to re-skill themselves and embark on a new career path. An international MBA after merchant navy can offer good career change opportunities.

At MBA Crystal Ball, we’ve worked with shipping and merchant navy officers and got them into good business schools globally (including the Top 10 MBA programs). And we have to admit, it’s among the more trickier ones to handle, for several reasons.

The good part is that shipping professionals have unique profiles, making it easier for them to stand out in the MBA application pool.

But it also creates new challenges while working on the MBA application.

Their career starts earlier than what the regular corporate world is used to. The crises they have to deal with are wide and varied – many months away from home, tough climatic and working environments, a rather non-existent social life (unless the ship docks or the sailor returns home), serious safety hazards (throw in pirates for good measure).

Captain Rakesh Renganathan had been there done that in the world of shipping and was looking forward to a new career. For the benefit of other merchant navy engineers, officers and captains, he lays out the roadmap – from planning to execution – that got him into one of the best MBA programs in Europe (IMD) inspite of a relatively low GMAT score.

Exploring a career change & MBA jobs after leaving Merchant Navy

by Rakesh Renganathan

I work as a Ship Captain. I’ve completed my B.Sc in Nautical Science from Mumbai University after completing my Diploma in Nautical technology from BITS Pilani. I have over 9 years of Work experience working onboard ships. I was fortunate to have a faster than average career growth and gained a lot of international exposure through my job.

Why MBA after Merchant Navy

An MBA will give me intensive exposure to all the major business functional areas to enable my corporate foray – from strategy and production to operations and organizational behavior. The oil and gas industry has a lot of opportunities for people with industry experience. I wanted to couple the industry experience I have gained over the years with the necessary qualification to help myself gain entry into the corporate scenario.

GMAT preparation while on the ship

GMAT was a tough part of my preparation as I wasn’t sure what a good score would be considering that I am from a very competitive Indian pool of GMAT takers. I bought a Video course on a USB that I could carry with me on the ship with a huge question bank to practice. I managed to score a 660 on my GMAT.

It is not the GMAT that is difficult. But, it is the decision of whether you want to go ahead with the score, especially when your score is below the magical number “700”. I knew that I did not have super good GMAT score, but, I always knew that my uncommon background with a handful of Leadership experience and International exposure would be my forte.

Why I decided to hire MBA Counsellors

I read a few blogs on MBA crystal ball’s (MCB) website and also a complete story of Hari puttar’s IMD MBA blog. This inspired me to knock on MCB’s door.

My first call to Sameer was when they were very busy with the second round of applications to the US schools. Sameer said it is going to be difficult to accommodate me, but, after he learnt that I’m applying only to European schools and I had time till end of March to complete my essays, he accepted.

He gave me an introduction into the application process and a few insights on what my strong points are and how I should be projecting that to my advantage. More than anything, when most of the consultants were charging a fortune to review the essays, MCB was charging a very nominal fee. I took the 3-college MBA application counselling package. Once, I was all set, I was put through to MG.

MG sent me an email of how we are going to go about the whole preparation process. I was onboard the ship in Brazil when I was about to start the essay prep. After the brainstorming session, most of our interaction was through email.

How I worked on and shipped out my MBA applications

Through the first brainstorming session, I finalized my 3 colleges with MG and it was a thorough interview by MG to get to know me. MG was very frank in his opinions and this was what helped in raising the bar in my essays. I put on my thinking cap and wanted to give it the best shot I can.

At the end of the day, I wanted to tell a story that would that would help me gain admission into the top schools not only in Europe but also in the world. My 3 choices were IMD, INSEAD and HEC.

During the preparation of my essays, I had to gather a lot of information regarding the colleges. The essay preparation process actually helped me understand what I wanted to actually do and which college would be the best fit for me.

With MG, it is a lot of hard work, he helps you create an unbeatable story but totally through your efforts and through your story.

If anyone wants to be spoon-fed, MBA Crystal Ball is not the place.

Once I was done with my first college’s essay, I could see the difference between my rough draft and the finalized essay. This was a huge step up.

I was satisfied and convinced with my essay. If it is not convincing enough for the candidate, it will never be convincing enough for the admission committee.

What I thought to be the easiest process in the application, turned out to be the toughest task I’d ever taken. I wanted a convincing story.

And to make it even tougher, MG would push me to the core always looking for something better. To my advantage, I still had time in my hands. It almost took me more than a month to complete the essay part. When I read the finalized content, I was convinced that I couldn’t have made a better choice than MCB.

HEC Interview & IMD Assessment Day

I managed to complete the application by the end of March well in time for IMD and HEC and well before time for INSEAD. I was getting anxious for the result and exactly on the 15th day after application, I got an interview call from IMD and HEC (on the same day).

I finalized 5th of May for the IMD assessment day. For HEC, I finalized the dates after confirmation with the assigned alumni of the college.

On the 11th of May, well before the promised date, I got a call from IMD confirming my admission. It was the day I was waiting for, for the past 7 months. As I had already decided during the essay process that IMD would be the best fit for me, I took the offer without further ado.

I’m writing this story as I’m traveling back to Brazil for another trip. MBA is a big financial commitment after all. Its time to earn some money…

Click here to read about my IMD assessment day experience.

Advice for other MBA applicants

To any MBA aspirant who is reading this story (and specially from Merchant Navy backgrounds), decide why you want to do an MBA first, this helps you narrow down on your target colleges.

Do not decide the colleges just on the basis of rankings. Harvard might not be the best college for everyone.

Once, you narrow down on your colleges, try to take the help of professionals or some one who could help you in bringing out the best story in you. It made a big difference for me.

But, more than anything, ensure that you learn about the colleges that you are applying to. This will not only help in a better essay but also narrow your choice down to only one by the time the results come out.

It is a time consuming process and there are no short cuts to it. So, plan well ahead and aim for the best.

A wise man once said “A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work“.

Also read
MBA in Hong Kong: Mariner heads back to school
MBA after Marine Engineering

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

53 thoughts on “MBA after Merchant Navy with 660 GMAT”

  1. Hi Sameer,
    I am working in merchant navy/ shipping for 4 years. My profile is as below:
    10th – 91%
    12th – 76 %
    B.Sc.(Nautical Science) from Mumbai University – 73%
    Work Ex – Worked at Various ranks of navigating officer. Total work ex around 4 years in international shipping with worldwide trading.
    Looking for an oppurtunity to switch to job ashore with one year mba in india. Kindly advise about 1 year mba after completion of which i can get a job with handsome wages.

    Thanking you.

    • Rahul, much depends on the quality/nature of your job as well as your career progression. The GMAT will play a factor too. You should first evaluate industries/functions you will target and do a skill-gap assessment. That will help you decide how and where an MBA fits in.

      In India, you can look at ISB primarily; and if you fit the bill, also the IIM one year courses.

  2. Dear Sameer
    Taking off, I salute your good soul for guiding all the wannabes through the dense, dark woods of MBA.
    I am ardent fan of your work and come back to your readings whenever my focus wanders.
    For the past 1 year, I have been contemplating a switching over.

    Below is my profile,request your kind attention to evaluate it.

    10 Years in Merchant Navy, fitting in the roles of a trainee officer to Chief officer having served the oil majors like Shell, Chevron & Maersk
    on the world’s most sophisticated LNG (Liquified natural gas) tankers. Don’t want to hat a captain’s cap as another 1-2 years will go in it when my ultimate goal is to switch over.

    – Chief Officer License – by Govt. of UK (2010)
    – Dynamic Position Officer (the most coveted and sought after marine rank)
    – Operations Officer License – by Govt of UK (2007)
    – BSC (2004) – Nautical Science from UK (was part of the 1st batch of Indian cadets recruited and sponsored by Shell,UK for their LNG fleet).
    – 10th – 88%
    – 12th – 89%
    Best officer like qualities Award during training.

    Being part of the floating staff, I feel that I have hit the roof where I have nothing more to give to the industry nor the industry has anything more to offer to me in the same function area (my thoughts…lol… well the learning never stops but it has become uninteresting though)!!!
    I am looking for a change to SCM, operations, marketing, business strategy where I can do more than just navigate the super tankers and carry out highly technical complex cargo operations with absolutely no margin of error.
    -Good knowledge of shipboard operations, oil & gas industry, regulations and laws.
    -Have handled dual responsibilities of safety officer and ship security officer.
    -Expert Navigation skills & knowledge to maintain ETA to safely push a 3 lakh tonner through the world`s traffic in maintaining very tight ETA`s.
    -Adaptive rotation among designations to keep the adrenaline rushing in.
    -A good multi-tasker with ability to handle several ongoing operations simultaneously which are indispensable in shipboard operations.
    -Extensively traveled and have worked with people of different multi-nationalities.
    -Lead a team of 8 crew members tackling a fire and successfully saving 22 souls onboard.
    -Liased with the port authorities in coordinating & carrying out search and rescue operations as a GMDSS (Global maritime distress) office thereby -saving 10 fishermen in time in the pacific ocean in 2014.
    -Trained and mentored several trainee navigating officers who are now full certified officers.

    As you are aware marine personnel rotate through a duty and leave periods.
    During holidays, campaigned for India Against Corruption for Jan Lokpal bill in Delhi as its active volunteer in 2011 & 2012 until it was scrapped giving way to AAP. Was then part of AAP for campaigning for Loksabha elections in 2014. Was offered a seat from Guntur, AP but I refused.

    Please suggest whether should I go for a foreign or Indian MBA & options available. I want to settle and work in India thereafter.


  3. Sir I want to know if I can apply for MBA after going through the DNS (Diploma In Nautical Science). Right now I m about to start my training at ARI Delhi. Is it not mandatory to go through B.Sc to be applicable for MBA after graduating.???

    • Varun,

      The answer really depends on where you are planning to apply. Some schools may take a diploma but most would prefer a degree. It will be best that you check directly with your targets schools on this.

  4. Sir according to your experience what would you suggest me to do… Should I do diploma or should I go for degree… And there is one more thing sir, a friend told me that cadets with diploma have difficulty getting an offshore job. Sir is it true.??

  5. Good day sir

    Please confirm that BSc equivalent certificate received from Mumbai University after clearing masters exaxs would fit for college requirements of graduate degree

    Thanks n best regards

  6. hello sir,
    I am sailing marine engineer. I am at sea for 11 yrs. present rank second engineer and due for promotion. Now im looking for a career shift and MBA from a good school is what i’ve planned. Not taken GMAT or any exams yet. Seek guidance from ur kindself. As i can see shippies giving inputs and guiding other shippies in this blog.
    Would like to know what scope do we have after MBA as we have entirely different work experience which doesn’t fit in the corporate world. Does having a technical background gonna help? ISB is always a preference but getting there is really tough!!
    kindly guide..

    • Arun, as you can see from this blog, it is becoming increasingly common for marine/army folks to get into the corporate life. The core skills you pick up – team work, problem solving, working with diversity – are usable in a variety of industries – ranging from operations to consulting roles. What you can target really depends on your specific profile and preferences. Step zero would be to really prepare and hit the GMAT out of the park. Everything follows after that.

  7. Hello Sir,
    I recently gave the GMAT and scored a 710. I too wanted to apply to B-Schools in the US. I am fully aware that the R2 deadlines are less that 3 weeks away for most good colleges but I am a little confused while shortlisting colleges as to which colleges will be a safe bet for me. I have already applied to R2 of NYU Stern. In terms of my career profile, I am currently working as a Chief Officer on board LNG ships and hold a B.Comm degree (which was completed with the sole intent of pursuing an MBA later on in my career) along with a B.Sc Nautical Science (equivalent degree) from Mumbai University as a recognition for the Masters COC. You seem to have the requisite experience in helping sailors shortlisting MBA colleges. Would love to speak to you when you have the time. Regards, Rahul

  8. Hello Manish,
    I am Chief Engineer Darpan Gupta currently sailing with Navig8 on MR Class chemical tankers. My last education qualification was Higher National Diploma in Mechanical engineering from Glasgow Collage of Nautical studies, UK. I have recently started preparation for GMAT. However, as you can see I don’t have a graduate degree. Will this be a hindrance in getting admitted to good MBA institutes or my Chief engineers licence ( which is from UK as well) will be considered as equivalent to degree.
    Your guidance in this matter will be highly appreciated. I need someone to help me out from the beginning of my preparation for MBA, including GMAT preparation. I stay in Delhi and currently at home. Is it possible for me to see you or a member of your team in Delhi who can provide me required guidance.

  9. Dear Sir,

    I have completed my B. Sc. in nautical science from IMU (D.N.S.) and am not planning to go for sailing. I am interested in doing MBA from one of the top 10 colleges in India.

    Since I am a fresher in merchant navy and want to do a general MBA, I think shipping experience will not play a major role in selection. For this reason I have planned to prepare and go directly to B-school without prior experience at operational rank in Merchant Navy. I am passionate about doing MBA from one of the best college.

    What is your advice to me sir?

    10th 94
    12th 83
    BSC 75+

    * Best Cadet award
    * Few NCFM certifications
    * NCMP level1 certification

  10. I am marine engineering officer with 9 years of experience presently i am working as 3 engineer and i am 37 years old .i want to quit sea life and do mba in operations .sir which college as per u is best to do mba in india for sea fearers and what about job prospects after doing mba.i have done my bacholer in mechanical engineering and one year pre sea from meri mumbai.Problem is my wife and my family is not happy with decision of quitiing sea life they think after doing mba i will not get job and waste of money and time.Any good college where i can do mba in india and is operation good option for me and also like to know by doing mba can i get into marine insurance field

    • You pose quite a few queries Reni but not much information provided about your profile. At a very high level, at your age/experience, most regular MBA programs won’t be a prudent investment. Marine insurance is too niche a field and would rarely hire fresh MBA grads.

      Your best bet might be the IIM 1 Year programs. Else, you can explore some executive MBAs but only after a lot of research.

  11. I am 36 years old mechanical engineer with experience in various fields like i did 2 years in maintenance field and 2 years in industrial engineering and also worked in call centre for 2 years .I never stuck to one job but always jumped from one job to another for better prospects.I have decided to do mba in operations or logistics management as to improve my annual income .Presently i am getting annual income of 3 lakhs per annum which i am not satisfied.Which is best mba college to do mba in mumbai.I have completed my degree in mechanical engineering securing 65 percent in final year about 14 years back .Will it be beneficial for me to clear mba cet from mumbai and do two years mba program from good aicte regonized technical instiute.Which specialization in mba will be benificial for me.I am not intrested in part time mba as people say part time mba has no value.sir can u suggest for my age of 36 years which is best mba course.

    • Jospeh, the value and fit with a regular full time course goes down substantially as you age. At your age, it will be pretty tough to find the right program. Your best bet might be an executive MBA program – but then again, I am afraid you can’t really expect much wonders from that in terms of your career. You may want to explore the IIM 1 year programs – there may be a fit there.

  12. Hello sir myself ravi Gupta marine engg.I have sailing experience of 3 yr. I have class iv ticket and presently sailing as fourth engg.
    I want to do Mba but I wanted to know how it will be beneficial for me. What will be expense of pursing mba and also what will be process.
    Please guide me

  13. Hello sir
    I’m passing out in July 2016 as btech marine engg. And due to family I want a stable job with handsome salari so I want to do MBA.and I’m not having much idea about MBA colleges and schools so please help me in suggesting how should I prepare for getting good Branch in top B schools or institution .
    Thank u .

    • Sumit, most good GMAT based MBAs require work experience. You’d be best positioned to target CAT based programs. Our expertise is more on the GMAT based programs so am afraid won’t be able to comment much on your query

  14. Hi manish
    Am a 3rd engineer still sailing but wanna come on shore as need stability now. Have 6 years of exp in merchant navy. Have done 2yrs full time mba in hr from India from a private university. Have also done diploma in shipping and logistics. Really in need of good break on shore in India or abroad. Please guide me. Regards
    Mrinal Atrey

  15. Hi, I have done my chief mate UK CoC and H N D diploma in Nautical Science way back in may 2003.since then I m sailing as a chief officer. Before that I ve done 2nd mate(f.g.) from India in Sept 1994,
    I have not done Master Oral unlimited till date.
    My previous qualifications are M,Sc in Statistics in 1989 n B.SC in Mathematics/Physics/Statistics in 1986.
    I m now 49 years old.(June 1967 born).
    I am not able to sail further due to health reason since Sept 2015.
    Is there any career or such a job which allow me and lead to learn n earn Simultaneously on the basis of existing eligibility and qualifications???
    Kindly advise

    • Dear Shubhankar,

      Thanks for posting your query. The only way to get to the opportunities in your case would be through your personal/social network. Operations/Security/Admin are the areas you can typically target.

  16. Dear sir
    I am a sailing chief officer on container vessels.
    I have a sailing experience of 7 years
    I am really inclined towards doing an MBA from Canada or Netherlands
    Please advise which course or programs to go for
    I am not much familiar with the universities
    I wish to settle abroad.
    Please guide me through which courses or program to go for
    Executive MBA or full 20 months or 24 months program
    I will be really very grateful to you, if you can help me out with this.
    Thanking you in anticipation

    • Ankit,

      Unless you have an employment in these countries, an Executive (read part-time) program is not recommended. The good ones in these geographies are Rotman, Queens, Ivey, McGill, Sauder and Rotterdam. Research on these and target the ones that make sense for you.

  17. Hello sir
    My name is rohit and I currently sailing as 3rd officer. I am holding a valid 2nd officer FG license govt of india. Sir I m planning to do MBA and switchover to shore job . Can u please guide me as to what and how to start as I have time and also I was planning to start doing MBA within next 2 yrs . I have BSc degree in nautical science from IGNOU

  18. What kind of MBA is preferable for a person with background in merchant navy?
    As merchant navy professionals come from a background with non corporate work environment so do they face any problem while seeking job after MBA ?
    In what sector/industry are people with merchant navy as background (generally) placed ?

    • Ritwick, while the non-corporate experience point is true, but the leadership, team working and operations related skills you get while working in merchant navy are easily transferable in a variety of corporate roles ranging from Operations Management, Safety, EHS and General Management to name a few. Really depends on the actual nature of your work.

  19. Vishnu,

    For reasons outlined ahead, we do not speculate on your school selection:

    With 2 years of experience, you might be at a slight disadvantage than the other candidates; it may help to get a bit more experience if possible. Which field really depends on the nature of your work and your preference. Feel free to get in touch with us for more help.

  20. Hi
    i am 4th engineer on board a foreign going vessel aiming to get ISB. I looked in its website where it states that the candidate must have 2 years of full time work experience. I am finding it difficult to calculate my work experience. Can you help to decide? I am planning to appear for gmat 2017.
    I sailed in 2012 as 5th engineer( trainee) from november 2012 to may 2013. Then came back to college for 8th sem and passed out in december 2013. After which i wrote meo class 4 ( during this tenure i didnt sail for 10 months from january to oct) and started sailing again as 4th engineer from November 2014 in the same company where i was placed. Till today i have sailed for 14 months but i am still employed with the same company. Basically i need to enquire that is vacation time (when not sailing) also considered as full time work experience?
    Kindly help because this will decide how much i still need to sail before actually quiting sea life.

    • MP, as long as you were on the rolls of the company and were earning a salary, you are considered employed. Do note that the 2 years has to be post-qualification i.e. after you graduate.

  21. Hello Manish,

    I am a 31 year old 2nd engineer with experience of sailing on both Oil tankers and Dry cargo vessels since 2008. I have done my BE mechanical from Mumbai University.
    I have 4 years of working experience as of now and am preparing for GMAT. I am interested in One year MBA programs either in India or abroad.
    Kindly let me know which colleges i can target for with the kind of work experience i have.

    Thank you

  22. Dear Sir ,
    I am presently preparing for my GMAT and aim to apply in one of the B-schools of US.
    I have a DNS leading to BSC nautical science degree from IMU.
    I just wanted to clarify if this degree is regarded as a full time or distant ?
    As nothing has been mentioned on the degree with respect to distant.

    • If it was in reality a distance one, then don’t try to ‘project’ it as something else even if there is no evidence. Never helps to make stuff up Akhil. It is ideal to check directly with the schools you are targeting whether they will recognize your degree.

  23. Good day;
    I graduated from Istanbul Technical University Maritime Faculty Department of Maritime Transportation and Management Engineering in 2014 with honor degree having GPA of 3.78/4.00 and valedictorian. Currently I work for one of the famous company in the Shipping Industry, Chevron, as an oceangoing watchkeeping officer. My English level is almost close to my mother language, Turkish. In 3 years, as latest, I would like to start an MBA program. I’ve already started preparing for GMAT and IELTS. I aim to get +700 at GMAT. My only corcern is when I contacted to IMD related my chances they advised me it would be hard because I do not have a business background and so much exposure to business and management. Do you have any advise for me ? I was such a brilliant student at school but right now looks like I got stuck in Maritime industry.

  24. Sir how did you manage a recommendation letter ? Do shipping companies give that because we don’t have any fixed supervisor as such.

    • Riddhi, in our experience, most merchant navy professionals take the recommendation from a ship captain who they have sailed with on multiple voyages; sometimes from a superintendent if you’ve had interactions.


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