The 10 Best Naval Colleges in the US

Attending a naval or maritime academy doesn’t just provide students with an invaluable chance to hone their skills on the sea—it gives them a degree. 

As such, a maritime or naval college is an ideal choice for someone wanting to explore their career pathways both seaside and shoreside. 

A degree from a top naval institution won’t only attract the eye of a seaside employer but will open the door for careers across the country. 

In fact, depending on the school one looks at, a degree from a naval/maritime institution will provide a comparable post-graduation salary to Princeton or MIT.

As such, attending such a school will be an ideal choice for those wanting to explore the sea and still have a reliable degree to take with them into a wider job market as well. 

For those wanting to gain the opportunity to explore career options seaside, there are a variety of naval and maritime academies available to students. And this list will break down the best in the country. 

Schools listed are either naval academies or have significant programs in naval engineering or related fields. 

Whether a university below is one of the six official U.S. maritime academies, one of the five naval academies, or simply a university with similar affordances, this list lays out 10 of the absolute best in maritime education in the U.S.

United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD)

US Naval Academy
Eaward24, USNA Chapel, CC BY-SA 4.0

Of the five U.S. service academies, the U.S. Naval Academy is the second oldest, with a robust history of producing incredibly accomplished alumni from its Annapolis, Maryland campus. 

The alma mater of John McCain, Jimmy Carter, and many more notable service members, it is no surprise that the USNA’s combination of both military and traditional education has produced so many accomplished alumni. 

In fact, far from providing a high-quality military education alone, the USNA was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the #1 public school in its national liberal arts colleges ranking. 

With 49 Rhodes Scholars, 54 astronauts, and five secretaries of the navy graduating from USNA, the disciplined lifestyle of the USNA pays off. Students leave as disciplined military members and scholars. 

Not to mention, the USNA is home to one of the most notorious rivalries in all of college football: its rivalry with the US Military Academy at West Point. 

As such, beyond the academics and military training, the USNA also provides ample opportunities for one to experience the kind of fun and excitement few atmospheres provide like a university. 

SUNY Maritime College (New York, NY)

SUNY Maritime
Jim.henderson at the English Wikipedia, SUNY Maritime College north gate jeh, CC BY-SA 3.0

Many pursuing a maritime degree understand that spending time obtaining an accredited degree from a naval school will provide more widespread employment opportunities than entering a maritime career without schooling. 

At SUNY Maritime College, located on the coastline of New York Harbor, the return investment someone attains through achieving a nautical degree might be more pronounced than anywhere else in the country. 

Best Colleges ranked SUNY as the best college in the country for return on investments, beating out universities like UC Berkeley and the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

The benefits SUNY provides to one’s nautical career – or career in general – was echoed by Masters Portal, who claim that master’s students who graduate from SUNY have the highest salaries of any university in the nation.

SUNY has a stated focus on the marine transportation industry and provides students with 11 majors to choose from. 

And if a student has an interest in one of those 11 majors, they are sure to find some of the highest quality education in that subject area to be found anywhere in the country.  

United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, CT)

United States Coast Guard Academy
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

As the smallest and one of the most selective of the U.S. service academies, the US Coast Guard Academy promises a close-knit community that will positively impact one’s academic and leadership potential for the rest of their life. 

For those interested in a nautical education from the US Coast Guard Academy, this institution offers naval architecture and marine engineering major alongside a marine and environmental sciences major. 

Situated upon the Thames River, this institution not only provides high quality instruction within the classroom, but also some of the best vessels for studying its neighboring waters. 

The marine and environmental sciences program has a 36-foot marine research vessel. Within the naval architecture and marine engineering program, students have access to a state-of-the-art 3D printing laboratory which includes a MakerBot 2. 

For those with a passion for doing good, saving lives, and a nautical career, the USCGA may be a perfect fit. 

California State University Maritime Academy (Vallejo, CA)

Located in Vallejo, California, the California State University Maritime Academy offers seven academic majors representing a wide range of marine-related careers. These range from oceanography to global studies and maritime affairs. 

This university is the only maritime academy on the west coast, and the only maritime academy in the California State University system. 

Of all CSU universities, Cal Maritime has the highest post-graduation employment rate of 94%.

A key component of the educational experience at Cal Maritime is the fact students have the chance to take an annual training cruise upon Cal Maritime’s 500-foot training ship the Golden Bear. 

The school also sponsors various travel and study abroad opportunities that allow students to immerse themselves in their maritime specialization at a U.S. location or abroad. 

As such, all students will leave Cal Maritime equipped with true on-sea experience in their field of study. 

Maine Maritime Academy (Castine, ME)

Unlike at federal service academies, students need not attain a congressional recommendation in order to attend the Maine Maritime Academy. 

As such, this state school may instantly appeal to those who want to attain a service-style education without having to enroll in military service directly after graduation. 

Of the six non-federal maritime colleges in the U.S. that operate in this way, the Maine Maritime Academy is one of only two that still offer students the chance to enroll in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. 

As such, for those who want to straddle the line between a full-blown service academy and a maritime academy, Maine Maritime Academy may be a perfect choice. 

And Maine Maritime provides a wonderful return on investment as well, with Stacker ranking it as the #6 school for returns on investment in the country. 

Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Buzzards Bay, MA)

Dating back to 1891, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is the second oldest maritime academy in the country. 

The training one will receive here is rigorous. Excluding students in the facilities engineering or emergency management majors, students are uniformed and participate in the daily tasks associated with operating a maritime vessel. 

This program, called the Regiment of Cadets, will see students beginning as freshmen learning foundational skills. However, each first-year student will see themselves climbing the ranks during their four years so that they graduate as supervisors of younger students themselves. 

With 19 different training ships and a cutting-edge Shanghai foreign exchange program, Massachusetts Maritime is one of the country’s most robust and exceptional nautical education institutions. 

Webb Institute (Glen Cove, NY)

The Webb Institute is one of only nine colleges in the country to be completely tuition-free, and one of only five that are private. 

Founded by renowned shipbuilder William Webb, this college only offers one academic program—a double major in naval architecture and marine engineering.

However, within this one major, you’ll find the finest future marine engineers in the country. With class sizes of less than 30, competition for admission is incredibly strict

Webb students are required to spend eight weeks during January and February working in a marine career. 

After obtaining this job with the help of Webb’s career services, students will gain more and more academic and professional training year after year to make them incredibly competitive on the job market. 

The average salaries of Webb graduates are higher than those who graduate from Harvard and Yale.

Texas A&M Maritime Academy (Galveston, TX)

Texas A&M Maritime
MarlinespikeMate, USNS Cape Gibson TAMUG, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Texas A&M Maritime Academy is the other of the two non-federal maritime academies to provide students the option to enroll in the naval ROTC. 

In fact, for those who want to attain a degree and explore the potential military service options available while there, Texas A&M may be the ideal place. 

At Texas, students can pursue a commission in the US Navy, request active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, or strive for a direct commission in the U.S. Coast Guard. 

As such, Texas A&M will allow students to explore the full range of maritime careers, whether as an active service member, as a marine engineer, or as someone in a shoreside position.

With a program inspired by legendary commander General Rudder, who attended Texas A&M, Texas is ranked #1 in the country and #9 in the world for its maritime administration and logistics program. 

Great Lakes Maritime Academy (Traverse City, MI)

The Great Lakes Maritime Academy is unique on this list for the fact that it provides students the chance to attain a federal license to sail on both the sea and on the Great Lakes

As such, for those interested in a career sailing the Great Lakes, there truly is no better institution than GLMA. 

With a license to sail the oceans and the Great Lakes, GLMA is sure to offer its students abundant opportunities. Graduates of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy matriculate with a bachelor of science in maritime technology.

While obtaining this degree, students will spend semesters at sea arranged by the academy. These semesters at sea will be spent with leading shipping companies and are called “Sea Projects.”

United States Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, NY)

Ranked by Classroom as the #2 military academy in the country, Kings Point combines affordability with prestige like a few other locations. 

While Business Insider ranked the USMMA as the #1 best value school in the country, BA Degree Center ranked it as the #1 best STEM school in the country—beating out CalTech and MIT. 

These rankings demonstrate how the US Merchant Marine Academy provides the absolute best in academic affordances for a fraction of the cost of the Ivy League institutions to which it is often compared. 

At the USMMA, students will participate in a “Sea Year.” This program, according to Merchant Marine Academy, this program is a wholly unique experience unlike anything found at any other US college, university, or service academy. 

Students will spend a year on the ocean as a midshipman during Sea Year, not working on a training vessel but on a currently operating commercial maritime vessel. This fact demonstrates the trust the maritime community gives to the USMMA.

Here, students will not merely spend time in emulations of real-world maritime experiences, but also will leave with on-deck experiences upon some of the world’s foremost vessels.