Ships' officers must be qualified in the competence standards required by the UN International Maritime Organization's STCW Convention (the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers). Seafarers are normally only permitted to work on internationally trading ships if issued with STCW certificates in either the deck, engine or electrical departments. These qualifications are recognised internationally.
In order to be issued with an STCW certificate, officers must normally complete a year or more of on board training at sea, in addition to their shore-based education and training in college. Depending on the national system, most newly qualified officers typically have between 3 and 4 years training - including on board training which may occur at the end of a shore-based course or be taken at intervals between shore-based courses.