The medical department on cruise ships is made up of principle medical officers, nurses, orderlies, physiotherapists, medical dispenser, dentists, and other medical support staff. The principle medical officer (PMO) provides medical care for passengers and crewmembers. Also called the “ship doctor,” principle medical officers have the same skills, experience, and qualifications as land-based doctors, with one exception. The principle medical officer has completed specific training that helps prepare all staff aboard the ship for cruise related emergencies and other emergencies that may occur at sea. As a result, when cruise lines recruit medical personnel, they prefer individuals with professional experience aboard cruise ships.
In order to become a principle medical officer on cruise ships, applicants must have also have a current license, extensive experience with internal and emergency medicine, cardiac and primary care, and trauma experience. A medical degree or doctorate from an accredited medical school is required and the PMO must be fluent English. A second language such as French, Spanish, or Italian is desirable, especially on cruise ships that travel around the world.
If you are on the road to obtaining a medical degree, please note that the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) has accredited 129 medical schools. The LCME is the national accrediting body for M.D. medical education programs. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) accredits schools that award a D.O. degree. Most medical students enter the medical degree program with an advanced degree, although entering medical school with a bachelor’s degree is not uncommon.
Once you have obtained the necessary degrees, credentials, and experience, you can begin your search for a position on cruise ships. You can begin the process by signing with a placement agency. For information about signing with a placement agency, click here. If you prefer to search for apposition on your own, try Cruise Ship Jobs’ service online by clicking here. Once you are on the Cruise Ship Jobs website, you can download the 2010 cruise ship employment guide; you can read through cruise line profiles; you can find out which ships are hiring and for what positions — and you can even apply for a cruise ship job right online. Please note that this website charges a fee.
You can apply for a job on your own, free of charge, by locating the official website for the cruise line you are interested in at www.shipsandcruises.com. This cruise line directory lists official websites for cruise ships around the world.
Once you have located the official website for the cruise line you are interested in, visit the website and click the career center tab, employment tab, or jobs tab. If the cruise line lists medical positions, simply follow the application procedure. If the cruise line does not have any listings for principle medical officers on its website, send a polished cover letter and resume to the cruise lines Human Resources Department. The Human Resources Department is typically located at the cruise line headquarters. This information is usually listed on the cruise line website. It is important to include the position you are interested in so that it can be directed to the appropriate department manager.
Once you have secured a position, you can expect free private and spacious accommodations, free health care (of course), free meals, free air travel to and from the ship, and discounts on all services on the ship. Principle medical officers on cruise ships also receive a competitive salary. Depending on the cruise line, PMOs earn anywhere from $57,000-$76,800+ per year or $4,800-6,400 U.S. per month. It is important to note that luxury cruise lines and larger cruise lines typically pay more. It is not uncommon for a principle medical officer on a luxury cruise ship or mega liner to earn six figures per year.