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In this article we speak to women from across the Group for their advice on how to know if a career in shipping is for you and, if it is, how you can go about getting your foot in the door.

Do I need to have a shipping qualification to get into the industry?

In a word – no!

There are very few entry-level courses specifically targeted at becoming a shipbroker, so it is highly unlikely that you would be expected to have had any shipping-specific knowledge before joining the industry. Instead, recruiters are more likely to look for evidence that you have developed skills during your studies which are complimentary to those required in shipping roles. The women we spoke to at Clarksons come from a broad range of educational backgrounds yet, having said that, there are several fields which seemed to be more common.

Several women at Clarksons, joined the company having graduated in the field of business and economics. Catriona, for example, studied Economics at the University of Southampton while Victoria graduated from the University of Nottingham with BSc in Finance, Accounting & Management, and Petra studied International Business Management at Oxford Brookes University.

Similarly, after finishing school in Greece, Angela moved to London to study for an undergraduate degree in Business Studies at the University of Westminster, followed by a Masters degree in Finance and Investment at the University of Brunel. To use her own words, Angela’s education background was “absolutely nothing related to shipping!”

Law and languages are also both common educational backgrounds for current female employees at Clarksons. Sonia, for example, completed a BA in Chinese Studies at Durham University before completing her Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP. While Emily studied Classics at Birmingham University.

That is not to say, however, that there isn’t an academic route into shipping: Maren decided early on in her career that she wanted to work in the maritime industry and so studied Maritime Economics at the Hamburger Verkehrsakademie, with a Master of Transport examination. She is also a fully trained shipbroker under the German Apprenticeship System.

It’s also worth noting that there’s the opportunity to take on formal shipping training at a later date. Take Natalia, for example – she completed a double degree in Marketing & Management at Curtin University, and she is now currently studying for the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) qualification exams alongside her day job as dry bulk shipbroker at our Perth office.

The ICS is a long established and widely recognised provider of professional training to people working in the global shipping and offshore industries. It provides a unique learning pathway which offers both width and depth of knowledge in different topics and market sectors.

Clarksons encourages and provides ongoing support to anyone wishing to study for an ICS Foundation or Advanced Diploma or, indeed, full membership of the ICS via the Professional Qualification Exams.

woman sitting on a stool behind a purple background, smiling, holding a clapper

Discovering the shipping industry

Do I need to know a lot about shipping before starting out in the industry?


Some of the women we spoke to had a foundational understanding of shipping before joining Clarksons – either due to family connections as in Sonia’s case, or from completing work experience in the industry, like Liza and Petra. While an understanding of shipping can certainly be an advantage if you’re looking at joining the industry, the women we spoke to prove it is far from essential.

Natalia Topalovic
Natalia Topalovic, Dry Cargo, Perth

"I knew nothing nor anyone in the shipping industry when I first began. I fell into it by accident, and I’ve loved every day since."

Victoria Byrne
Victoria Byrne, Gases, London

"I had no awareness of shipping before I started except for a friend that was working at a brokerage."

Emily Driver
Emily Driver, Dry FFA, Dubai

"I knew nothing about shipping at all. I just knew it was an exciting role in the city of London – and at age 22, that sounded brilliant."

Maren Buchhorn
Maren Buchhorn, Specialised Products, London

"I did not know anything about shipping and the transportation of our daily goods. It was fascinating to get a whole new world laid out in front of me where I felt I could make use of a lot of skills that I had"


I’m considering a career as a ship broker – what advice do you have for me?


With so many different sectors and job roles within shipping, we asked the women at Clarksons for their advice on finding which area you are best suited to and if, indeed, ship broking is for you at all.

Time and time again, the women we spoke to at Clarksons highlighted the importance of doing your research on the industry to make sure you think it is a good fit for you. Maren recommends you “get some insight into what shipping can be” – something which Petra agreed with, saying “get some exposure to the job, speak to as many people as you can that work in the role and industry”. 

A number of the women also spoke about the importance of making sure the company culture is aligned with your values and working style. Catriona, for example spoke about the importance of making sure there’s a good cultural fit between you and any potential team/company that you work for. As she put it, “Culture is the thing that can make you love or hate your job. Lots of people want to be traders at trading houses/majors but there are plenty of other great career routes where you can get good compensation.”


Finding a career path that is right for you

woman in white shirt sitting and smiling
woman in white shirt sitting and smiling

"Get some exposure to the job, speak to as many people as you can that work in the role and industry."

Petra Paulsson, Dry Cargo, London

woman with blonde hair looking into distance and smiling
woman with blonde hair looking into distance and smiling

"Don’t be afraid to make changes if you’re not happy."

Liza Hammerton, Specialised Products, London

blonde woman smiling at camera, sitting on chair with arm on side
blonde woman smiling at camera, sitting on chair with arm on side

"Don’t be afraid to try new things, but once you realise that it’s not for you don’t waste more time. Give something else a chance. Otherwise, years will go by and you will regret not following a different path."

Angela Coucoula, Dry Cargo, Athens

Sonia echoed the sentiment of not being afraid of change, stating “choosing a career is tough, you don’t want to be wrong, but what they don’t tell you is that you are allowed to be wrong. You are allowed to change – I know some old colleagues that changed career at 30, moving from finance and coming into broking in shipping. And others who left broking and went into events.”

When it comes to choosing between different areas or roles within the shipping industry, Natalia had similar advice, saying “Give the opportunities that are presented to you a try. You don’t know if you like something unless you give it a go. If it’s not ticking your boxes, try the next thing.” Meanwhile Kelly advised to “go with what brings you the most joy” and Sonia recommended to always “follow your gut and go towards something you think will make you want to wake up in the morning! It is important to want to get up and go to your job – we will be working for a loooong time!”

I think shipping is the career for me – how can I get a job at Clarksons?

Shipping is, undeniably, a network-based industry. As such, connections can be hugely valuable in securing a role – indeed some of the women at Clarksons joined the company via their existing networks. Emily, for example, reached out to two ex-clients who were running the FFA desk and secured her job at this company this way. Meanwhile, Angela met a Clarksons employee through a mutual friend – when he found out she used to work for a shipowner, he suggested she consider a career in broking and invited her for an interview.

While it’s true that networking and connections are valuable in the shipping world, the women at Clarksons that we spoke to are proof that this is far from the only route into the industry. In fact, the majority of the women we spoke to applied directly – Catriona, for example, saw the role and applied via LinkedIn while Petra was accepted on the graduate scheme after applying on Milkround and Victoria sent in her CV after seeing a broker role advertised on the Clarksons careers website. It is worth noting as well that several of our women were approached directly by our in-house HR team so it’s worth keeping your LinkedIn up to date with all your skills and achievements.

A Clarksons career is fast paced, rewarding and full of potential. With global reach, we offer a wide range of job opportunities across multiple business areas. If you have an enquiring mind, team spirit and a determination to make a difference, we would love to hear from you.

Careers at Clarksons
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Getting started in shipping

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Q&A with Maren Buchhorn

Maren has been with Clarksons for 12 years and is now a Division Director within the Specialised Products division in the Hamburg office.

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Is shipbroking right for you?

Becoming a shipbroker is not just about qualifications. The right personality and character traits go a long way, particularly when you are just starting out.

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Q&A with Natalia Topalovic

Natalia is a broker within the Dry Cargo team in the Peth office. It was only by chance that someone overheard her conversation, and it got her to where she is today.

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