Career Detail


Boat Captain
“Riding the Waves”
Captains, mates, and pilots command or supervise the operations of ships and water vessels, both within domestic waterways and on the deep sea.
The Job
Captains or masters are in overall command of the operation of a vessel, and they supervise the work of all other officers and crew. Together with their department heads, captains ensure that proper procedures and safety practices are followed, check to make sure that machinery and equipment are in good working order, and oversee the loading and discharging of cargo or passengers. They also maintain logs and other records tracking the ships' movements, efforts at controlling pollution, and cargo and passengers carried.
Work Environment
People holding water transportation jobs work in all kinds of weather, except when frozen waters make travel impossible.
College Majors
Maritime Academy
Minimum Qualifications
Applicants must either accumulate thousands of hours of experience while working as a deckhand, or graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or another maritime academy.
Personality traits helpful for this career
Good sense of direction. Supervisory skills.
Quick Facts
  • Most water transportation occupations require workers to be away from home for extended periods of time.
Compensation and Outlook
Median annual wages of captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels were $61,960 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,810 and $83,590. The lowest 10 percent had wages of less than $29,330, while the top 10 percent earned over $108,120. Annual pay for captains of larger vessels, such as container ships, oil tankers, or passenger ships may exceed $100,000, but only after many years of experience.
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