Is Marine Transportation a Good Career Path?

The transportation of passengers, cargo, and mail by sea is known as marine transportation. If you enjoy traveling and being on the sea, this could be a profession for you. Learning more about the types of employment available in marine transportation might assist you in making an informed career decision.

Key Takeaways

The transportation of passengers, cargo, and mail by sea is known as marine transportation. If you enjoy traveling and being on the sea, this could be a profession for you. Learning more about the types of employment available in marine transportation might assist you in making an informed career decision.

In this article, we will discuss the career path for marine transportation experts and how you may get into the field.

If a profession in marine transportation appeals to you and you enjoy being on the water, then you're in luck. This is a fantastic professional option that is expanding. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average income is greater than the national average, indicating that it is a rewarding career choice.

There are various types of marine transportation, including ferries, regular cargo ships, cruise ships, bulk carriers, and reefer vessels. There are two types of sea transportation: commercial and military.

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Commercial marine transport, such as vehicle shipping and vacation cruises, involves transferring products and passengers across the ocean. They also transport the majority of raw goods, such as crude oil, coal, and grains. 

Commercial vessels follow the United States Coast Guard Commercial Vessel (CG-CVC) code, which means they follow strict guidance and prevention measures to ensure marine safety, stewardship, and security. Military maritime transport involves transporting military-grade weaponry and troops across the seas.

Is It a Good Career?

Working in the marine transportation industry can be a rewarding job. If you enjoy being on the water and have always wanted to work on a ship, this is certainly the career for you. There are numerous methods to break into this field, and from there, you can advance until you discover a job that is right for you.

If you don't want to work on the water, this might still be the field for you. There are workers on land dealing with logistics, sales, and marketing for every ship on the ocean. It's a wide field, and there's undoubtedly a job for just about everybody, on or off the sea.

Marine transport has many appealing characteristics, ranging from thrilling job prospects to a diverse range of unique career paths. The marine transportation business is always in high demand, with 8,700 job openings for water transportation specialists in the United States each year. 

People who work in maritime transportation typically enjoy traveling, don't mind long work hours, and enjoy being on the water.

Finally, marine transportation is an excellent career path since it addresses many of the most crucial factors for many people: it pays well, it is stable, and there is a possibility for progress. From the first day you start working until you retire, this is an industry that can provide you with a rewarding career.

Related: Is Power Generation a Good Career Path?

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Tips for Starting a Career in Marine Transportation

Whatever professional route you choose, preparing for and becoming aware of entrance requirements and valued abilities can help you begin this role productively. Here are some pointers for breaking into this field:

  • To narrow your employment search, pick a niche.
  • Look into marine apprenticeship jobs.
  • Look for an entry-level position as a sailor or a marine oiler.
  • Develop and highlight technical abilities such as navigation and risk analysis wherever possible.

9 Marine Transportation Jobs With Salaries

A career in marine transportation opens numerous prospects in the industry. The job description will be determined by your skill set and level of training in marine transportation.

Seafarers are generally stereotyped as being self-sufficient, having an independent mentality, and having strong skin. Many occupations in this area fulfill the criteria that spring to mind, but talents not often associated with this line of work, such as leadership, observation, communication, and transferable skills, are required.

Now that you've learned the basics of marine transportation, you might want to look into high-demand job opportunities in this field. There are numerous interesting and well-paying careers available in marine transportation. Review the nine careers listed below, along with marine transportation salaries examples, to find the one that's right for you.

1. General crew

The national average annual wage is $43,735 USD. General crew members' primary responsibilities include assisting with most hands-on operations such as loading and unloading commodities, repairing equipment, operating deck machinery, and occasionally assisting with navigation. 

Moreover, they may also conduct security checks and identify potential hazards with equipment or regions of the vessel.

2. Steward

The national average annual wage is $35,904. The primary responsibilities of a steward are frequently employed on long-distance vessels such as yachts. They generally look after passengers by providing refreshments, turning oversleeping chambers, and cleaning the vessel's interior. 

They also help other crew members with jobs such as the galley team. This position provides tremendous career advancement opportunities, as you can work your way up to becoming a chief steward.

3. Marine Engineer

The average annual salary is $90,000. A marine engineer is in charge of the design, supervision, testing, installation, and repair of all nautical equipment. This may be as large as the ship itself, or it could be considerably smaller, with you working on a single piece of equipment.

While a marine engineer and a naval architect are not the same jobs, many of their responsibilities will overlap, and they may work closely together. These two professions collaborate to build safe vessels and efficient processes.

4. Marine chef

The national average wage is $64,558 per year. The main responsibility of a marine chef provides cuisine for workers and passengers on board a ship. They primarily operate in the galley department, where they frequently order goods such as food and drink and work on budgeting for supplies.

5. Naval Architect

The average annual salary is $84,000. A naval architect is responsible for the design, maintenance, and repair of naval equipment and other vessels. This profession necessitates a bachelor's degree in engineering or architecture, as well as several years of experience with nautical equipment.

There are two types of people in this profession, those who design new ships and those that work on existing ones, maintaining and repairing them.

6. First mate

The average annual wage in the United States is $35,934. The primary responsibility of a first mate is a ship's second in command after the captain. This position necessitates a significant understanding of maritime navigation and operations, as well as direct communication with the captain. When a captain is unable to function, the first mate may take over.

7. Captain

The national average annual wage is $67,475. The primary responsibilities are that while the captain is not an entry-level post, it is a progressive position that you might work towards. Captains have the most power on board a ship and are in charge of directing crew members, navigating vessels, and running controls.

Captains follow strict health and safety regulations due to the importance of their role.

8. Shipping Operations Assistant

The national average annual wage is $34,251. The main duties of a shipping operations assistant help the operations manager with internal tasks such as data logging and port administration. They primarily assist in reporting fleet statuses of products in transit and, on occasion, communicate directly with trading teams. 

Lastly, this position is not at sea but rather deals with numerous commercial shipping situations.

9. Deckhand

The annual salary in the United States is $36,265. The main responsibilities of a deckhand are excellent first jobs for anyone interested in hands-on vessel work. This position's tasks include loading and unloading freight or passenger bags, communicating with crew members, keeping watch over the vessel while other team members take breaks, and maintaining general vessel conditions, such as cleaning the upper deck.

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Education and Certification Requirements for a Career in Marine Transportation

The good news is that many entry-level roles in marine transportation do not require extensive schooling, but as you advance in your career, you may find that some certificates are required. A bachelor's marine transportation degree, or perhaps a master's degree, is required for a few of the highest-paying jobs.

  • GED and high school diploma. Getting your foot in the door might require some education, but not much. If you're prepared to put in the effort, a high school diploma or a GED will be enough.
  • Trade or technical school diplomas. It depends on what field you want to pursue in marine transportation, however, having a corresponding technical or trade school degree in that sector can provide you a professional advantage.
  • Bachelor of Science in Marine Science. This degree is not available at all schools, however, it is available at many colleges and universities around the United States. It might provide you with an advantage over the competition as well as much-needed experience if you are trying to advance in this profession.
  • TDML Certificate. A certificate in transportation, distribution, and maritime logistics is an excellent method to break into this area and begin climbing the professional ladder. This certificate demonstrates that you understand maritime transportation, how each region works, and how to manage a supply chain. This degree may be required for the position you desire.
  • TWIC or MMC certificates are required. There are additional certificates that can help you succeed. The TWIC is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential issued by the Transportation Security Administration, and the MMC is the Merchant Mariner Credential issued by the United States Coast Guard.
  • On-the-job training. Learning the skills you'll need on the job will be critical to your marine career. Even if you have a degree or have previously worked for another maritime company, each organization has its own protocols and high-performance standards that assure your safety and the safety of everyone else on the team.

Why Choose a Career in Marine Transportation?

If you're seeking a fast-paced job that requires a smart mind and physical strength, you'll probably find it in marine transportation. People who enjoy the sea will be drawn to this role, although there are chances in this industry that do not require time on a ship.

  • Job security. With so many products traveling overseas, there is a continual demand for those working in the marine transportation industry. This is fantastic news since you won't have to worry about finding work or being paid; everything you do will be valued.
  • Opportunity for advancement. It is feasible to advance in the field of marine transportation. People have been sailing for thousands of years, and they have always earned their rank and gone up without any further schooling, just years of studying. This established hierarchy can be favorable for you.
  • You're at sea. If you desire to work on the water and can't fathom your existence without it, you'll completely comprehend the water's allure. People are born with a natural affinity for water, and they would gladly do anything to be on it.
  • The salary is good. Many occupations in the marine industry pay well since there is a lot of danger involved. Your salary will typically be more than others doing the same job in a different industry, from entry-level positions to the highest-paid positions in the organization.

Working in this industry will provide you with prospects like:

  • Opportunities for expedited career advancement
  • A chance to collaborate with a small number of people
  • Travel Opportunities
  • Adventure
  • Career flexibility
  • Outdoor living
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8 Reasons to Work in Marine Transportation

If you are self-motivated and enjoy being on the water, a career in marine transportation may be for you. Here are eight reasons to pursue a career in this field:

  1. Marine transportation is a diverse career path with numerous occupational specializations.
  1. Marine transport is a global industry that allows you to work and travel anywhere.
  1. Marine transport provides job stability because it is a long-standing industry that has consistently remained in demand.
  1. Most businesses offer on-the-job training.
  1. The national average compensation for marine transporters is $62,760 per year, which is more than the national average wage in the United States.
  1. The role includes rewarding responsibilities such as coordinating and supervising marine activities.
  1. Because most marine transportation jobs require long periods of labor, they provide ample vacation time.
  1. You learn transferable skills such as time management, endurance, patience, self-motivation, and multitasking.

Marine Transportation Companies

If you want to work in marine transportation, you need to know how to choose the ideal company for your needs. According to the BLS, there are around 4,500 marine transportation companies in the United States, with only approximately 400 of them offering full-time work.

Since this market is not growing as quickly as others, there are fewer prospects for these businesses. You should also be prepared for some long days on the job, which entails working long hours and putting in a lot of overtime.

If you take this route, be prepared for a rigorous career with many difficulties and rewards! According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the median annual income for marine transportation drivers is $47,640. The median wage is what half of all marine drivers receive, with the other half earning less.


Marine transportation is an excellent career choice for those who want to work outside and who want a job that is both exciting and difficult. Candidates should, however, examine their individual needs and interests, as well as their current skill set, before pursuing a career in marine transportation.

In short, a career in marine transportation can be quite lucrative if you are prepared to study and work hard. There are several prospects for promotion and the possibility of earning respectable pay. You can become a captain of your own sailboat and sail across the world with the right training and expertise.

Marine transportation is a flexible, well-paying, and secure profession. If you want to work in maritime transportation, make sure you look into all of your choices.

The job outlook in the marine transportation business is critical as we approach 2030, and some projections even imply that the industry will see an increase in possibilities. Ship captains and motorboat operators are two vocations with high development potential in the maritime transportation industry.

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