Merchant Mariners

Merchant Marines Lift Lifeboat

The merchant marine is that part of the maritime trade industry concerned with transporting cargo (and sometimes passengers) from place to place via water routes; it is also known as the commercial shipping industry. Merchant mariners operate ships and other water vessels on domestic and international waters. Workers on these ships are divided into three crews: the deck crew, which handles navigation and cargo operations, the engine crew, which oversees the generating system that propels the ship, and the steward department, which sees to meals and living quarters. Each crew is commanded by a designated officer. Water transportation workers hold 78,500 jobs.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) Able Seamen, Boatswains, Bosuns, Captains, Chief Cooks, Chief Engineers, Chief Mates, Chief Officers, Chief Stewards, Deck-Engine Mechanics, Deckhands, Electricians, Firer-Watertenders, First Assistant Engineers, First Mates, Helmsmen, Lifeboatmen, Masters, Mess Attendants, Pumpmen, Quartermasters, Radio Officers, Second Assistant Engineers, Second Cooks and Bakers, Second Mates, Third Assistant Engineers, Third Mates, Wipers
Duties Operate ships and other water vessels on domestic and international waters
Salary Range Below $25,000 to $100,000+
Work Environment Indoors/Outdoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Opportunities are available throughout the world
Minimum Education Level
  • High School Diploma
  • Some Postsecondary Training
School Subjects
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education
Experience Completion of an educational program at a maritime academy or at least three years' experience as a deck crew member
Personality Traits
  • Conventional
  • Hands On
  • Organized
  • Building/Trades
  • Interpersonal
  • Mechanical/Manual Dexterity
Certification or Licensing Required
Special Requirements Certain certifications require proof of U.S. citizenship and physical examinations
Employment Prospects Good
Advancement Prospects Good
Outlook Faster than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Captain
  • Chief Mate, or Chief Engineer, or Chief Steward
  • Various Mid-Level Positions
  • Able Seaman
  • Ordinary Seamen

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