Ship's Captains

Ship's Captain Steers in the Control Room

Ship's captains, also known as masters, command vessels and oversee crews. They are licensed mariners who make sure procedures are followed to ensure the safety of the crews, cargo, and passengers. They supervise and delegate work to crews, including other officers, and keep records and logs of the ship's activities and movements. According to the Department of Labor, there were 15,770 ship's captains and boat operators employed in the United States in May 2015.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) Masters
Duties Operate and maintain ships; ensure safety of crew, passengers, and cargo; supervise crew; keep records of ship's activities and movements; prepare budgets for maintenance and repairs; oversee passenger and cargo loading and unloading.
Salary Range $25,000 to $100,000+
Work Environment Indoors/Outdoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Highest levels of employment for ship's captains occur in Louisiana, Texas, Washington, Florida, and Virginia, but opportunities exist in all regions near waterways
Minimum Education Level
  • Associate's Degree
School Subjects
  • Business
  • Geography
  • Mathematics
Experience Several years of deckhand and officer experience
Personality Traits
  • Hands On
  • Problem-Solving
  • Technical
  • Business Management
  • Interpersonal
  • Leadership
Certification or Licensing Required
Special Requirements Must pass a drug screening test and physical with good vision, and hearing; shipboard safety class required; may undergo a background check
Employment Prospects Fair
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Faster than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Ship Captain
  • First Mate
  • Deckhand