Merchant Mariners


Merchant Mariners


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 s...

Quick Facts


Median Salary



Employment Prospects



Minimum Education Level

High School Diploma



Completion of an educational program at a maritime academy or at





Personality Traits



Wages vary according to the worker's rank and the size of the vessel. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that in May 2018, earnings in water transportation occupations ranged from $40,900 for sailors and oilers, to more than $144,690 annually for experienced captains of larger vessels, such as container ships, oil tankers, or passenger ships. In May 2018, median annual salaries for ship capta...

Work Environment

Contrary to what many people think, working in the merchant marine doesn't mean that you sign up for duty in the Navy or other military force. The merchant marine is a private industry, although vessels may be obligated to help the military in times of war.

Working on board a vessel is not as glamorous as it first may seem. Crews must be prepared to be away from home for extended periods...


The U.S. Department of Labor projects that employment in water transportation occupations will decline by 2 percent through 2028, but the outlook varies for domestic and deep-water shipping workers. In general water transportation workers will continue to be needed, to ensure there is always a fleet of merchant ships with U.S. flags.

Employment in water transportation occupations depends...