Ship's Captains


Ship's Captains


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 15,840 ship's captains and boat operators employed in the United States in May 2019.

Quick Facts


Median Salary



Employment Prospects



Minimum Education Level

Associate's Degree



Several years of deckhand and officer experience



Business Management


Personality Traits

Hands On


The median annual salary for captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels was $72,340 in May 2019, according to the Department of Labor. The lowest 10 percent earned $37,270 or less and the highest 10 percent earned $153,700 or more. Salaries vary depending on the water transportation industry. Those who work in deep-sea, coastal, and Great Lakes water transportation earn higher annual salaries...

Work Environment

Ship captains work aboard boats in all types of weather conditions. They may work daytime hours only if they work on a tugboat, ferry, or sightseeing vessel, and return home at the end of each workday. Those who work on cruise ships, freighters, and fishing vessels work and live on the boats for extended periods of time, which could be days, weeks, or months. When they take breaks from work, fi...


The Department of Labor (DOL) forecasts little to no growth for water transportation workers through 2029. Ship's captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels are expected to experience no growth (0 percent) in the coming years. "Fluctuations in the demand for bulk commodities, such as petroleum products, iron ore, and grains, is a key factor influencing employment in these occupations," the DO...