Is marine transportation a good career path?
Yes, a job as a marine transportation worker offers good wages, lots of opportunities, and the ability to travel. Read on to find out more about this career path and see if it might be right for you.
“The ocean is calling and I must go”
A quote that is filled with feeling! If this if how you felt growing up, then a marine transportation career is definitely a career path you should consider. Marine transportation jobs are not always the easiest, but they can offer so much opportunity, excitement, and fill that salty passion for those that love the wide open seas.
What Do Marine Transportation Workers Do?
Every day you buy goods, many of which are made in other countries. You may not really give too much thought about how those products get here, but it is the marine transportation industry that makes it happen.
Or, you might take a ferry to work or enjoy a fishing boat for an afternoon. These are also part of a marine transportation career.
Marine transportation workers, also called water transportation workers – or merchant marines, have the responsibility of operating and maintaining the vessels that move cargo or people across our waterways. Water transportation workers operate vessels that are used for business purposes, whether transporting people or products.
Whether traveling in the oceans or narrow waterways, it is up to the team of marine specialists to work together to make sure their ships get to their final destination safely.
This means there are several different jobs available on every ship, giving you more opportunity to get a great job. From entry level jobs to those with experience and education, there are many opportunities to work out in the wide open seas.
Pay And Job Outlook
The median pay across all water transportation workers is $59,250 annually as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But many of the careers mentioned below have salaries will into the $100,00o range with captains and engineers making the most and sailors and marine oilers being the lowest.
The job outlook through 2030 is very strong with an estimated 12% growth in opportunities. Motorboat operators and captains are showing the biggest opportunities in this field.
These are two of the biggest reasons that make marine transportation a good career path!
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the opportunities.
Marine Transport Career Opportunities
It takes a lot to get a cargo ship to get from point A to point B, so the number of workers on a ship could be a lot depending on the trip length and products being carried. Below are some of the most common opportunities you might find in a marine transport career.
Ship Captain. Ship captains are in charge and make sure the chain of command is following orders. Their job is to make sure everyone on the ship follows proper safety procedures and to make sure the ship gets to its final destination on time and safely.
Sailors. These team members are sometimes called deckhands and are typically responsible for the equipment on deck and maintenance of the vessel. They may do cleaning, look for obstructions the ship may face, load or unload cargo, or sometimes steer the ship under guidance of a higher level member.
Marine engineers. Taking care of all the internal systems of a ship is no easy feat. A marine engineer will maintain and operate all the systems that make the ship work like generators, pumps, and of course the engine.
Mates. They work in conjunction with the captain and will act in their place when a captain is not available. The bigger the ship the more mates that may be present on the ship.
Oilers. They work with engineers to help keep the systems in working order. They may oil gears and engine parts, read gauges, help engineers with repairs, as well as many other duties.
The above are some of the jobs you might find on a cargo ship, but there are a few other careers that fall under marine transportation jobs.
- Marine welding / Ship fitter
- Ferry workers
- Commercial fishing
- Ranking mates
- Executive officers
- Port engineer
- Naval architect
- Marine surveyor
- Ship superintendent
- Able seaman
- Marine underwriter
Education For Marine Transportation Careers
There is no formal degree requirements to get started in a marine transportation career, but some education is highly recommended. If you want this to be a real career with more opportunity and growth, then advancing your knowledge will help tremendously.
Entry Level Marine Transportation Jobs (No Education)
Many of the more entry level positions require not education and will allow you the opportunity to learn with on the job training. These jobs will pay a bit less, but the long term opportunities will be there for you if you want them.
Some of the most common entry-level jobs include:
- Ship fitter
- Deckhand/Deck cadet
These are the basic level jobs you can get in this marine transportation industry that do not require any type of post secondary education.
Marine Transportation Education
Whether you want to go to a trade school, community college, or a 4 year college there are several options when considering a marine transportation major to gain an education in.
Although we have focused on the actual work done on ships in this post – there are so many other jobs within the industry that are less manual as well. Below is a short list of all the marine transportation degree options you can consider.
Four Year Programs
Below are some of the most popular marine transportation schools to earn marine transportation degrees and certificates. These schools typically are four years and you will leave with a Bachelor’s degree in a program like marine transportation, marine engineering, maritime logistics, marine science, and more.
- United States Merchant Marine Academy
- California State University Maritime Academy
- SUNY Maritime College
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy
- Maine Maritime Academy
Going through one of these programs will offer you the opportunity to kick start your maritime career. Classes might include science, navigation, ship safety, maritime law, and more. You can skip over the entry-level positions and start out with a more advanced job and a higher salary.
Some of the best jobs for marine transportation majors include port engineers, naval architects, and port captains. All of these do require more education but with high median salaries it is worth it.
Two Year And Certificate Programs
Since we focus on trade schools and programs that offer associate degrees, we wanted to be sure to offer some of those as well. Below are some options for a two year program that can help you land a great job.
Each of these schools offers different certificate and degree programs, so depending what your interests are will depend which school is right for you.
- Seattle Central College
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
- Newport News Apprentice School
- Ingalls Apprentice School
Marine Transportation Career Licenses and Certifications
If you are employed as a maritime worker there may be some licenses of certifications needed depending on the level of work you will be doing. Below are some of the credentials you may need.
Transportation Worker Identification Credential
The transportation worker identification credential (TWIC®) is required by the Maritime Transportation Security Administration for certain maritime transport employees. If you are an employee that will be accessing secure areas of a vessel then this credential will be needed. You will undergo a background check before you can be provided a TWIC®.
Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping
The standards of training, certification, and watchkeeping (STWC) is an endorsement that is required for water transportation workers that work on the open seas. This endorsement requires training on first aid, lifeboat safety procedures, as well as other topics and is provided by the U.S. Coast guard.
Merchant Mariner Credential
A merchant mariner credential (MMC) is issued by the U.S. Coast guard and is required if you will be working on a U.S. ship that has a gross register tonnage of over 100. Where you can work and what you can do with this credential will depend on the endorsement(s) you have with it. These certifications are offered through the U.S. Coast Guard, you can learn more at the National Maritime Center.
What Skills Are Recommended
Jobs in the marine transportation sector are not for the faint of heart. There are some skills and qualities that are needed to be successful in whatever job you do.
- Physically strong. Not only for the lifting and moving of cargo, but even handling some of the many systems and deck work will require a lot of strength.
- Sharp vision. Great vision is very important when out on the water and in order to get a MMC you will need to pass an eye exam.
- Problem solving. Every day will bring new challenges so it is important to be able to find ways to solve these problems.
- Customer service. Depending on the type of transport vessel you work on, there may be the need to deal with passengers so it is important to have good personal skills.
The Pros Of A Marine Transportation Career
The opportunities are almost limitless for those that work hard and have a desire to grow and learn. You can start in an entry-level position and work alongside more experienced crew to grow and get promoted.
Traveling the world on the wide-open seas is a rare opportunity, and one that can bring so much excitement. The ability to be in different ports and meeting all different people is kind of thrilling too.
The average salary is much higher than that of other career paths and the benefits are also much better than other industries. While some will get into this career for the money and demand, others choose it for the love of the water and the excitement it can bring.
The Cons Of A Marine Transportation Career
Every job has some negatives, but rarely is the negative due to the length of time you will be away from home. Like truck drivers, maritime workers can spend weeks – even months away from home.
This is one reason why these jobs often pay higher than those on the land.
There may also be some really stressful situations on the ship when the weather is bad or unforeseen issues arise that can affect team morale. The long hours and need to be physically strong are both negatives in terms of job satisfaction.