Is Marine Transportation a Good Career Path?

If you are someone who loves to travel and spend time on the vastness of the sea, marine transportation can be just the best career path for you. Even if you aren’t, the wide range of jobs available, the more than average salaries and the increasing job outlook make marine transportation a lucrative career to pursued by anyone.

This article will guide you through the basics of marine transportation and introduce you to the common jobs available in this sector, after which you can decide for yourself if marine transportation is a good career for you.

What is Marine Transportation?

Marine transportation, also known as Maritime Transportation, refers to the transportation of passengers or cargo via sea routes using ships. Although it was a primary means of travel before airway was an option, it is now the major means of transporting goods and human travel is largely limited to pleasure trips on cruises. Most of the goods you use that have been produced abroad like foods, beverages, medicine, oil, electronics, and vehicles are transported to you via marine transportation. In fact, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), almost 80% of all international trade occurs through Marine transportation.

As a result, it is evident that marine transportation is a strong backbone of international trade and the world economy. So, careers in marine transportation are promising and secure.

How much do Marine Transportation Jobs Pay?

The U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) contributes significantly to the U.S. GDP, i.e. above $500 billion dollars annually and produces over $200 billion in port sector taxes annually. What we are more interested is in the number of jobs it sustains, which is more than 10 million jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median pay of $62,760 per year of water transportation workers for the year 2021. Moreover, the 2022-2030 job outlook for the same suggests that it is increasing at 12% which is faster than the average for all jobs.

Learn more about the best-paying jobs in marine transportation.

Lists of Jobs Available in Marine Transportation

Just like the actual ships, the marine transportation system has a thousand moving parts at different levels, all of which produce opportunities for jobs. Let’s start by looking at the most entry-level jobs you can get in the marine transportation industry.

Entry-Level Jobs in Marine Transportation.

  • Deckhand: A deckhand on a water vessel is responsible for performing a range of nautical duties such as standing steering watches, repairing ropes and cables, rigging towing lines, handling lines to moor, etc. He/she is under the command of officers and the captain of the ship. A deckhand is a very important position on the deck crew of any ship. Being a deckhand required no educational qualification and experience, so it is an entry-level position. However, having a strong knowledge of the operations of a ship and being able to do hard physical work will largely boost your chances of being a deckhand. The average annual salary of a deckhand is around $40,000.
  • Food Service Worker: The workers for catering and food services in marine transportation vary on a cargo ship from that on a cruise passenger ship. In the latter, you’ll find jobs that are like what you’d find in any other restaurant. However, the payment and benefits will be better. In cargo ships, there are limited food workers who are responsible for providing the crew with food, serving and cleaning. The average annual salary of food service workers is $26,000.
  • Marine Oilers: The workstation of marine oilers is the engine room of the vessel where they assist the engineers by keeping the propulsion system running smoothly. The main job responsibilities include lubricating gears, bearing and shafts of the engine as well as recording the pressure and temperature. Entry-level oilers are also called wipers and pumpmen. By gaining experience, you have the chance to be a QMED which stands for Qualified Member of the Engine Department. The average salary of a marine oiler is $46,000.
  • Motorboat Operators: You cannot exclude the booming motorboat industry when considering jobs in marine transportation. Motorboat operators operate smaller boats with motors to carry passengers across shorter distances. The purpose of the transport can be to commute, fishing charter, patrolling, or tours. The primary responsibility includes driving the motor boat but you will also need to maintain the boat in good condition and act as a tour guide whenever necessary. The median yearly pay as of 2021 is $30,000 to $31,000.

Best-paying Jobs in Marine Transportation

  • Water Vessel Captain: The captains of the transport vehicle have command of the vessel. They have the highest responsibility on the ship since they steer the ship in the right direction, ensure the safety of everyone onboard, keep logs and records of the path and direct the crew. To be a captain requires years of experience and almost all captains start from a lower position and work their work through being mates and finally captain. The average salary of captains and mates is $98,330.
  • Marine Engineer and Naval Architect: Although marine engineer and naval architects are two different jobs, they have a similar set of skills for similar responsibilities and thus, the similar salary. Basically, they are responsible for designing, building, testing, and maintaining ships. The basic requirement to become a marine engineer is a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering or a related field including engineering. The number of jobs available as of 2020 is 9800 and it has a job outlook of a 4% increase during 2020-2030. The average salary of Marine Engineers and Naval Architects is $93,370.
  • Marine Data Scientist: Marine Data scientists are often associated with the study of marine ecology but they play an important role in the sector of marine transportation. They use their knowledge and expertise to suggest and help decide the routes and operations that cause the least impact on the marine flora and fauna and optimize the operations as well. Although the demand for marine data scientists in marine transportation is only beginning to increase, it is sure to increase at a rapid pace. A marine data scientist typically has a good academic background with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The average salary of marine data scientists specifically is not available but the average salary of general environmental scientists is $76,530 per year.
  • Port Captain:  Jobs in marine transportation are not only limited to life on the water. There would be no marine transportation without ports and one of the best paying jobs in the ports is of a port captain. A port captain is responsible for the smooth operation of the port, making sure that all ships dock and sail in a scheduled and organized way. Port captains also review documentation of the ships and make sure that all legal and logistical requirements are met. The average salary of a port captain is $60,000.


To conclude, marine transportation is a good career path for everyone looking for a steady good income, a secure job future and a successful career. This is a great career path for someone who loves being on the water for extended periods and loves working aboard a ship. However, you should not be fooled by the concept that jobs in marine transportation are limited to jobs on the actual ship since the system of marine transportation is huge and there are numerous jobs in the ports and offices. With an easy entry into the system and chances for career advancement with experience and education, marine transportation can lead to a fulfilling career.