How many jobs are available in marine transportation?

How many jobs are available in marine transportation?

Marine transportation, or maritime transport, is an enormous industry that deals with the movement of people and goods over large water masses, like oceans.

An astronomical portion of global trade happens in the marine transport industry. According to The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 80% of all global trade by volume is imported and exported with the use of water transport. This is impressive because most countries don't have ports or shorelines.

What's more, in 2021, the marine transportation industry loaded 10.99 billion tons. Because of the gigantic workload that the industry faces, it holds tens of thousands of jobs, especially in the US.

The country has roughly 360 commercial ports that are home to thousands of these jobs. These ports are the points of access for cargo ships, container ships, and cruise ships that want to enter the country.

In this article, we'll answer two burning questions. These are, "Is marine transportation a good career path?" and "How many jobs are available in marine transportation?"

What is marine transportation?

Marine transport, maritime transport, and water transport are the three names that this industry goes by. It refers to the transportation of large loads of people and goods over masses of water.

These goods, like cars, clothes, and appliances get moved over waterways to ports all over the world. People can also be transported with the use of cruise ships and ferries.

Marine transportation makes up an enormous part of global trade, which means that most imports and exports are moved with the help of ships and other marine vessels.

There are many benefits to using ships and other forms of water transportation, like the fact that products can be moved across international borders.

Since the 60s, companies have started making use of giant containers to store and move products. The benefits of container ships are that it makes it possible to transport larger loads at lower costs.

Which types of jobs are available in marine transportation?

The job opportunities in marine transportation are ample and completely different from each other. From ship steward to captain or maritime lawyer, you could be looking at doing what you love, off the shore!

With the help of statistics from Zippia and the BLS, we found the average salaries and job outlooks for 13 different jobs in this industry. So, if you want to enter the marine transportation workforce, here are some great options:

1. Ship fitter: $59,439 per year

As a ship fitter, you will work with the steel and metal parts of a ship. You will be responsible for the fabrication, building, assembling, and coordination of the many structural parts of marine vessels.

Thus, your duties will include welding, refurbishing, cutting, repairing, and tacking pieces of metal. You also need to lead the team of assistants that work with you and ensure that all safety procedures are followed.

You need to know the different types of metal and your welding skills should be tremendous. It's a good idea to work as a welder and gain skills and experience before applying for a ship fitter job.

You also need good leadership and communication skills to be able to lead your team. The good news is that you don't need any more education than a high school diploma.

2 to 4 years of experience in a related field is vital but you will receive at least 6 months of on-the-job training to brush up on your skills. If you meet all these requirements, you could get an EPA Operators Safety Certification to better your chances of landing a job and increase your salary.

The average salary for ship fitters is $45,247 per year. The average salary at the US Department of the Navy is even better, where they pay $59,439 per year.

It's estimated that there will be a need for ship fitters in the future because the job faces a 3% growth from 2018 to 2028.

2. Ship worker: $41,371 per year

As a ship worker, your duties can range from cooking to packing goods onto conveyor belts. There's no set job description for these members of the crew.

Some tasks may include cleaning, maintenance, safety and security, reparations, troubleshooting, first aid, and core drilling.

You will know what your duties will be when you get hired and read through the contract. Most employers will also include the duties in the job listing so you know what you are getting into.

To become a ship worker, you need a high school degree or GED but many employers prefer a bachelor's degree. This is a great entry-level job that can help you in your journey to a better position.

However, it's not always necessary to get promoted because ship worker salaries aren't too bad. You could be earning an average of $41,371 per year.

Unfortunately, the BLS projects a decrease of 2% from 2018 to 2028. That means there will be 1800 fewer jobs by the end of the decade.

3. Marine pipefitter helper: $53,010 per year

As a marine pipefitter helper, you will assist the marine pipefitter in their job. They will design and build the pipes that are used on marine vessels and you need to assist them while they do this.

You could be responsible for reading the blueprints or handing the tools to the marine pipefitter. Plus, if they are off duty, you will need to inspect and maintain the pipes by yourself.

You need a high school diploma to become a helper. Your chances of landing a job are better if you complete some training at a trade school or other training programs.

The supervisor will train you when you get hired, and if you gain enough experience, you could be promoted to marine pipefitter and get your own helper.

There will be a higher demand for these workers in the future, with a projected growth of 11% from 2018 to 2028. The job doesn't pay as well, with an average salary of $29,343 per year. Promoting to marine pipefitter can get you $53,010 per year, so that's definitely something to work towards.

4. Ship steward: $38,095 per year

As a ship steward, you could be doing several tasks. From housekeeping to working in the kitchen, stewards have general responsibilities.

You will keep the decks and cabins clean while monitoring the stock levels of the products on board. The kitchen will also be your baby, so you need to ensure that the products are fresh and stocked at all times.

You need a bachelor's degree to become a ship steward. Fortunately, you can walk straight into a job after obtaining your degree because no experience is required.

However, completing training programs and brushing up your skills in short courses will increase your chances of landing a job. Some of these courses can include hospitality management and first aid.

The future is bright for this job, with a projected growth of 8% from 2018 to 2028. If you manage to land a job in this timeframe, you could earn $38,095 per year.

5. Logistics coordinator: $42,379 per year

As a logistics coordinator, you will be responsible for the entire transportation process. This includes communicating with suppliers, overseeing the preparation and loading process, monitoring the levels of production, and sending the cargo off.

Your job doesn't end when the ship leaves the harbor because you need to communicate with the captain as he travels. Then, you need to get in contact with the receiver of the goods to ensure that everything got there safely.

For this, you'll need a bachelor's degree, preferably in a logistical field. It takes 4 to 6 years to gain enough experience in other jobs to become a logistics coordinator.

When you get hired, you'll receive on-the-job training for about a month. The outlook is positive, with a 5% growth expected from 2018 to 2028.

The average salary of a logistics coordinator in the US is $42,379 per year. This amount can vary depending on your experience and the degree that you have. A master's degree could get you a higher salary than a bachelor's.

6. Captain: $67,039 per year

As a captain, you'll be leading the crew and overseeing everything that happens on your ship. You'll be steering and navigating the ship and communicating with the coast guard as you travel across the ocean.

You will also be the person doing all the hiring and firing of staff members. Plus, the safety of the passengers and crew members is in your hands so you need to ensure that they follow safety procedures.

You'll need a bachelor's degree to become a captain. To gain the 4 years of experience that you need, you can work or volunteer in other positions on a marine vessel.

You need communication skills, hand-eye coordination, and good hearing. The on-the-job training to become the leader of a ship takes between 1 and 3 months.

The average salary that you can expect after completing your training is around $67,039 per year. The job is facing a 2% decrease from 2018 to 2028.

7. Deckhand: $35,077 per year

As a deckhand, you'll be working as a general helper on a ship or any other marine vessel. You'll have tasks like maintaining all the equipment on the ship and loading the cargo.

Deckhands also have tasks like working at the conveyor belt and packing ice bricks. However, the job is aimed toward the general upkeep of the ship and the well-being of the crew and passengers.

You don't need a degree because a high school diploma is enough to get you into entry-level positions. You will receive on-the-job training but a few years of experience in a similar job is beneficial.

Zippia reports that the number of deckhands employed in the US surpasses 10,000. Unfortunately, there's a 2% decrease in the job expected from 2018 to 2028.

If you want to become a deckhand, it would be best to enter the workforce as soon as possible. You could be looking at an average salary of $35,077 per year.

8. Marine technician: $52,124 per year

As a marine technician, you will be responsible for maintaining and repairing different boats. You need to perform regular inspections to ensure that the vessel is running smoothly and that there are no underlying issues that can cause future damage.

Your array of knowledge should include the different compartments and parts of a boat or ship, including the propellers, masts, hulls, engines, and navigation devices.

The minimum requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree. You will need to undergo training for at least 6 months. The entire process of becoming a marine technician doesn't take long and you could be earning an average of $52,124 per year before you know it.

Prospective marine technicians don't have to be too concerned, because the 6% growth from 2018 to 2028 translated to 4,900 new jobs.

9. Pilot: $66,588 per year

As a pilot in marine transportation, you won't be flying planes or other types of aircraft. You won't be flying, steering, or driving anything.

Your job will require you to be the guide that gets a captain, his crew, and the ship to a harbor when they face troubled waters.

First, you'll need to work in a port for a few years because this is the best place to gain skills, knowledge, and experience. You need to know how to read weather reports and your map skills should be outstanding.

Once you have obtained your bachelor's degree in a field related to marine transportation, you can start working towards becoming a pilot.

When you land one of the jobs that are a part of the projected growth of 6% from 2018 and 2028, you could earn an average of $66,588 per year.

10. Naval architect: $79,559 per year

As a naval architect, you will act as an engineer specializing in marine vessels. You will need to use your mathematical, electronic, architecture, software, hardware, and electrical knowledge to design and build ships and other vessels.

The entire construction is in your hands, from drawing the blueprints to overseeing the production process.

Fortunately, you don't need any practical experience but a bachelor's degree is a must! Don't worry, you'll receive enough practical training on the job.

This job pays an average of $79,559 per year and it faces a 9% growth from 2018 to 2028.

11. Marine engineer: $85,992 per year

As a marine engineer, you will be responsible for the development and construction of marine vessels. Your duties will include the installation, inspection, and maintenance of these vessels.

This job is a combination of technical, electrical, mechanical, and structural elements. For this, you need a bachelor's degree in any related field.

You won't be able to specialize as a marine engineer if you don't have at least 10 years of experience in an engineering position. Additionally, you will also need a minimum of 1 to 2 years of training.

As soon as you meet all the requirements, you could be looking at an average salary of $85,992 per year. There's a good chance that you'll land a job because the career faces a growth of 9% from 2018 to 2028.

12. Maritime lawyer: $126,930 per year

As a maritime lawyer, you will work with the laws regarding marine transportation. Your job will include representing companies or workers in disputes, injuries, accidents, and other cases.

For example, should someone get injured on duty, you would be representing the worker or the company. Another example of a maritime lawyer's duty is working in a lawsuit against a company that dumps oil or petroleum into the ocean.

To become a maritime lawyer, you need a bachelor's degree at minimum. After this, there's a bar exam that you have to pass, which is presented by the state in which you wish to work in.

The BLS projects a growth of 4% for all lawyers from 2019 to 2029. Lawyers across all industries earn a median annual salary of $126,930.

13. Engineer: $91,287 per year

As an engineer, you will be handling many different tasks, like planning the production process of a new product or overseeing the construction of a new building.

To become an engineer, you need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field. You also need training and work experience before you can get hired.

Basic skills that you will need to excel at your job include listening and maths skills. You also need to be able to analyze, come up with creative strategies, and solve problems.

The average annual salary of engineers in all industries is $91,287. Thus, you could be earning something completely different if you choose marine transportation. For example, drilling engineers in basic industries earn $126,947 per year.

The projected job outlook for this job is a growth of 4% from 2018 to 2028. It's important to remember that this is for engineering jobs across all industries.

How many jobs are available in marine transportation?

Marine transportation is the employment industry of tens and thousands of workers in the US. The BLS estimates that the industry accounted for 75,400 workers in 2021.

There won't be a significant change in the workforce, with a mere growth of 1% from 2021 to 2031. This is only 500 jobs opening in this period. Thus, by 2031, the number of marine transportation jobs will stand at 75,900.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost! There will be 8,700 jobs opening each year over the decade. Why? Because of the openings that become available when workers leave the workforce for various reasons, like retiring or being promoted.

Average salary of a career in marine transportation

The average salary of marine transportation jobs varies widely. You could be earning $38,670 as a motorboat operator or $82,410 as a ship engineer.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall median wage for all water or marine transportation workers is $62,760 per year. This is according to the data collected and processed in May 2021.

Due to the many economic changes between then and now, this number could be slightly different today.

Eligibility criteria for a career in marine transportation


Educational requirements in this industry aren't as strict as those of the finance industry.

Depending on the different types of jobs in marine transportation, entry-level positions don't require a particular level of education.

There will be rare occasions when employers require you to have a bachelor's degree. This is usually only for more complicated positions, like maritime lawyers and marine engineers.

Certifications and licenses

You will need the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) to get a marine transportation job in the US. This credential is provided by the Transportation Security Administration and a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).

It acts as offshore identification that proves that you are a citizen of the United States of America. You need to renew your TWIC every 5 years.


Some jobs require training programs approved by the US Coast Guard. For most of these, you will receive training on-the-job.

Plus, if your job includes traveling on the open ocean, you need the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STWC) endorsement.

This training program is offered by regional US Coast Guard offices. You'll be trained to perform first aid and taught about lifeboat safety. You need to attend and complete the program every 5 years.

Practical experience

To step into a marine transportation job, you need some practical experience in a similar field.

Some employers are lenient and they'll offer entry-level jobs to work yourself up if you don't have previous experience. However, most employers require experience because this is how you gain all the necessary skills to do well in a job.

Pros of a career in marine transportation

With plenty of job opportunities and many fields to choose from, the marine transportation industry is versatile. You can work in different positions on a ship, from captain to steward.

Some of these jobs are very high paying, with many workers receiving six-figure salaries. This is due to the high demand for workers to keep up with the constant growth of the industry.

Even entry-level positions pay fairly well, because of the risk that comes with the job. You have many opportunities to grow in your position and get promoted.

While working yourself up, you could visit the ports of many different countries. There's also the option to work in any country in the world because it's an international industry.

Cons of a career in marine transportation

Training to boos your career in marine transportation

Unfortunately, it's not just sunshine and roses in the many jobs in marine transportation. Like with jobs in any other industry, these have a few downsides.

Marine transportation jobs can be extremely risky. They hold many dangers, like drowning and sustaining major industries. The daily tasks of some jobs are also physically demanding, which increases the risk of getting injured.

In some jobs, you will also be required to be away from home for long periods. Not only will you be away, but out at sea is very far from your loved ones.

In the few cases that you won't be working away for months, your days may be extremely long. Many jobs require workers to be on-site for ten to twelve hours every day.

The board and lodging of cargo ships aren't that great either. You will be confined to a small room with just the basics while working out at sea. The same goes for the meals that you'll get.

Another con of some marine transportation jobs is that you will need a lot of training to perfect the necessary skills. There are many training programs and courses that need to be completed before you can start working.


Now that you know how many jobs are available in marine transport, it's time to make the first move. Even though there won't be many more jobs for marine transportation workers, there will still be some openings.

To land one of these jobs, you need a bachelor's degree or in some cases, just a high school diploma. It's important to have the experience to work yourself up in this industry.

If you have the necessary skills, you could land a job paying more than $60,000 per year. If you don't, starting in an entry-level job like a ship steward can open doors for you.

If you are willing to overlook the cons and deal with the risks, the many pros of these jobs can make it worthwhile.

Written by

Hamid NOUASRIAOctober 28, 2023

I am the CEO and founder of Overmentality. I am a professional business and technical blogs writer and on-page SEO specialist. I hold a degree in Culture Studies and Media Literacy from the English Humanities and Art Department. And I am interested in Digital Marketing, Business, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and pets of course!

You can reach me via email hair:

Or find me on my LinkedIn Profile.



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