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Is Marine Transportation a Good Career Path?

Is Marine Transportation a Good Career Path

Are you searching for an interesting and rewarding career path?

Marine transportation has grown significantly in recent years, and there are lots of interesting options in this field. The rise in global trade means that there is an ever-expanding range of roles to choose from.

While this can be a satisfying and well-paid career, it can also be very physically demanding. It is important to consider all the aspects of different roles carefully before mapping out your career path. 

So, let’s find out, ‘is marine transportation a good career path?’

About Maritime Transportation 

The main focus of this industry is shipping different types of goods via different types of waterways. In the past, this was the primary way of transporting people and goods to different parts of the United States. In the last century, the focus of this industry has shifted to international transportation. 

Maritime transportation is the main method of shipping raw materials like coal, grain, and crude oil over long distances. A large number of people with different skills are needed to do this safely and efficiently. This includes coordinators, mechanics, ship captains, ship crew, caterers, and deckhands. 

The largest sector…

The largest sector of this industry is commercial, which involves moving passengers and goods. There is also a military division of this industry. This division focuses on moving equipment and troops across seas and oceans. 

How To Secure A Job?

If you are interested in a role in marine transportation, it is best to start preparing as early as possible. While there are usually a good number of available roles, competition can also be high. Therefore, you need to take steps to make sure you stand out from the crowd.

You can apply for a summer job or an internship while you’re still studying. Working as a deckhand on a ferry or fishing boat is a good way to gain some work experience. You will also have the chance to make valuable connections and learn more about the industry requirements.

How To Secure A Job

What about a sailing course?

Taking a sailing course will prepare you for a more advanced role. Before taking the course, make sure your science and math knowledge is up to date. This will make it easier to pass the entrance exam. When choosing a course, make sure it aligns with your interests and will advance your career. 

Completing a maritime training program or an apprenticeship will help to hone your skills. You can also gain the necessary skills for an entry-level role through on-the-job training or by attending a vocational school. Many advanced roles also require a degree, especially if you want to advance.

Entry-Level Jobs

If you are ready to enter the workforce after graduating from high school, there are several interesting options. A wide range of entry-level roles can be found in this industry, and they usually come with paid training. If you work hard and make a lasting impression, you could be given the chance to advance through the ranks. Let’s take a look at some of the most common Marine Transportation entry-level jobs and what they involve. 

Entry-Level Jobs


These entry-level employees are responsible for maintaining a vessel and working as part of the deck crew. The tasks that are assigned don’t require technical skills or knowledge. They can include keeping the vessel clean and tidy and following safety protocols. 

Shipping Crew

This job requires a high level of physical fitness and stamina. It basically involves unloading goods from vessels and safely storing them. Starting as a Shipping Crew member is a good way to gain experience.

Food Service

The crew and passengers on large ships need to be fed, and there is a range of food service roles. You could start your career preparing ingredients, keeping the kitchen clean, and washing dishes. Over time you could gain more responsibility until you are managing the kitchen and other food service staff. 


This role takes place on commercial vessels and involves catering to the needs of passengers. You need to have excellent customer service skills and make sure passengers have an enjoyable and safe journey. This job can pave the way for a more advanced role in the hospitality industry and is a great place to start. 


This is one of the easiest jobs in the industry and is a good place to start if you have no experience. However, wipers still perform an important role in keeping vessels clean and safe. They work alongside the engine crew and are responsible for cleaning and overseeing the machinery areas. 


This role starts in the engine room, completing tasks like cleaning, testing systems, working on repairs, and overseeing operations. This is a great way to gain skills and experience without having to go to college. While doing this job, you will learn all about the vessel and how it works. After a few years of hard work and dedication, you could work your way up to the Chief Engineer role.  

Data Entry

If you prefer an office job, data entry may be perfect for you. This job involves keeping track of inventory and handling bills of lading that serve as receipts. As long as you have strong attention to detail and can remain focused on minute details, you could do well. 

Ship Fitter

The main responsibility of this job is repairing the various structural parts of a ship. Other tasks include cleaning areas of the ship and performing basic maintenance. Although this is a low-level role, earning a degree will give you access to more responsibility and a higher salary. 


Also known as greasers, these employees make sure machinery is properly lubricated so it can move freely. Some oilers also work on other types of equipment. This can include air conditioning, plumbing, and lighting. 

Logistics Coordinator

Entry-level employees usually work directly under a senior logistics coordinator to learn the role. The job focuses on coordinating communications between the shipping company’s sales team and production team. This helps to ensure that distribution occurs according to schedule.

This is usually an office job and is perfect for people who don’t have their sea legs. While there are opportunities to advance, you will also learn transferrable skills. These skills can give you access to jobs in several other industries. 

The Best-Paying Jobs In Marine Transportation

If you have earned a degree and gained specialist skills, you could score a high-paying role in this industry. There are plenty of opportunities for people with valuable skills to advance in this industry. Here are some of the highest-paying Marine Transportation jobs that you can set your sights on. 

The Best-Paying Jobs In Marine Transportation

Marine Engineer

A Marine Engineer’s role involves designing, testing, installing, repairing, and overseeing marine equipment. You need to have detailed knowledge of all types of marine equipment and be able to troubleshoot them. You will often work closely with a naval architect to ensure the safety and efficiency of a vessel. 

Naval Architect

You need a bachelor’s degree in architecture or engineering and several years of experience maintaining maritime equipment. After gaining the necessary qualifications, you can choose one of two specializations. You could choose to update and repair vessels or collaborate on designing new ships. 

Marine Data Scientist

You need to have a bachelor’s degree to secure this role, along with a master’s degree and maybe a doctorate. The main focus of this job is observing and analyzing oceanographical data and using it to draw conclusions. You will often be asked to use this data to explore certain questions, such as how to streamline shipping lanes. 

Port Engineer

If you have an interest in engineering, this could be the perfect role for you. This job focuses on the technical operations and infrastructure in a port. This involves repair and maintenance, as well as making sure everything is running smoothly. 

Port Captain

Port Captain is perhaps the highest-paid role in marine transportation, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. You would ultimately be in charge of all the vessels in a particular port and ensure they’re ready to dock or embark. This involves checking all documentation, crew, and equipment for each vessel before it sets sail. It takes years of dedication and experience to secure this very desirable role. 

Education And Certification Requirements

Many of the roles in this field only require a high school degree or a GED. However, taking the time to earn a degree and professional certification gives you access to the highest-paying roles. Here is an overview of the types of education available to people who pursue this career path.

Education And Certification Requirements 

High school or GED

You need a little education to launch your career in this field. Many employers will consider you for an entry-level role if you are willing to work hard. You will be provided with on-the-job training and often advancement opportunities once you have proven your skills. 

Trade or technical school degrees

Certain fields within this industry require a related trade or technical school degree. When deciding which path you want to follow, you need to work out which degree would be most beneficial. Take the time to check out the different options and select the one that best matches your goals. 

Bachelor’s in Marine Science

Earning this professional degree will help you take your career to the next level. During the course, you will gain knowledge and skills that will give you an edge over the competition. If you have your sights set on one of the highest-paying roles, consider earning a Master’s Degree afterward. 

TDML Certificate 

The Community College of Baltimore County and several other institutions offer this certification. Earning this certification demonstrates that you have detailed industry knowledge. It covers several different areas of the industry, with the main focuses being transportation, distribution, and maritime logistics.

TWIC or MMC Certificates 

These are two of the main certificates you can earn to boost your career prospects. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential is issued by the Transportation Security Administration. Alternatively, you can earn the Merchant Mariner Credential, which is offered by the U.S. Coast Guard

Key Skills And Attributes

Like most careers, you need to gain the right balance of hard and soft skills to work in this industry. You need to make sure you have the necessary personal attributes that will help you to thrive. Here are some of the main ones you should work on developing. 

Key Skills And Attributes

Communication skills

You are likely to interact with people from a whole host of different backgrounds. You need to be able to maintain smooth relationships with people and be able to avoid conflict. It is also essential to be able to give clear and detailed instructions both verbally and in writing.

Attention to detail

There is no room for error when you are working onboard a vessel. You need to listen carefully to instructions and follow them to the letter. You need to be able to recognize tiny issues and prevent them from developing into larger problems. 


You need to have excellent hand-eye coordination, especially if you’re working at sea. Most jobs require you to have quick reflexes and be able to complete more than one task simultaneously. If you are naturally clumsy and uncoordinated, a job in this industry is unlikely to be a good fit. 

Mechanical skills

Even if you are not working as a mechanic, you may need to make simple repairs from time to time. It is a good idea to take the time to learn basic mechanical skills before applying for an entry-level role. Some jobs require more advanced mechanical skills, which you will usually learn on the job. 

Excellent vision

This is a basic requirement for most types of roles in this industry. A visual test will be carried out before an advanced certification is granted. Having excellent vision allows you to carefully dock the ship and scour the horizon for potential hazards. 


No matter which role you choose, you need to be prepared to work hard. You will often be standing and completing other tasks for several hours at a time. You need to be physically fit and willing to work in all weather conditions. 


You need to be comfortable spending a lot of time alone to thrive in a career at sea. You must be able to think and work independently with little or no supervision. This includes being comfortable making quick and important decisions that can affect the lives of other people. 

A Career In Maritime Transportation 

Before settling on a career path, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons carefully. 

A Career In Maritime Transportation

The Pros

There are several key reasons why many people are willing to work hard to secure a coveted role. Here are some of the best aspects of working in this industry. 

Long holidays

Most people who work at sea receive up to four months of paid vacation time each year. This gives you time to reconnect with friends and family members. Although you will work hard during voyages, this gives you plenty of time to rest and unwind. 

Excellent wages

Even at the entry level, the salary for roles in this industry are much higher than average. Many are tax-free, which makes it easier to save for a future home and meet other financial goals. Spending time at sea also allows you to save money on the cost of food and accommodation.

An entry-level role often pays around $75,000 per year. This salary increases even more once you gain skills and experience. If you land an advanced role, you could earn an annual salary of around $115,000. 

Good advancement opportunities

You will gain the skills you need to advance your career and work in other fields if you choose. Entry-level employees who work hard are often rewarded with promotions and higher salaries. The skills you develop in this industry can make you a very desirable candidate. 

Meaningful work

The work that you do in this industry can have an important impact. More than 90% of worldwide goods are still transported by sea, which makes this a vital industry. Excelling in your work and rising through the ranks is a great way to make a name for yourself. 

Unique work experience

If the idea of a typical nine-to-five job fills you with dread, a life at sea could be for you. Most roles come with flexible hours, and there is no need to wear a suit and tie to work. You can also skip the daily commute and simply walk a few feet to your workstation. 

Working at sea allows you to spend time in a unique environment that is always changing. You will get the chance to work alongside people from all over the world and learn about different cultures. This helps to keep the job feeling fresh and interesting rather than mundane. 

Get paid to travel the world

Although you will spend a limited amount of time at port, you will travel to various locations around the world. You will be given anything from a few hours to maybe a few days to explore a new city while the vessel is being unloaded. This is a great way to discover different cultures and sample delicious dishes while earning a salary. 

The Cons

Before you rush out and apply for a role, you need to take the potential cons into account. Make sure you can handle the potential negative aspects and will be able to rise to the challenge. 

The Cons

Potential risk

If you are searching for a safe and risk-free career, it is best to explore another industry. The potential for being injured while working on board a vessel at sea is fairly high. There are numerous potential hazards, including slipping on wet surfaces and injuring yourself while carrying heavy objects. 

Although it is rarely made an issue of, there is also a real threat of piracy while you’re working at sea. Modern-day pirates still sail the open seas looking for potential targets. Each year, numerous crews are held hostage by pirates who board their vessels searching for ‘treasure.’  

Long periods away from family and friends

You may not see your loved ones for weeks or even months at a time while you’re working at sea. Even during leisure time, chaotic work schedules can make it difficult to connect. This can put a strain on your personal relationships, which some people find difficult to cope with. 

High-pressure environment

You need to be able to work well under pressure to thrive in this industry. There is no room for error, and you need to be able to keep a cool head at all times. Mistakes made on the job can result in injury or even death if left unchecked. Some people find this type of pressure very challenging and are unable to cope with it. 

Increased risk of illness

You will spend extended periods in a confined space while you’re at sea. This means that sickness can spread quickly among crew members, especially if the water system becomes contaminated. This can be a real issue if you have a weak immune system and tend to fall ill easily.

Potential exhaustion

There are not a lot of opportunities for rest and relaxation when you’re at sea. Even though you have scheduled shifts, you need to be prepared to be on call around the clock. You have to be both physically and mentally tough to survive in this type of environment.

Ace Your Interview For Your Dream Job!

Take a look at the selection of interview guides we’ve put together for you, such as how to Answer Why Am I The Best Candidate For The PositionWhat Are Your Career GoalsHow Would You Describe Yourself, and Why Do You Want To Work Here.

In addition, find out how to answer What Makes You UniqueHow Do You Handle Stress, and what are your Strengths And Weaknesses For Job Interviews, along with How Do You Handle ConflictWhat Are You Most Proud Of, or Why We Should Hire You?

When it comes to your turn to ask what you’d like to know, find out more about the Best Questions To Ask A Recruiter Before An Interview, as well as the Best Questions To Ask In An Interview, and finally, Unique Interview Questions To Ask Employers in 2023.

Final Thoughts

Definitely, if you enjoy being on the water! There are lots of different ways to gain the experience you need to advance in this industry. There are also several different land-based roles for you to choose from if you prefer.

You need to have a lot of stamina and the willingness to work hard to thrive in this industry. After gaining an entry-level role, it is a good idea to work on a professional degree and certification. With hard work and dedication, you could secure a salary of more than $100,000 per year.

All the very best in your new maritime adventures!

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