Merchant Mariners Salary

Work in the realm of water transportation places high demands and important job responsibilities on certain workers in the job market. These jobs carry plenty of responsibility but plenty of reward as well. Jobs in this field task workers with operating and maintaining vessels that transport people and cargo over water. As Merchant Mariners, these workers travel along with the shipping vessels to various foreign ports across the seas. However, Merchant Mariners also travel to domestic ports across the coast or across the United States’ inland waterways (such as the Great Lakes).

Overview of a Merchant Mariners Salary

As of 2012, the median pay for that of a Merchant Mariners Salary sat at $48,980 per year or $23.55 per hour according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median pay means that half of all employed Merchant Mariners earned more than this median amount, and the other half of them earned less. To give you a better idea of how much more and how much less a worker in a water based occupant can earn, the top 10% level of a Merchant Mariners Salary sat at $105,440* per year. The lowest 10% earned less than $24,920*. That wide range means that this field of work is prone to large differences in earning power based on a worker’s level of experience and the field of work of each Merchant Mariner.

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Earnings Factors of a Merchant Mariners Salary

A Merchant Mariner’s field of work serves as the single most important factor one’s salary. As of May 2012, Ship Engineers earned a median wage of $70,890 per year. Meanwhile, Ship Captains, Mates, and Pilots of water vessels earned a lower median wage around $66,150 per year. Sailors and Marine Oilers held a median wage of $38,190. Motorboat Operators earned wages even lower than Sailors at $35,190* per year. Again, this highly diverse background provides us with conclusions about a Merchant Mariner’s salary.

Obviously, education can also greatly influence the salary of a Merchant Mariner. Ship engineers earn the top pay of all Merchant Mariners. These specific workers must complete highly specialized education to begin their work.

Another criterion that affects wages is the sector of the economy in which Merchant Mariners work. Official data for May 2012* indicates that the top five industries for Merchant Mariners paid the following median salaries: $59,290 for employees in support of activities for water transportation, $50,230 for employees in deep sea, coastal and great lakes water transportation, $47,600 for government employees, $46,780 for inland water transportation workers and $35,190 for scenic and sightseeing transportation (for water).

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Job Description and Outlook of a Merchant Mariner

The typical work day of a merchant mariner consists of the following job activities:

  • Operating and maintaining non-military vessels;
  • Following the orders of their vessel’s strict chain of command;
  • Ensuring the safety of all people and cargo on board.
  • Fulfilling highly specific tasks: cooking, mechanics, or electronics (after graduation in this specialization).

A downside to the job is that merchant mariners tend to live in close quarters with one another for long periods of time. Personal space carries a premium while at sea, and the job tends to become very uncomfortable. With that being said, the job allows you to travel to many parts of the country. You could even end up seeing the world as a Merchant Mariner.

As for the job’s outlook, the prospect of this trade appears favorable according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of Merchant Mariners should grow by 13% between the years of 2012 through 2022*. This figure remains on par as the average for all other occupations in the job market. However, we feel relieved to see that this age old occupation won’t be diminishing any time soon. The employment of Captains and Ship Mates should grow by 14% and Ship Engineers by 8%. Also, the Bureau expects employment of Sailors and Marine Oilers’ to grow by an above average rate of 16%. The demand for water-weight shipping should grow with the expanding economy. In turn, experts believe this will increase the market demand for merchant mariners.

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Educational Requirements of a Merchant Mariner

Most of the merchant mariners (such as Deck Officers, Engineers and Pilots) must hold a bachelor’s degree from a qualified Merchant Marine academy to be qualified to work in this field. These academies offer a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC) in addition to their standard bachelor’s degree. This credential endorses the graduate allowing him or her to become a third mate/third assistant engineer following graduation.

Sailors and Marine Oilers (all non-officer personnel) do not need a degree to attain employment. These workers receive on-the-job training for a 6 month period. Occasionally, the training takes up to a year to complete.

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