Ship and Boat Captains are part of the Enterprising Theme Code Category of the Strong Interest Inventory®. The Strong Interest Inventory® is a comprehensively researched assessment which analyzes the characteristics of professionals who are successful in their fields. This Inventory has been used for the better part of a century to help individuals find a career that fits their personal interests, workplace preferences, and vocational strengths. For instance, Enterprising careers involve business, trade, and management. Individuals with a proclivity for Enterprising careers enjoy being in positions of leadership, and are enthusiastic, energetic people capable of coordinating large groups effectively and efficiently.

A Boat Captain commands vessels that operate in various bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, bays, and oceans. Their responsibilities include operating these vessels and steering them, often relying on various tools to ensure they are aware of the depth of water, and any possible obstructions along the way. Operating the vehicle also includes docking or undocking them, perhaps through locks or other narrow spaces, or cooperating with tugboats or harbor operators. They adjust their navigation based on weather conditions, changes in schedule, or other considerations. As they determine their path, Captains must use charts, compasses, and other navigation tools as well as their own experience and knowledge of local conditions. During the trip itself, they maintain careful records of their activities and location, including ship positions and movements, weather and sea conditions, passenger status, and any other important information.

Ship and Boat Captain

Learn all about a career as a Ship and Boat Captain including career stats such as Median Salary, Daily Tasks, Required Experience, Employment Growth and More!

Before disembarking and after returning from a journey, Boat Captains must inspect their vessels and their equipment to ensure that they can function safely, and that they are in compliance with local, state, federal, and international standards. They must refuel the ship or boat and restock all supplies. They also have personnel responsibilities, and must train their crew-members in safety and other operations onboard as well as assign them to particular tasks and living quarters. A last responsibility is to perform any miscellaneous marine duties including observing and documenting oil spills or other pollutants around ports, harbors, or in the open ocean.

A Boat Captain should be familiar with a wide variety of tools and technologies in order to be successful. These include guidance systems and tools (e.g., compasses, binoculars, sonar, telegraph sounders, vehicle navigation systems, global positioning systems), cargo-handling tools (e.g., cranes, hammers, hoists), and safety equipment (e.g., fire extinguishers, safety lanyards, firefighting suits, fire suppression systems, flares, flotation suits). In addition, they may use route navigation software (e.g., The CAPN, MapTech), or computer aided design software (e.g., Autodesk Revit), and Microsoft Office Suite, standard e-mail and web browser interfaces.

To prepare for all of these responsibilities, most Captains hold a high school diploma (22%) or post-secondary certificate (52%). Having experience is extremely important, and many Captains work their way through lower ranks before being given charge of their own ship. In addition, they must have developed an in-depth knowledge of transportation and public safety, as well as any legal or governmental restrictions or statues relating to their vehicle and the type of cargo or passengers they may transport. For instance, the Captain of a cruise liner must be knowledgeable of immigration practices and visa requirements.  Strong verbal communication skills are essential, as are physical strength and a strong sense of direction. Having far vision and manual dexterity will also be helpful, as Captains need to manipulate small items like dials and levers quickly and under pressure.

The national median Ship and Boat Captain salary is $76,780 per year, with the best-paid Captains earning nearly twice that, at $134,950. The coastal states of Louisiana and Texas, as well as Tennessee which has several major river waterways, all have median salaries over $90,000, with Texas leading at $104,120. The best-paid Captains in Louisiana and Texas earn well over $150,000 per year. Many land-locked states, including Utah, Colorado, and others, have no demand for Captains. Others, like North Carolina and even Hawaii, have average salaries as low as $40,000, with the lowest-paid Captains earning just over $20,000 per year. While there is expected to be an increasing rate of employment of Captains before 2024 (projected 13.1% growth), this is still under 200 new jobs nation-wide.

Below are some employment trends for Ship and Boat Captains:

  • Median Ship and Boat Captains Salary: $36.91 hourly; $76,780 annually
  • Employment: 35,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2014-2024): faster than average (9% to 13%)
  • Projected job openings (2014-2024): 17,200
[Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2024 employment projections]


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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections