The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County

Life at Sea

What is life at sea like?

Working at sea is not always easy, and no one will tell you otherwise. The question, of course, is whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks—for you.

Sea-based careers offer:

  • Great pay and benefits
  • Quick career advancement
  • Daily increase of knowledge and skills
  • Pride in accomplishment
  • Outdoor living
  • Fast friendships
  • Increased confidence and personal growth
  • Travel and adventure

But there’s a tradeoff. As a mariner you may also experience:

  • High-pressure work
  • Long hours
  • Close quarters
  • Heavy labor
  • Homesickness
  • Seasickness
  • Little room for error

While perspectives and experiences differ, getting all of the information you can about your career of choice will increase your chance of job satisfaction immensely.

And remember: not all maritime careers take place onboard the vessels. See our land-based careers section to find short descriptions of other positions available. Or read interviews with employers, workers and other industry insiders to determine if the maritime life is for you.

Q & A with Gary Stauffer, Ph.D., 33-year fishery scientist (retired) and current president of the Youth Maritime Training Association

Q: “What is the best thing about working at sea?”

A: “There is usually a lot of adventure and travel in the maritime world—the wind in your face can feel very good compared to an office. Also, you have the benefit of a small, close-knit community. The pay and benefits are great for entry level jobs. If you go to an academy you'll probably run into your classmates many times throughout your career.”

Q: “What is life at sea like?”

A: “Life at sea is generally hard work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Every couple of months you’re off for a couple months, depending on a variety of circumstances. Since you live with same group of people for so long you end up having two different families: your at-sea family and your at-home family.”

Q: “What is one of the benefits to choosing a maritime career?”

A: “For every job on land you can probably find maritime-related one somewhere, and vice versa. This means that if you eventually decide to leave this industry, you can probably apply your skills to a land-based job pretty easily.