mapyourcareer.org The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County

Sea-Based Careers

As in many other industries, maritime career paths are often highly varied according to one’s unique circumstances. However, some general guidelines can help you know what to expect and plan accordingly.

In this section, you’ll find brief descriptions of the types of sea-based maritime careers available. You can then link to more information on the positions listed—including current hiring trends and approximate wages—by clicking on them.

The types of sea-based maritime careers are:

Shipping & Transportation
Commercial Fishing
Cruises & Ferries
Offshore Operations
Government Operations
Science & Research


SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION CAREERS

Vessel-based workers are called merchant mariners. Together, they make up the U.S. Merchant Marine.

The Marine includes small passenger vessels, cruise ships, tugboats, workboats, ferries, offshore supply vessels, military support vessels and more. Cargo workboats include bulkers (for dry goods), tankers (for liquids and chemicals), containers (for standard-sized metal containers from many different companies), and general cargo carriers (for anything else).

The three main departments of a workboat are the deck (sometimes called the "wheelhouse", the engine room and the galley. On the deck, officers lead the crew of the ship. In the engine room, engineers and others maintain all mechanical and electrical aspects of ship. In the galley—the kitchen—the chief steward and others care for the crew.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Engine Utilityman/Pumpman Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Electrician Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Chef Captain
  Research Assistant Master Mariner

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COMMERCIAL FISHING CAREERS

Fishing vessel work is some of the most challenging—and dangerous—in the maritime industry.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Fisherman Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Engine Utilityman/Pumpman Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Electrician Captain
  Chef Master Mariner
  Research Assistant  

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CRUISES AND FERRIES CAREERS

In the Puget Sound, passenger ships are common. The Washington State ferry system is the largest in the U.S., and the cruise ship industry is booming here as well.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Hospitality Manager Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Photographer Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Engine Utilityman/Pumpman Captain
Waiter Electrician Master Mariner
Bartender Chef  
Housekeeper Research Assistant  
Entertainer    
Transportation Attendent    
Dining Room Attendent    

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OFFSHORE OPERATIONS CAREERS

Offshore work includes any work done at sea on platforms—most notably, drilling for oil. This type of work is unique in that the platform is run just like a land-based factory, except that ships are used alongside of it for certain tasks such as laying cables and pipes and bringing in needed supplies.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Engine Utilityman/Pumpman Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Electrician Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Chef Captain
Pipe Fitter and Steamfitter Research Assistant Master Mariner
Pipe layer   Commercial Diver

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GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS CAREERS

Due to the dangers of the sea, government operations are at work there continuously. They include the U.S. Navy, port police, rescue services, and the U.S. Coast Guard, which enforces maritime law and assists in emergencies.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Customs Officer Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Port Police Officer Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Rescue Service Captain
U.S. Navy Soldier Coast Guard Officer Master Mariner
U.S. Coast Guard Soldier Engine Utilityman/Pumpman  
  Electrician  
  Chef  
  Research Assistant  

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SCIENCE AND RESEARCH CAREERS

The sea is good for more than just shipping. Scientific organizations like NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association) work there, too, studying weather and other ecological patterns, including the effects of fishing and other human activity. Spill clean-up ships help prevent waste product accumulation as well.

This list is not comprehensive.

entry level positions Mid-level positions high-level positions
Ordinary Seaman Able Bodied Seaman Second Mate
Deckhand Junior Engineer Second Engineer
Utilityman Third Mate Chief Mate
Wiper Third Engineer Chief Engineer
Ship Fitter Research Assistant Chief Steward
Steward Assistant Natural Sciences Manager Chief Cook
Assistant Cook Engine Utilityman/Pumpman Captain
  Electrician Master Mariner
  Chef Marine Biologist
  Research Assistant Ecologist
    Meteorologist
    Environmental Engineer

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