Boat captains mingle with passengers on cruises to enhance the customer experience and conduct inspections during the loading of cargo ships. They also supervise crew workers, including first mates, pilots and ship engineers, monitor the boat's position with navigational charts and ensure the safety of all passengers, crew and cargo. Their salaries vary by experience, geographical location and the size of their employers.
Salary Above $75,000
The average annual salary for a boat captain was $75,580 as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top earners made more than $122,590 per year, while those in the bottom 10 percent averaged $33,550 or less. Most boat captains attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kingsport, New York, where they are required to earn a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation, operations and technology, or engineering. They must also pass exams to earn both the Transportation Worker Identification and Merchant Marine Credentials.
Coastal States Pay More
Boat captains earned the highest salaries of $127,230 in Georgia, according to 2013 BLS data. On a regional basis, salaries were higher in the South overall, the BLS reported, as employers in four states -- Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee -- paid boat captains $73,760 to $127,230 -- the top salary range among the four compensation tiers. Employers in five Midwest states -- Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri -- paid boat captains the lowest salaries of $40,560 to $56,090.
Economy Dictates Job Market
Jobs for boat captains are highly contingent on the economy, according to the BLS, as employment typically increases when corporations produce and ship more products. People also have more disposable income during economic good times, which they can use on cruises. The BLS expects the economy to improve from 2012 to 2022, as they project a “faster-than-average” 14 percent increase in employment for boat captains, mates and pilots of water vessels.