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How Much Money Does a Cruise Ship Captain Make?

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Cruise ship captains are the commanders of cruise ships, which involves the overall operation, crew management and the safety of the ship. Effective captains have strong physical health and problem-solving skills. They must communicate effectively and be able to adapt to conditions that change constantly. They need a thorough knowledge of maritime regulations and laws, and to be able to make quick decisions in case of emergencies.


Cruise ship captains are licensed mariners who have supreme responsibility for the vessel they command. Captains communicate with other vessels, oversee the expulsion of ship pollution and ensure that cargo is stowed on board with accordance to regulations. Cruise ship captains use navigational aids to determine the ship's location and speed, and they pilot the ship with the utmost safety. Captains supervise the ship's general upkeep and engines, and they adhere to procedures for refugees, terrorist threats, stowaways, hijackers and pirates. Cruise ship captains also socialize with the guests on board and try to ensure their comfort.


Cruise ship captains begin with a high school diploma, though many have associates, bachelor's or master's degrees in marine engineering, marine science or a similar field. Their postsecondary education often occurs at a merchant marine academy, which may include coursework in mathematics, naval science and sea training. Cruise ship captains may also do most of their training by logging at least 1,000 hours as a deckhand before passing certain certifications. These credentials may include licenses such as the Consolidate Merchant Mariner Credential, which can be earned through the Coast Guard. Once qualified to be an officer, prospective captains work their way up with further experience on ships.


Out of 10 major U.S. cities, the highest average salaried city for a cruise ship captain is Houston, Texas at $72,237 and the lowest is Charlotte, North Carolina at $31,892, according to a report compiled by Salary Expert. The median salary for these 10 cities -- which also includes Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Indianapolis, Indiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona; and Dallas, Texas -- was $48,927 as of January 14, 2011. This is below the average annual salary of all captains, mates and pilots of water vessels, which was $61,960 as of May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The outlook for ship captains, mates and pilots of water vessels is favorable as the profession is expected to grow 17 percent during the projected decade of 2008 to 2018. This is above the average growth of all jobs during the projected decade. Job growth is expected as a result of new U.S. flagged cruise ships that will travel to the Hawaiian Islands along with growing interest in ships around major metropolitan areas. Additional job opportunities will come as a result of replacing retired officers and because of the high turnover in the industry.