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A merchant seaman is a member of the United States Merchant Marine, a fleet of merchant ships owned by civilians. These ships transport cargo in and out of U.S. waters, and typically have a size of at least 1,000 tons. The income of a merchant seaman depends on a variety of factors, such as the seaman's rank and experience.
The earnings for entry-level merchant seamen are generally higher than those of other workers with similar education. They typically receive daily wages in addition to food and housing while on the ship. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, captains and engineers on merchant ships earn about the same income. Sailors and oilers average slightly more than half the income of captains and engineers.
Captains, Mates and Pilots of Water Vessels
Captains, mates and pilots of water vessels had annual salaries averaging $70,500 per year in 2010. The lowest 10 percent of these merchant seamen had annual salaries averaging $30,690 per year, and the bottom fourth had annual salaries averaging $42,690 per year. The middle half of these merchant seamen earned an average of $64,180 per year. The top quarter had annual salaries of $91,750 per year and the average salary of the top 10 percent was $117,310 per year.
The average annual salary of engineers in the merchant marine was $70,920 per year in 2010. The bottom 10 percent of these merchant seamen made an average salary of $38,170 per year, and the bottom fourth made $48,160 per year on average. The middle half of ship engineers earned salaries averaging $65,880 per year. The upper fourth of engineers in the merchant marine had an average of $87,570 per year, and the top 10 percent had salaries averaging $112,720 per year.
Sailors and Marine Oilers
The average annual salary of sailors and marine oilers in 2010 was $38,030. The bottom 10 percent of these merchant seamen had an average annual salary of $22,320, and the bottom fourth had an average annual salary of $28,100. The middle half of sailors and marine oilers earned salaries averaging $36,260. The upper fourth of sailors and marine oilers earned an average of $46,070 per year, and the top 10 percent earned an average annual salary of $56,540 per year.
James Marshall began writing professionally in 2006. He specializes in health articles for content providers such as eHow. Marshall has a Bachelor of Science in biology and mathematics, with minors in chemistry and computer science, from Stephen F. Austin University.