The Average Salary of a Deckhand

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Although most people outside the naval industry are familiar with a few of the more glamorous positions aboard a ship, such as captains and engineers, it’s the deckhands who usually perform most of the duties for which a ship is employed. Serving as a catch-all job category for general labor as used on ships, deckhands’ duties and responsibilities vary by the purpose of the ship. Deckhands employed by fishing vessels must unfurl and stow nets and other fishing equipment, while those on ships used primarily for transport are concerned with maintaining general operations of the ship.

Average Salary

Depending upon his duties, a deckhand’s duties may vary significantly. The average deckhand salary as of December 2010 is $40,000, according to Those working as deckhands may have wide salary ranges, with PayScale reporting average salaries in the range of $23,363 and $42,467. Deckhands working on a fishing ship are frequently paid a portion of the earnings for the harvest on which they worked, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, so their earnings may vary greatly based upon the success of each run.

Average Wages

Many deckhands’ earnings hinge upon how many hours they put into the job, as they’re frequently paid on an hourly basis instead of by salary or commission. These hourly earnings also vary widely upon the duties a deckhand performs and who his employer is. Deckhands paid an hourly wage to work on a fishing boat may expect to earn a wage between $11.86 and $15.00 an hour as of December 2010, according to PayScale. Deckhands employed on transportation vessels earned an average hourly wage of $11.70 per hour as of May 2008, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.


As general laborers, some deckhand positions usually don’t provide benefits. Only a quarter of deckhands on fishing boats received medical or dental benefits as of December 2010, according to PayScale. Deckhands in general fared more favorably, with 73 percent earning medical plans and 60 percent receiving dental coverage as part of their compensation packages. Many of these deckhands work on casino boats.

Job Outlook

As a whole, deckhand employment looks to remain stable, although sectors with projected growth balance out those that are expected to contract. The Occupational Outlook Handbook projects a 15 percent increase in water transportation workers from 2008 to 2018, although an 8 percent decline is projected in the same period for the number employed in the fishing industry.