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The Average Salary of a Ship Captain

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Captains oversee all functions aboard a seafaring vessel, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor. They make sure the boat is in working order, the navigation is on-course and the crew are following proper safety procedures. They also handle communication with the captains of other ships and ensure the ship avoids obstacles in the water. A captain's annual salary depends on the type of ship he handles, the size of his crew and how many years he's been in the industry.

Average Pay

As of December 2010, ship captains earn an average of between $60,000 to $130,000 a year, according to PayScale. Captains who have supplied wage information to PayScale report earning bonuses as high as $10,000 a year, and profit sharing can add as much as $5,000 a year on top of that.


As with most professions, experience plays a factor in how much money a captain can command. As of 2010, a captain with one to four years of experience can earn as much as $105,000 a year. A captain with 10 to 19 years of experience can command as much as $148,000 and a captain with 20 years or more in his industry can earn as much as $150,000 a year.

Work Environment

The duration of a captain's duties depends on the type of vessel he commands. Supply vessels, for instance, can be at sea for a few hours or for weeks, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Extended trips at sea can last for weeks or months. Tug boats work constantly. Conditions are sometimes harsh and dangerous, causing a high turn-over rate among the crew members.

Job Outlook

Job opportunities are expected to increase from 2008 to 2018, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor. The rise in offshore drilling sites and the increase in international trade will be responsible for the additional jobs. Cruise ships will also be a source of potential employment. Deep-sea expeditions are expected to maintain their current rate of employment.


Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."