Pilots, Ship

General Information


Command ships to steer them into and out of harbors, estuaries, straits, or sounds, or on rivers, lakes, or bays. Must be licensed by U.S. Coast Guard with limitations indicating class and tonnage of vessels for which license is valid and route and waters that may be piloted.

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Business Breakdown

People in this career work in these sectors.

  1. Private, for profit61.48%
  2. Federal government23.24%
  3. Self-employed10.46%
  4. State and local government3.41%
  5. Private, not for profit1.31%

Workplace at a Glance

What you can expect to experience while on the job

  • Responsibility
  • Exposure to job hazards
  • Physical activity
  • Decision making
  • Repetitiveness
  • Level of competition
  • Time pressure

Industry areas

  • Deep Sea, Coastal, and Great Lakes Water Transportation
  • Inland Water Transportation
  • Support Activities for Water Transportation

Job Outlook

Overall employment of water transportation workers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Domestic waterways employment is expected to grow due to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Marine Highways initiatives to develop and expand freight and passenger water transportation. Increased U.S. oil and natural gas production also is expected to create jobs, especially on the vessels that support offshore oil platforms. Fluctuations in the demand for bulk commodities, such as petroleum products, iron ore, and grains, is a key factor influencing waterborne employment. When demand for these commodities is high, the need for water transportation workers goes up; when demand slows, so does the need for workers. The use of larger vessels that can carry more cargo may also limit employment growth. Nevertheless, these workers will continue to be needed as federal laws and subsidies ensure that there always will be a fleet of merchant ships with U.S. flags. Keeping a fleet of merchant ships is considered important for the nation’s defense. Riverboat cruises have gained in popularity, and this trend may lead to more opportunities for workers on inland rivers such as the Mississippi or Ohio River. However, most oceangoing cruise ships go to international destinations, and these ships generally do not employ U.S. workers. Demand for motorboat operators will be driven by growth in tourism and recreational activities, where they are primarily employed.

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Average Salary



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State-by-state Salary

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Most Common Education Levels

People in this career achieve this level of education.

  • High school 43%
  • Associate's degree 16%
  • Post-secondary certificate 15%
  • Bachelor's degree 14%
  • Master's degree 4%
  • First professional degree 4%
  • Less than high school 1%
  • Some college 0%
  • Doctoral degree 0%
  • Post baccalaureate 0%
  • Post-doctoral training 0%
  • Post-master's certificate 0%

Related College Majors

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  • Transportation
  • Geography
  • Education and Training
  • Law and Government
  • Public Safety and Security

Skills at a Glance

Skills helpful in this career

  • Verbal skills
  • Critical thinking & problem solving
  • Equipment operation & maintenance
  • Math & science skills
  • Technology design & control
  • Leadership
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