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Cruise Ship Captain

Cruise Ship Captain

Becoming a cruise ship captain is both very difficult and prestigious. As a cruise ship captain, you will have more responsibilities than any other mariner. Some of the responsibilities include the safety and well-being of the passengers, the leadership over the mates, captains, and crew, general overview of maintenance  and most importantly, the captain pilots the ships avoiding all hazards. Captains are also responsible for keeping up documentation and certifications to avoid fines or breaking various laws.

With all of these responsibilities of safety, control, and management of so many people, cruise ship captains become the highest paid master mariners on the open sea at a staggering $150,000 a year. When compared to the average salary of airline pilots, $122,000, you can see that a cruise-liner captain is a very prestigious and well sought out job.

So how can you become the highest paid captain of the sea? A lot of hard work and time! First off, lets lay out some requirements. To become a cruise ship captain, you must either complete a postsecondary education at a merchant marine academy or document 1,000 hours as a deckhand as stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also need to have years of experience on ships in general, more specifically, they need to have skills in navigation, weather conditions, leadership, crew management, and over all, communication.

Due to the incredible competition of becoming a captain, here are some ways you can stand out and have a better shot at making the big bucks.

  • First and foremost get a spectacular education! Attending one of the 6 merchant marine academies in the United States will be the fastest way to get into the captains chair. To streamline the process even further, attain a master’s degree in maritime engineering or similar. You will need to do extremely well because only the top 5% to 10% of a graduating class will get hired as a captain, but it is possible!
  • Get as much experience as you can. Experience and connections go a very long way in maritime careers. Even though the required amount of experience is 1,000 hours, you should shoot for beyond that. A great way to get your foot in the door is to become an intern on a vessel and learn as much as you possibly can in all aspects of maintaining and operating a ship. This can be done during schooling which should make a great combination of degrees and experience to shoot you to the top.
  • Apply for a higher ranking job such as 3rd mate or an officer. Many captains get to the top by climbing the ladder, just like every other corporate jobs. By getting a higher ranking job, you start meeting a ton of other mates and officers that can provide recommendations or even jobs for you in the future.


Work hard, get an education, earn a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), pass all the required exams (physical and academic), and enjoy smooth sailing from there!

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