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Become A Deckhand

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Working As A Deckhand

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Deal with People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • $35,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Deckhand Do

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. The vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean and to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

Duties

Water transportation workers typically do the following:

  • Operate and maintain nonmilitary vessels
  • Follow their vessel’s strict chain of command
  • Ensure the safety of all people and cargo on board

These workers, sometimes called merchant mariners, work on a variety of ships.

Some operate large deep-sea container ships to transport manufactured goods and refrigerated cargos around the world.

Others work on bulk carriers that move heavy commodities, such as coal or iron ore, across the oceans and over the Great Lakes.

Still others work on both large and small tankers that carry oil and other liquid products around the country and the world. Others work on supply ships that transport equipment and supplies to offshore oil and gas platforms.

Workers on tugboats help barges and other boats maneuver in small harbors and at sea.

Salvage vessels that offer emergency services also employ merchant mariners.

Cruise ships employ a large number of water transportation workers, and some merchant mariners work on ferries to transport passengers along shorter distances.

A typical deep-sea merchant ship, large coastal ship, or Great Lakes merchant ship employs a captain and a chief engineer, along with three mates, three assistant engineers, and a number of sailors and marine oilers. Smaller vessels that operate in harbors or rivers may have a smaller crew. The specific complement of mariners is dependent on U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

Also, there are other workers on ships, such as cooks, electricians, and mechanics. For more information, see the profiles on cooks, electricians, and general maintenance and repair workers.

Captains, sometimes called masters, have overall command of a vessel. They have the final responsibility for the safety of the crew, cargo, and passengers. Captains typically do the following:

  • Supervise the work of the crew, including other officers
  • Ensure that proper safety procedures are followed
  • Prepare a maintenance and repair budget
  • Oversee the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers
  • Keep logs and other records that track the ship’s movements and activities
  • Interact with passengers on cruise ships

Mates, or deck officers, direct the operation of a vessel while the captain is off duty. Large ships have three officers, called first, second, and third mates. The first mate has the highest authority and takes command of the ship if the captain is incapacitated. Usually, the first mate is in charge of the cargo and/or passengers, the second mate is in charge of navigation, and the third mate is in charge of safety. On smaller vessels, there may be only one mate who handles all of the responsibilities. Deck officers typically do the following:

  • Alternate watches with the captain and other officers
  • Supervise and coordinate the activities of the deck crew
  • Assist with docking the ship
  • Monitor the ship’s position, using charts and other navigational aides
  • Determine the speed and direction of the vessel
  • Inspect the cargo hold during loading, to ensure that the cargo is stowed according to specifications
  • Make announcements to passengers when needed

Pilots guide ships in harbors, on rivers, and on other confined waterways. They are not part of a ship’s crew but go aboard a ship to guide it through a particular waterway that they are familiar with. They work in places where a high degree of familiarity with local tides, currents, and hazards is needed. Some, called harbor pilots, work for ports and help many ships that come into the harbor during the day. When coming into a commercial port, a captain will often have to turn control of the vessel over to a pilot, who can safely guide it into the harbor. Pilots typically do the following:

  • Board an unfamiliar ship from a small boat in the open water, often using a ladder
  • Confer with a ship’s captain about the vessel’s destination and any special requirements it has
  • Establish a positive working relationship with a vessel’s captain and deck officers
  • Receive mooring instructions from shore dispatchers

Sailors, or deckhands, operate and maintain the vessel and deck equipment. They make up the deck crew and keep all parts of a ship, other than areas related to the engine and motor, in good working order. New deckhands are called ordinary seamen and do the least complicated tasks. Experienced deckhands are called able seamen and usually make up most of a crew. Some large ships have a boatswain, who is the chief of the deck crew. Sailors typically do the following:

  • Stand watch, looking for other vessels or obstructions in their ship’s path and for navigational aids, such as buoys and lighthouses
  • Steer the ship and measure water depth in shallow water
  • Do routine maintenance, such as painting the deck and chipping away rust
  • Keep the inside of the ship clean
  • Handle lines when docking or departing
  • Tie barges together when they are being towed
  • Load and unload cargo
  • Help passengers when needed

Ship engineers operate and maintain a vessel’s propulsion system, which includes the engine, boilers, generators, pumps, and other machinery. Large vessels usually carry a chief engineer, who has command of the engine room and its crew, and a first, second, and third assistant engineer. The assistant engineer oversees the engine and related machinery when the chief engineer is off duty. Small ships might have only one engineer. Engineers typically do the following:

  • Maintain the electrical, refrigeration, and ventilation systems of a ship
  • Start the engine and regulate the vessel’s speed, following the captain’s orders
  • Record information in an engineering log
  • Keep an inventory of mechanical parts and supplies
  • Do routine maintenance checks throughout the day
  • Calculate refueling requirements

Marine oilers work in the engine room, helping the engineers keep the propulsion system in working order. They are the engine room equivalent of sailors. New oilers usually are called wipers, or pumpmen, on vessels handling liquid cargo. With experience, a wiper can become a Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED). Marine oilers typically do the following:

  • Lubricate gears, shafts, bearings, and other parts of the engine or motor
  • Read pressure and temperature gauges and record data
  • Help engineers with repairs to machinery
  • Connect hoses, operate pumps, and clean tanks
  • Assist the deck crew with loading or unloading of cargo, if necessary

Motorboat operators run small, motor-driven boats that carry only a few passengers. They provide a variety of services, such as fishing charters, tours, and harbor patrols. Motorboat operators typically do the following:

  • Check and change the oil and other fluids on their boat
  • Pick up passengers and help them board the boat
  • Act as a tour guide, if necessary

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How To Become A Deckhand

Education and training requirements vary by the type of job. There are no educational requirements for entry-level sailors and oilers, but officers and engineers usually must have an endorsement certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard. Most water transportation jobs require the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration and a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC).

Education

Some deck officers, engineers, and pilots have a bachelor’s degree from a merchant marine academy. The academy programs offer a bachelor’s degree and a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC) with an endorsement as a third mate or third assistant engineer. Graduates of these programs also can choose to receive a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Merchant Marine Reserve, or U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Nonofficers, such as sailors or marine oilers, usually do not need a degree.

Training

Ordinary seamen, wipers, and other entry-level mariners get on-the-job training for 6 months to a year. The length of training depends on the size and type of ship and waterway they work on. For example, workers on deep-sea vessels need more complex training than those whose ships travel on a river.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All mariners working on ships with U.S. flags must have a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration. This credential states that a person is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and has passed a security screening. The TWIC must be renewed every 5 years.

Mariners who work on ships traveling on the open ocean require the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STWC) endorsement. Regional U.S. Coast Guard offices provide this training, and it includes topics such as first aid and lifeboat safety. The STWC training must be completed every 5 years. Mariners who work on inland waterways and the Great Lakes are excluded from the STWC endorsement.

Most mariners also must have a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC), which they can apply for at a U.S. Coast Guard regional examination center. Entry-level employees, such as ordinary seamen or wipers, do not have to pass a written exam. However, some have to pass physical, hearing, and vision tests, and all must undergo a drug screening, to get their MMC. They also have to take a class on shipboard safety. The MMC must also be renewed every 5 years. More information on MMCs and endorsements is available from the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center.

Pilots are licensed by the state in which they work. The U.S. Coast Guard licenses pilots on the Great Lakes. The requirements for these licenses vary, depending on where a pilot works.

Advancement

Crewmembers can apply for endorsements to their MMC that allow them to move into more advanced positions.

Wipers can get an endorsement to become a Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) after 6 months of experience by passing a written test.

It takes 3 years of experience and the passing of a written test for an ordinary seaman to become an unlimited able seaman. However, several able seaman endorsements below the level of unlimited are available after 6 months to 1 year of experience, depending on the type of ship the seamen work on.

Able seamen can advance to become third mates after at least 3 years of experience in the deck department. This experience must be on a ship similar to the type they hope to serve on as an officer. They also must take several training courses and pass written and onboard exams to receive the third-mate endorsement on their MMC. The difficulty of these requirements increases with the complexity and size of the vessel. Similarly, QMEDs can receive an endorsement as a third assistant engineer after 3 years of experience in the engine room and upon completion of a number of training and testing requirements. Experience and testing requirements increase with the size and complexity of the ship.

Officers who graduate from a maritime academy receive an MMC with an endorsement of third mate or third assistant engineer, depending on which department they are trained in.

To move up each step of the occupation ladder, from third mate/third assistant engineer, to second mate, to first mate, and then to captain or chief engineer, requires 365 days of experience at the previous level. A second mate or second assistant engineer who wants to move to first mate/first assistant engineer also must complete a 12-week training course and pass an exam.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many pilots have years of experience as a mate on a ship. The ship should be of the type they expect to pilot. For example, if they work at a deep-sea port, they should have experience on an oceangoing vessel.

Similarly, many motorboat operators must have several years of experience working on and driving a boat.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Many motorboat operators interact with passengers and must ensure that the passengers have a pleasant experience.

Hand-eye coordination. Officers and pilots who steer ships have to operate various controls while staying aware of their surroundings.

Hearing ability. Mariners must pass a hearing test to get an MMC.

Manual dexterity. Crewmembers need good balance to maneuver through tight spaces and on wet or uneven surfaces.

Mechanical skills. Members of the engine department keep complex machines working properly.

Physical strength. Sailors on freight ships load and unload cargo. While away at sea, most workers have to do some heavy lifting.

Visual ability. Mariners must pass a vision test to get an MMC.

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Average Length of Employment
Tankerman 4.3 years
Boat Captain 4.2 years
Able Seaman 4.0 years
Able Bodied Seaman 3.7 years
First Mate 3.6 years
Deckhand Oiler 2.8 years
Dredge Deckhand 2.6 years
Boat Deckhand 2.3 years
Deckhand 2.0 years
Top Careers Before Deckhand
Cashier 8.7%
Cook 7.2%
Welder 5.3%
Internship 5.0%
Technician 5.0%
Server 4.6%
Captain 4.4%
Mate 4.4%
Helper 4.2%
Operator 4.0%
Rigger 3.8%
Mechanic 3.8%
Driver 3.6%
Top Careers After Deckhand
Captain 10.2%
Mate 7.8%
Driver 6.3%
Operator 5.3%
Technician 5.3%
Cook 5.0%
Welder 4.6%
Cashier 4.5%
Rigger 3.8%
Server 3.8%
Engineer 3.7%
Mechanic 3.6%
Manager 3.6%
Carpenter 3.6%
Helper 3.5%
Internship 3.5%

Do you work as a Deckhand?

Average Yearly Salary
$35,000
Show Salaries
$27,000
Min 10%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$35,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Enterprise Products
Highest Paying City
New York, NY
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.3 years
How much does a Deckhand make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Deckhand in the United States is $36,028 per year or $17 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $27,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $47,000.

Real Deckhand Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Deckhands Captain J. Seafood TX Oct 19, 2015 $38,443
Deckhand Kaly Inc. Bacliff, TX Nov 03, 2015 $38,443
Deckhand Miller Seafood Co, Inc. Port Lavaca, TX Nov 02, 2015 $38,443
Deckhand Misho's Oyster Company San Leon, TX Dec 25, 2015 $38,443
Deckhand Misho's Oyster Company San Leon, TX Oct 03, 2016 $38,443
Deckhands SLS Fisheries Inc. Fulton, TX Oct 03, 2016 $38,443
Deckhand/Headers Po Boy's Dock, LLC TX Jun 01, 2014 $37,023
Deckhand/Headers St. Vincent Andrew Inc. TX Jun 05, 2013 $30,324
Deckhand Kaly Inc. Bacliff, TX Nov 08, 2016 $30,074
Deckhand Miller Seafood Company Inc. Port Lavaca, TX Nov 09, 2016 $30,074
Deckhand Cuevas Trawler's, Inc. TX Apr 15, 2012 $27,987
Deckhand Si Se Puede, Inc. TX Apr 15, 2012 $27,987
Deckhand Castellanos Corp. TX May 15, 2012 $27,987
Deckhands Captain J Seafood Texas City, TX Oct 03, 2016 $22,477
Deckhand Froggie's Bait Dock TX Mar 01, 2011 $22,080
Deckhands Big D's Seafood Inc. LA Feb 01, 2013 $21,684
Deckhand Arnold's Seafood Sales TX Nov 01, 2012 $21,684
Deckhand Larry's Oysters LLC LA Oct 01, 2012 $21,684
Deckhand Garcia Enterprises Inc. DBA Quality Seafood TX May 02, 2012 $18,637
Deckhand Captain J. Seafood TX Oct 01, 2012 $18,637
Deckhand Santos Rodriguez LA Oct 01, 2012 $18,637
Deckhand Fisherman's Harvest Inc. TX Oct 01, 2012 $18,637
Deckhand Mishos Oyster Company TX Oct 01, 2013 $17,343
Deckhand Miller Seafood Co., Inc. TX Nov 01, 2013 $17,343
Deckhand KALY Inc. TX Oct 01, 2013 $17,343
Deckhand Kaly Inc. TX Oct 01, 2014 $17,343
Deckhand Misho's Oyster Company TX Oct 01, 2014 $17,343

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Top Skills for A Deckhand

  1. Vessel Maintenance
  2. Passenger Safety
  3. Deck Crew
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed vessel maintenance and lubricated deck equipment.
  • Secure boat at dock and ensure passenger safety during embarkation and disembarkation.
  • Maintained deck crew along with the mate to make sure all tow requirements were met including barge maintenance and fuel transfers.
  • Provide personalized customer service to passengers on vessel.
  • Perform preventative maintenance in addition to minor maintenance of damaged or defective equipment.

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Top 10 Best States for Deckhands

  1. Alaska
  2. New York
  3. Illinois
  4. New Jersey
  5. Iowa
  6. Louisiana
  7. Florida
  8. Kansas
  9. Connecticut
  10. Rhode Island
  • (1 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)

Deckhand Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 10,856 Deckhand resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Deckhand Resume

View Resume Examples

Deckhand Demographics

Gender

Male

82.2%

Female

9.6%

Unknown

8.3%
Ethnicity

White

63.1%

Black or African American

15.3%

Hispanic or Latino

11.6%

Asian

6.5%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

52.4%

French

8.8%

Russian

5.4%

Portuguese

5.4%

German

5.4%

Carrier

3.4%

Italian

2.0%

Japanese

2.0%

Polish

2.0%

Arabic

2.0%

Romanian

1.4%

Mandarin

1.4%

Bosnian

1.4%

Dari

1.4%

Chinese

1.4%

Dakota

1.4%

Sami

0.7%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Hawaiian

0.7%

Norwegian

0.7%
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Deckhand Education

Schools

Delgado Community College

11.9%

The Academy

11.1%

State University of New York Maritime College

8.9%

University of Alaska Anchorage

6.7%

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

5.0%

Maine Maritime Academy

5.0%

Pearl River Community College

4.8%

University of Rhode Island

4.3%

Hinds Community College

4.1%

Bishop State Community College

3.9%

University of Phoenix

3.7%

The Spa School

3.7%

University of Washington

3.7%

Nicholls State University

3.7%

University of Maine

3.5%

University of Southern Mississippi

3.3%

Houston Community College

3.2%

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

3.2%

Maritime Institute

3.2%

A-Technical College

3.2%
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Majors

Business

19.6%

General Studies

11.8%

Precision Metal Working

7.7%

Criminal Justice

7.3%

Automotive Technology

5.3%

Biology

4.0%

Environmental Science

3.8%

Psychology

3.7%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.5%

Kinesiology

3.5%

Communication

3.4%

Computer Science

3.4%

Electrical Engineering

3.1%

Marine Transportation

3.0%

Education

2.9%

Mechanical Engineering

2.9%

Graphic Design

2.9%

Management

2.7%

Political Science

2.7%

Liberal Arts

2.6%
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Degrees

Other

42.8%

Bachelors

31.4%

Associate

11.8%

Certificate

6.6%

Masters

3.8%

Diploma

2.6%

License

0.6%

Doctorate

0.3%
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