Ship Pilot

Apply your local expertise to help a ship's Captain navigate to port.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$31,000 – $117,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Ship Pilots do?

Have you ever been on board a cruise ship or other large vessel, meandering around the deck as it approached port? If so, you probably saw a small boat approach and a person jump aboard. The person who just arrived is the Ship Pilot, and he or she is an expert in the waters you are about to travel through.

Ship navigation has plenty of challenges, but when entering a harbor or port, those challenges multiply. A Ship Pilot’s job is to advise the Captain about speed and direction. It’s like being a fishing guide. Ship Pilots know the area, have a visual map of the underwater dangers, and obsessively scour weather and current charts to find out about news that could affect the safe arrival of the ship.

Docking a large ship requires a precise command of the controls, but also an understanding of what is below the vessel. You know how the sandbar shifted during last night’s storm, and how the recent rainfalls affected the water level. You advise the Captain about the currents, water depth, and tides. While doing this, you maintain contact with those on land so that the tugboats, docking crews, and other maritime helpers are ready for your arrival.

When the ship departs, you might also assist the Captain in navigating back out of port. This job requires constant attention to weather and tides. You read charts, evaluate reports, and study currents. To safely deliver people and cargo to and from port, you use good judgment, quick decision making skills, and critical thinking.

Should I be a Ship Pilot?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.

  • Also known as: Barge Pilot, Bar Pilot, Pilot, Ship, State Pilot, Steamboat Pilot

    How to become a Ship Pilot

    Most Ship Pilots have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate or Bachelor's degree to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9raiaa&chl=no+college+%2854%25%29|certificate+%2838%25%29||bachelor%27s+%287%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,54,54
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