Tugboat Captain

Guide tugboats safely and skillfully to port.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$31,000 – $117,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Tugboat Captains do?

Have you ever seen a large barge floating down the river, overflowing with heaping mounds of garbage or other materials? If you look a little closer, you’d see that a tugboat is pushing, pulling, or steering that huge barge towards its destination. And the person in charge of that size-challenged tugboat is the Tugboat Captain.

As a Tugboat Captain, you make sure that the tugboat and its load are headed in the right direction and arrive without incident. To do that, your eyes constantly scan the Global Positioning System (GPS), which helps keep you on course, and the radar, which gives you a picture of obstacles and other vessels in your area.

The scenery around you changes depending on the job, because you don’t only work on the river. You might also maneuver oil platforms across sections of ocean, or skillfully guide large ships into a narrow port.

Safety is your chief concern so you’re always vigilant against underwater dangers, such as shallow water, tree limbs, or sunken debris. You also keep an eye out for conditions above water, like freezing temperatures, high winds, massive waves, or strong currents that might push you off course.

Being a Tugboat Captain entails a lot of responsibility, but you don’t do it alone. You carefully choose skilled crew members to perform tasks on deck. When you’re not steering the tugboat or supervising the crew, you spend your time maintaining the engine and machinery.

Should I be a Tugboat Captain?

You should have a certificate degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Independent: You enjoy flying solo and doing things your own way.
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.

  • Also known as: Ocean Going Tug Captain, Oil Tanker Captain, Tanker Captain, Towing Vessel Captain, Tugboat Operator, Tug Captain

    How to become a Tugboat Captain

    Most Tugboat Captains have an Associate's degree or a Certificate. Chart?chd=s:k9lhha&chl=no+college+%2824%25%29|certificate+%2841%25%29|associate%27s+%2825%25%29|bachelor%27s+%285%25%29|master%27s+%285%25%29|&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,24,41
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