Your dream is to sail on the French Riviera and dock on ports from Montpellier to Barcelona. Your even bigger goal is to be the captain of a luxury cruise ship that navigates this route. You’re almost done with school, and at some point, you might require the services of a maritime manning agency to get your career started as a seaman. You understand that you have to start somewhere as you pursue a career at sea and set your target high to become a cruise ship captain is certainly a dream worth pursuing.
An Overview of the Maritime Industry in America
May 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicate that nearly 36,400 are employed as captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels in America. More than 3,000 are employed under the scenic or cruise ship industry. Florida, Texas, Virginia, and New York are some of the top employer states with 1,200 to 6,050. Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina employ about 160 to 370.
The revenue generated by the cruise ship industry is estimated at around $35.5 billion. In 2016, a total of 466,000 passengers of cruise ships were recorded, and this is expected to continue growing over the coming years.
Preparing for a Career as a Captain
You will be responsible for thousands of lives. You will be responsible for making sure that your vessel is well maintained and has passed all regulatory and safety screenings. But before you get to that status, here are a few things to bear in mind as you pursue a plan to become captain:
- Education. You will at least need a bachelor’s degree with a focus on marine science or marine engineering. A master’s degree will allow you to climb the ranks easier, so you need to plan for this early on. These programs are available at some universities, but it’s preferred that you enter maritime schools. US Merchant Marine Academies typically offer the best path or the highest probability of landing a job as a cruise ship captain.
- Gain experience. You need to gain as much knowledge as you can on ships and sailing at sea. Gain some experience working part-time or during summer breaks at shipyards or a small boat.
- Rise in the ranks. You’ll start at the bottom as a deck officer or a third mate, even after completing your degree. Learn as much as you can and rise from the ranks.
- Important skills set. Navigation requires an exact calculation of numbers and distances. Your proficiency in the three branches of math—algebra, geometry, and trigonometry must be very high. You head a crew, and you face customers, so your leadership and customer service skills must also be excellent. You will be faced with difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations at sea. Your ability to analyze and solve problems quickly and soundly must be impeccable.
Apart from seeing the places that you’ve dreamed of seeing, you’ll get the chance to marry couples. But remember that your responsibility is great as you need to manage a high-performing crew and ensure that your ship is safe to sail the open waters.