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All About Ship Pilots

Ship Pilot Example Command ships to steer them into and out of harbors, estuaries, straits, or sounds, or on rivers, lakes, or bays. Must be licensed by U.S. Coast Guard with limitations indicating class and tonnage of vessels for which license is valid and route and waters that may be piloted.

Life As a Ship Pilot: What Do They Do?

  • Prevent ships under their navigational control from engaging in unsafe operations.
  • Maintain or repair boats or equipment.
  • Report to appropriate authorities any violations of federal or state pilotage laws.
  • Steer ships into or out of berths or signal tugboat captains to berth or unberth ships.
  • Set ships’ courses that avoid reefs, outlying shoals, or other hazards, using navigational aids, such as lighthouses or buoys.
  • Provide assistance in maritime rescue operations.

Ship Pilot Needed Skills

Below is a list of the skills most Ship Pilots say are important on the job.

Operation and Control: Controlling operations of equipment or systems.

Operation Monitoring: Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Other Ship Pilot Job Titles

  • State Pilot
  • Towboat Pilot
  • Ferry Pilot
  • Canal Driver
  • Area Relief Pilot

What Kind of Ship Pilot Job Opportunities Are There?

There were about 38,800 jobs for Ship Pilot in 2016 (in the United States). New jobs are being produced at a rate of 8.8% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 3,400 new jobs for Ship Pilot by 2026. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 4,400 job openings in this field each year.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Ship Pilots in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Ship Pilot are Nevada, Georgia, and Tennessee. Watch out if you plan on working in Kentucky, Indiana, or Oregon. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Ship Pilot Salary

The salary for Ship Pilots ranges between about $35,410 and $144,690 a year.

Salary Ranges for Ship Pilots

Ship Pilots who work in Texas, Oregon, or Maryland, make the highest salaries.

Below is a list of the median annual salaries for Ship Pilots in different U.S. states.

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $79,750
Alaska $72,570
California $70,840
Delaware $74,790
Florida $78,880
Georgia $73,410
Hawaii $52,830
Illinois $67,020
Iowa $75,600
Kentucky $79,130
Louisiana $93,010
Maine $61,410
Maryland $86,460
Massachusetts $57,700
Michigan $83,040
Minnesota $73,910
New Hampshire $51,490
New Jersey $75,170
New York $95,370
North Carolina $55,710
Ohio $47,810
Oregon $100,150
Pennsylvania $74,780
South Carolina $67,090
Tennessee $54,480
Texas $103,950
Virginia $77,370
Washington $90,890
Wisconsin $48,190

What Tools do Ship Pilots Use?

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Ship Pilots:

  • Log book software
  • Jeppesen Marine Nobeltec Admiral
  • Maptech The CAPN

How do I Become a Ship Pilot?

What kind of Ship Pilot requirements are there?

Ship Pilot Degree Level

How many years of work experience do I need?

Ship Pilot Work Experience

Where do Ship Pilots Work?

Ship Pilot Sectors

Ship Pilots work in the following industries:

Ship Pilot Industries

Other Jobs You May be Interested In

Those thinking about becoming a Ship Pilot might also be interested in the following careers:


Image Credit: via CC0 Public Domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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