Pilot all types of watercrafts, making sure they reach their destination safely. If you enjoy spending your time on the open water, and you can't stand the idea of working in a traditional office, you might want to look into becoming a watercraft pilot. While one of the oldest jobs in human history, modern watercraft pilots operate advanced technology on a daily basis and must be familiar with many scientific fields to supervise operations of ships and water vessels, such as tugboats, ferryboats, and tall mast ships as well. They're also required to hold license issued by U.S. Coast Guard. 

Make a Difference

A Typical Day

  • Direct courses and speeds of ships, based on specialized knowledge of local winds, weather, water depths, tides, currents, and hazards.
  • Prevent ships under navigational control from engaging in unsafe operations.
  • Serve as a vessel's docking master upon arrival at a port or at a berth.
  • Consult maps, charts, weather reports, or navigation equipment to determine and direct ship movements.
  • Steer and operate vessels, using radios, depth finders, radars, lights, buoys, or lighthouses.

Recommended Credentials

Associates Degree, or Specialized Training

Education & Training

Regional employers often hire graduates of these programs.


Northwest Lower Michigan


Bachelor of Science in Marine Technology — Northwestern Michigan College

Deck Officer Program  Great Lakes Maritime Academy

Elsewhere in Michigan


Looking for opportunities in different watersheds?

1 Week Captain's License Class in Detroit, MI | GLC Training

Explore This Career

Try it before you buy it!

Try TACS youth sailing to see if you enjoy being out on the water!

The Local Advantage Learning Pathway

Pathway 1

Look into leadership classes at your high school.

Pathway 2

Training, Education & Service -

Pathway 3

Bachelor of Science in Maritime Technology — Northwestern Michigan College 

Complete the Captain's Exam for additional certification:


Sample Employers in Our Region

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Contact one of these companies and ask for an informational interview, to see if you can job shadow, or to find out if they hire interns.


Sample Job Titles...

  • Captain
  • Deck Officer
  • Mate

Hear It From The Pros

10-Year Job Growth Projections

10-County Region

Employed Regionally

In 2021 (10-County Region)

Wage Range & Median 10-County Region


Annual Hires Regionally

In 2021

Other Regional Career Resources

Learn more about Ship Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels at O*NET Online.