How to Become a Deckhand

Written by

George D. Baker


August 14, 2014


Ships and other large water vessels require a variety of workers for effective operation. Deckhands are trained workers that perform a variety of operations to make sure vessels are running properly.

What does a deckhand do?

Deckhands are responsible for the effective operation of vessels, deck equipment, and non-engineering areas. They stand watch and look out for obstructions and other vessels along the pathway of their vessel. They also assist in the steering of the ship, measuring the depth of the water, and operating and maintaining a variety of deck equipment including anchors, lifeboats, and cargo-handling equipment. Deckhands are often responsible for performing tasks to ensure the safety and security of the ship. They also perform routine maintenance tasks such as painting and cleaning decks, repairing lines, and repairing rusty areas.

What kind of training does a deckhand need?

Deckhands must have at least a high school diploma, but most employers prefer applicants with formal training. Many aspiring deckhands complete training through labor union or industry schools. Union training programs typically include classroom training that lasts for 12 weeks and 3 months of practical experience on a vessel. It may also include training in a specific area such as engine, deck, or steward. Most employers provide new deckhands with on the job training that includes firefighting and first aid instruction. On the job training can last up to 3 months. Deckhands that work on U.S. ships that weight over 100 tons must obtain the Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD) or Z-Card that is issued by the United States Coast Guard. Deckhands complete additional training and continuing education as needed throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a deckhand?

Employment of deckhands is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 12% through 2018 (1). The growth of the shipping industry and increase in tourism will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for deckhands with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace deckhands that retire, transfer, or leave the occupation for other reasons.

How much do deckhands make?

As of 2012, deckhands with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $27,978 and $41,542. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $29,593 and $60,000 (2).

A career as a deckhand is a great choice for people with a strong interest in carrying out a variety of tasks to handle the everyday operation of vessels. Deckhands must have a solid understanding of the operation of a variety of vessels. Physical stamina, detail orientation, manual dexterity, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Deckhands must have good communication and the ability to work as part of a team. They must be able to handle being away from home for long periods of time and effectively deal with hazardous conditions.

Becoming a Deckhand Requires Skills & Training, Start Today

Are you serious about becoming a Deckhand? Then you need to get the required skills and training to do it! To start your new career, first you must decide what school you want to enroll in, so you need to gather info about potential schools. Use the College Mouse Degree Search tool to find the right course and college for you, and get started towards your new dream job today! After you sign up for your course, make sure you fill out and submit the FAFSA so you can take advantage of any financial aid currently available to you!

Written by:  George D. Baker

George D. Baker is a long-time contributor to College Mouse. Now retired, Mr. Baker volunteers at adult education programs in his local community.

Leave Comment

Share Your Comments & Feedback:

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.