I helped with a project for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and learned that tuition, room, and board is $26,000 per year for four years compared to a starting salary of $120,000 per year (to be on a ship for 6 months per year). A graduate from two years earlier said that he has paid off all of his loans and now is shopping for a house and an airplane. Within five years, the pay can rise to $180,000 per year. After that, the sailor is qualified to be a captain and earn $240,000+/year, but these jobs are scarce and cannot be obtained immediately or by everyone. The true dream job is to be a harbor pilot (see “Earn $400 per hour in a government-regulated job“), but these may require family connections.
How are the gender wars doing at the academy? “About 5 percent of the cadets are women,” said the recent graduate. Why so few when the school offers such a great ROI? “A woman doesn’t need to go out in 80-knot weather to spend a third mate’s pay.” [I think that he was referring to marriage, but under Massachusetts family law, she will be able to spend approximately one third of the paycheck after a brief unmarried encounter.]
The above salaries are for U.S.-flagged cargo ships, which are required to have 75 percent American crew members (all unionized). Foreign-flagged cruise ships pay half as much. There wouldn’t be any U.S.-flagged ships at all if not for government regulations that restrict foreign-flagged vessels from certain kinds of operations and also direct payments from the U.S. military, which wants military cargo to go on U.S.-flagged vessels. Note that U.S.-flagged does not mean U.S.-owned, U.S.-built, or U.S.-managed. My source is working on a container ship that was built in South Korea and is owned and operated by Maersk.