Career advice: be a harbor pilot

In 2016, I wrote “Earn $400 per hour in a government-regulated job” about today’s harbor pilots, whose jobs are protected by the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s about 20X the U.S. median wage.

How stable is this premium?

From The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon:

All of these changes [From World War I] put a greater burden on Wyatt to ensure the harbor’s safety. His exposure was compounded by the lack of enough local licensed harbor pilots who could guide the ships through the tricky Narrows. Given the eightfold increase of cargo during the war, the need to increase the number of harbor pilots was obvious. But by 1917 the harbor still had only fourteen pilots on duty, partly because the pilots liked it that way. The pilots’ coveted civil-servant posts were the products of local patronage, not merit or military rank. They could earn as much as $1,000 a month, extraordinary money when soldiers like Ernest Barss were earning $33 a month to risk their lives overseas. When the RCN proposed greatly expanding the number of licensed harbor pilots, the current pilots forcefully rejected the plan because they were none too eager to see their windfall diluted.

So it was a 20-30X job 100 years ago too!


2 thoughts on “Career advice: be a harbor pilot

  1. When I was younger I knew a harbor pilot. My understanding was that his first son had a pretty good shot at becoming one, but his second not so much. I’m sure there’s a carve-out for diversity now, but a cis white male probably shouldn’t bother with maritime school unless they wanted to do something else.

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