Top-Paying Ocean Jobs - Salary & Growth Outlook of Water Careers (2022)

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Top-Paying Ocean Jobs - Salary & Growth Outlook of Water Careers (1)

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Jaques Cousteau, French Naval Officer

There is an inexplicable draw to the ocean for many people. For ocean-lovers, the waves, sand, salt, and breeze have a magnetism. While spending time at the seashore can be enough to satiate many ocean-lovers, some need to be around it all the time—and that makes sense because being by the ocean is scientifically proven to be good for you.

A study published by the Journal of Coastal Zone Management found that people who live in homes with ocean views report being calmer than those who don’t. Other research has shown that the constant sounds of crashing waves calm the nervous system, helping people to relax or even fall asleep. The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal further found that staring at the color blue, such as the ocean, can produce a mood boost.

Choosing a career outside of an office can seem daunting or even scary for many reasons. Working outdoors isn’t typically associated with high wages, and often relocation or travel can be required. However, people who find joy and peace in the ocean don’t have to give up the idea of having a lucrative career just to spend time with the sea. There are numerous careers available that offer both high wages and the ability to spend extended time with the ocean.

Some of the best jobs for ocean-lovers also have a balance of time in an office with extensive periods outdoors. Those wanting to be outside all the time will also find several careers that have them on the water almost every day.

Compiled below are some of the top-paying careers for ocean lovers. Data were compared from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and top job websites such as Monster.com and Glassdoor.com to determine which jobs offer the highest wages and the opportunity to spend time with the ocean. It should be noted that the statistics for both the number of people employed in the careers and the average wages are based on all professionals in the field, not just those in marine-specific ones.

Continue reading to discover the most lucrative careers for ocean lovers for 2022.

Become a Marine Environment Economist

Economists study how people distribute resources to produce goods and services. Marine environment economists apply economic principles to the ocean. They examine the sea, evaluate its resources, develop forecasts, and evaluate the relationship between the ocean and the economy. The end goal of their work is to create a more sustainable environment, both ecologically and financially, regarding the ocean’s resources.

Salary

Marine Environment Economist (Economists) – 15,640 employed in the U.S., $58.09/hour, $120,830/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $62,460
  • 25th percentile: $79,760
  • 50th percentile (median): $105,630
  • 75th percentile: $151,110
  • 90th percentile: $193,690
Top-paying industries

Legal services; monetary authorities-central bank; securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities; nondepository credit intermediation; and business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations

Top-paying states

New York, District of Columbia, California, New Hampshire, and Illinois

Career outlook

13 percent increase in positions nationally between 2020 and 2030 (2,400 jobs added)

Requirements

Most jobs required a master’s or doctorate, although some entry-level work can be available to those with a bachelor’s

Become an Aquatic Veterinarian

Aquatic veterinarians have received additional training to care for animals that live in the water. These can include whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, and all kinds of fish. They are employed by zoos, marine parks, and aquariums. They can also often be called to remote ocean locations to participate in the care of wild marine animals or to conduct research.

Aquatic veterinarians’ day-to-day work involves performing physical evaluations on animals, administering necessary medications, treating wounds, taking x-rays, and supervising veterinary technicians.

Salary

Aquatic Veterinarian (Veterinarians) – 77,260 employed in the U.S., $52.84/hour, $109,920/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $60,760
  • 25th percentile: $78,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $100,370
  • 75th percentile: $128,410
  • 90th percentile: $165,600
Top-paying industries

General medical and surgical hospitals; scientific research and development services; spectator sports; professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers; and support activities for animal production

Top-paying states

District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey

Career outlook

17 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (14,500 jobs added)

Requirements

Doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM)

Become an Ocean (Marine) Engineer

Ocean engineers, also called marine engineers, participate in the research and development of engineering in marine environments. They can engage with work in numerous fields, including shipbuilding, oil rigs, marine instrumentation, and other equipment. A marine engineer has designed most of the equipment used in the ocean or other water bodies. A subset of ocean engineers work specifically with coastlines and address the specific needs of buildings and equipment next to the ocean.

Salary

Ocean Engineer (Marine Engineers and Naval Architects) – 7,380 employed in the U.S., $47.03/hour, $97,820/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $56,550
  • 25th percentile: $76,600
  • 50th percentile (median): $93,370
  • 75th percentile: $118,610
  • 90th percentile: $151,880
Top-paying industries

Management of companies and enterprises; computer systems design and related services; scientific research and development services; federal executive branch; state government, excluding schools and hospitals

Top-paying states

District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts

Career outlook

4 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (400 jobs added)

Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is required, although a master’s is highly recommended; typical majors include ocean engineering, general engineering, civil engineering, and physics

Become an Oceanographer

Oceanographers study the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. Many oceanographers work as marine educators and take the information they have gleaned from their research and use it to teach others about the ocean. Other oceanographers work strictly in research analyzing everything from ocean currents to ecosystems to waves.

While you can enter this field with just a bachelor’s degree, most oceanographers have completed advanced studies. Strong interpersonal skills, an inquisitive nature, and an ability to analyze large amounts of data are necessary to succeed in this field.

Salary

Oceanographer (Geoscientist) – 23,620 employed in the U.S., $49.78/hour, $103,550/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $48,880
  • 25th percentile: $62,540
  • 50th percentile (median): $83,680
  • 75th percentile: $128,920
  • 90th percentile: $172,490
Top-paying industries

Management of companies and enterprises; oil and gas extraction; pipeline transportation of natural gas; computer systems design and related services; and federal executive branch

Top-paying states

Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Massachusetts, and California

Career outlook

7 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (2,000 jobs added)

Requirements

At least a bachelor’s degree, although many employers require a master’s; typical majors include biological oceanography, marine biology, physics, and chemistry

Become a Hydrologist

Hydrologists study how water moves across the surface of the earth. While the work can entail time inland evaluating lakes and rivers, many hydrologists dedicate their research to the ocean. The research’s focus can include evaporation, how water influences the surrounding environment, and water quality and quantity.

Much of the work entails installing and monitoring sensors and subsequently evaluating the data gathered. Once conclusions are reached, the information is published in journals to inform policymaking and best practices worldwide.

Salary

Hydrologist – 6,390 employed in the U.S., $45.57/hour, $94,780/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $51,120
  • 25th percentile: $64,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $84,030
  • 75th percentile: $106,440
  • 90th percentile: $135,170
Top-paying industries

Management of companies and enterprises; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; architectural, engineering, and related services; federal executive branch; and local government, excluding schools and hospitals

Top-paying states

New Jersey, California, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Nevada

Career outlook

6 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (400 jobs added)

Requirements

Bachelor’s degree required; master’s recommended

Become a Ship Captain

Ship captains are not only responsible for moving a boat from point to point, but they also must ensure passenger and cargo safety and adhere to maritime laws. They are the most senior member on any given vessel and strive to maintain a smooth-running ship.

Becoming a ship captain takes years of experience and often involves working up the hierarchy on a specific ship. Many professionals work for years on the deck of a ship, progressing eventually to the first mate, before earning the privilege of being a captain. Wages for ship captains can vary widely, and top earners in this field can make more than $150,000 per year.

Salary

Ship Captain (Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels) – 33,490 employed in the U.S., $47.27/hour, $98,330/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $37,240
  • 25th percentile: $59,400
  • 50th percentile (median): $81,640
  • 75th percentile: $122,520
  • 90th percentile: $159,690
Top-paying industries

Gambling industries; management of companies and enterprises; inland water transportation; merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods (4241, 4247, and 4249 only); and support activities for water transportation

Top-paying states

Louisiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Texas, and California

Career outlook

13 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (4,000 jobs added)

Requirements

High school education and Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), and sometimes a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Become a Marine Environmental Scientist

Protecting the marine environment by using science is the work of marine environmental scientists. Professionals in this field participate in cleaning from oil spills, managing the trash in the ocean, and writing policies to reduce waste dumping in marine environments. They can be employed by government agencies or work for nonprofits or nongovernment organizations that strive to keep the ocean clean for generations to come.

Salary

Marine Environmental Scientist (Environmental Scientists and Specialists) – 76,890 employed in the U.S., $39.06/hour, $81,240/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile:$46,200
  • 25th percentile: $58,200
  • 50th percentile (median): $76,530
  • 75th percentile: $99,090
  • 90th percentile: $129,070
Top-paying industries

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing; natural gas distribution; management of companies and enterprises; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; and oil and gas extraction

Top-paying states

District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois

Career outlook

8 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (7,300 jobs added)

Requirements

Most work requires a master’s or doctorate, although some entry-level work can be performed with a bachelor’s

Become a Marine Archeologist

Marine archeologists investigate the secrets lying on the seafloor. Not only do they need to have excellent training in archeology, but they also have specialized training in diving or submersibles to reach the underwater archeological sites.

Sites explored can include shipwrecks, underwater seismic activity sites, or seaside structures that have been submerged. Materials that have been preserved underwater must be handled differently from artifacts found on land, so specialized training in maintaining samples is necessary.

Salary

Marine Archeologist (Anthropologists and Archeologists) – 6,650 employed in the U.S., $32.12/hour, $66,800/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $37,870
  • 25th percentile: $48,420
  • 50th percentile (median): $61,910
  • 75th percentile: $78,930
  • 90th percentile: $99,830
Top-paying industries

Federal executive branch; architectural, engineering, and related services; state government, excluding schools and hospitals; local government, excluding schools and hospitals; and management, scientific, and technical consulting services

Top-paying states

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, and Washington

Career outlook

7 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (600 jobs added)

Requirements

Master’s degree or doctorate in archeology with research in marine archeology

Become a Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study the life forms found in the water. Most marine biologists are engaged in research and data gathering. Common areas of research include marine diseases, human impact on marine environments, marine animal behavior, and evolution.

Much of the data is gathered in the field, be it the ocean, seashore, or freshwater sources, such as lakes and rivers. The data gathered and subsequent research published help inform public policy, additional research, and even business best practices.

Salary

Marine Biologist (Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists) – 15,930 employed in the U.S., $33.80/hour, $70,300/annually on average (BLS May 2021)

  • 10th percentile:$42,420
  • 25th percentile: $50,520
  • 50th percentile (median): $64,650
  • 75th percentile: $81,690
  • 90th percentile: $103,900
Top-paying industries

Federal executive branch; architectural, engineering, and related services; local government, excluding schools and hospitals; grantmaking and giving services; and scientific research and development services

Top-paying states

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alaska, Washington, and Maryland

Career outlook

5 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (1,000 jobs added)

Requirements

At least a bachelor’s degree in marine biology; master’s degree preferred

Become a Commercial Diver

Commercial divers use scuba gear to go underwater to perform various tasks such as welding, repairs, equipment installation, rigging explosives, and taking underwater photos.

Professionals in this field have to not only be excellent divers, but they have to be masters at the tasks they are hired to perform. They also must be certified to scuba dive, hold any certifications necessary to perform the task they must complete, and have a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Although median wages for this job aren’t very high, this career made the list because of the high earning potential for top performers.

Salary

Commercial Diver – 2,670 employed in the U.S., $39.43/hour, $82,010/annually on average (BLS 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $37,130
  • 25th percentile: $47,120
  • 50th percentile (median): $60,360
  • 75th percentile: $115,330
  • 90th percentile: $160,110
Top-paying industries

Other heavy and civil engineering construction; other support services; architectural, engineering, and related services; building equipment contractors; and support activities for water transportation

Top-paying states

California, Washington, New Jersey, Alaska, and New Hampshire

Career outlook

17 percent increase between 2020 and 2030 (700 jobs added)

Requirements

High school diploma, diver certification, and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Top-Paying Ocean Jobs - Salary & Growth Outlook of Water Careers (2)

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.

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