How to Become a Deckhand

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.


This How to Become a Deckhand review has been thoroughly researched with information and testimonials that are available to anyone in the public. Any conclusions drawn by myself are opinions.

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% from 2008 to 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 March 2010, 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.

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