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Ship captains

Ship captains are in overall command of the operation of ships and all departments and individuals aboard ships that transport passengers, freight, and other cargo across oceans, bays, lakes, and coastal waters. Ship captains direct the work of the other officers and the crew. They set the course and speed and maneuver the vessel to avoid reefs, outlying shoals, other ships, and other hazards. Ship captains periodically determine the geographical position of the ship using charts, navigational aids, and celestial observations. They calculate landfall (sighting of land). Ship captains give orders or signal crew members who steer the vessel, operate engines, signal to other ships, perform maintenance and handle lines, or operate towing or dredging gear. Ship captains use a pilot when guiding the ship through hazardous waters, when entering or leaving an unfamiliar port, or when passing through locks.

Entry Requirements

Entry, training, and educational requirements for most water transportation jobs are established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. All officers and operators of commercially operated vessels must be licensed by the Coast Guard. To qualify for deck or engineering officer’s license applicants must accumulate sea time (5-8 years) and meet regulatory requirements, or must graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or one of the six state maritime academies, and pass a written exam. The academies offer a bachelor’s degree and a license as a third mate. With experience and more training, third officers may qualify for a higher rank and eventually become a ship captain.

Average salary is $71,000 a year.

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Aircraft Pilots

Aircraft pilots are highly trained professionals who fly airplanes and helicopters to carry out a wide variety of tasks. Although most pilots transport passengers, cargo, and mail, others dust crops, spread seed for reforestation, test aircraft, direct firefighting efforts, track criminals, monitor traffic, rescue and evacuate injured persons, and take aerial photographs. Helicopter pilots are involved in firefighting, police work, rescue, construction, and various other operations.

Entry Requirements

All aircraft pilots who are paid to transport passengers or cargo must have a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating issued by the FAA. Applicants must have 250 hours of flight experience. Airline pilots must have an airline transport pilot’s license. Applicants must have 1500 hours of flying experience, including night and instrument flying, and must pass FAA written and flight examinations. Most pilots have a college degree. The armed forces is an important source of trained pilots for civilian jobs. Those without armed forces training may become pilots through flight schools. The FAA has certified about 600 civilian flying schools.

Average salary is $99,500 a year.

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