Tug boats are a common sight in port cities around the US.

Have you ever wondered how people get a job on a boat? Tug boats, cruise ships, water taxis, yachts – boats are all around us, but who runs them?

What you might not know is that the US maritime industry is one of the strongest job markets in the country. The average wage for a mariner in Washington state is $70,800. The west coast maritime industry shows steady, stable growth, with no sign of slowing down.

Capt. Kate McCue of Celebrity Cruise Lines has helped raise awareness of how cool a maritime job can be.

So how do you get into this adventurous, high-paying job market?

In the past, these jobs were hard to get into. You usually had to know someone, or be able to afford the expensive tuition of a Maritime Academy.

The new program Sea School Northwest is changing that. Training vessel Hawaiian Chieftain (pictured) travels the Pacific Ocean with 4 slots for Sea School trainees. Right now the program is only taking scholarship applicants, but the criteria to qualify is simple.

To join, you must be:

  1. 18 to 35 years old
  2. Make less than double the federal poverty level wage (e.g. $24,280 for a single person, $50,200 for a person with a family of 4)

If you meet this criteria, you can apply to do the training completely free. If that doesn’t describe you, don’t worry! The program is going through a state licensing process to be able to accept the general public starting this winter. The application is fast and easy, and can be downloaded here.

How do you know if this career is right for you? There are many different reasons people work on the water, but here are a few common ones:

  • You like to work outside and do something unusual for a job
  • UnCruise Adventures is a company out of Seattle that operates small passenger vessels all over the Pacific. Their crews get to do things like guide hikes and kayaking trips.

    You want to make a lot of money and be able to be promoted for working hard

  • You don’t like office work or a typical 9 to 5 schedule
  • You don’t mind traveling for work, and find the idea exciting
  • You are ok with working in the dark, rain, wind, or snow
  • You feel like you are a practical person who takes pride in being self-reliant

What should you expect if you sign up for the program?

  • You will live and work on training vessel Hawaiian Chieftain for 8 weeks, you will have a bunk assigned to you, and all meals provided by the ship’s cook
  • Each day you will help run the vessel as part of the crew, learning seamanship as you go
  • The onboard Sea School Officer will help guide through a digital curriculum that will teach you about the maritime industry as a whole, and your job options after the program
  • Not all maritime jobs are at sea. Shipyards are hungry for qualified workers, especially welders. There are also administrative and logistics jobs in ports all over the country.

    During the 8 weeks you’re aboard, you will fill out and submit everything you need to be a licensed mariner through the US Coast Guard

  • When you’re finished, Sea School Northwest will help you choose which companies to apply to, and connect you with working mariners who can give you advice and guide you

Sound good? Scholarships are limited, so apply today! Women, people of color, coastal residents, Washington residents, LGBTQ+ people, and registered tribal members are encouraged to apply.