Deck Officers, Water Transport

Occupation:Deck Officers, Water Transport
Category:Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology

About the job

Nature of work:

Deck officers, water transport, operate and command ships or self-propelled vessels to transport passengers and cargo on oceans and coastal and inland waters, and supervise and coordinate the activities of deck crews. This group also includes Canadian Coast Guard deck officers. They are employed by marine transportation companies and federal government departments.

Job duties:
Deck officers perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Command and operate ships or other self-propelled vessels, such as barges or oil rigs, to transport passengers and cargo.
  • Command and operate coast guard vessels to provide ice-breaking and search and rescue services, and to maintain control over ships operating in Canadian waters.
  • Board vessels at berth or from pilot boats to advise ships' captains on the course to steer for safe passage into and out of ports, seaways or other waterways under pilotage authority.
  • Plan and execute safe navigational passage using navigational aids.
  • Determine geographical position using navigational instruments, maps and charts.
  • Guide vessels in rivers, canals, and other confined or hazardous waters and waterways.
  • Maintain vessels' navigational instruments and equipment.
  • Direct and oversee the loading and unloading of cargo.
  • Supervise and coordinate the activities of deck crews.
  • Record vessel progress, crew activities, weather, and sea conditions in the ship's log.
Sample job titles:
  • captain - water transport
  • deck officer - water transport
  • ferryboat operator
  • master - water transport
  • master mariner
  • mate - water transport
  • navigation officer - water transport
  • ship first mate
  • ship pilot
  • tugmaster

To work in these jobs, you should enjoy being at sea. A sense of responsibility and strong leadership qualities are needed. You must be in good health and meet eyesight and colour vision requirements. Problem-solving and decision-making skills are also important. A mechanical aptitude may also be helpful.

Job requirements:
  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • Completion of deck officer cadet program from an approved nautical institute or one to three years of experience as a member of a deck crew is required.
  • A deck officer certificate of competency, issued by Transport Canada, is required.
  • For ship pilots, a ship pilot licence and a master certificate of competency are required.
Other considerations:

Transport Canada administers a deck officer certification program, consisting of several levels. Progression from one level of certification to the next requires additional experience, training and testing. Mobility between employers is possible for positions requiring the same level of certification. Progression to management positions in transportation is possible with experience.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Good

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “good”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is better than average when compared to other occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a moderate sized occupation in Nova Scotia so some job opportunities may occur through turnover. The number employed in this occupation is expected to remain largely the same over the next few years. With a small percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are not expected to be a major contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Deck Officers, Water Transport most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically permanent positions. With employment conditions being somewhat seasonal, periods of downtime or layoff throughout the year affect some workers.

The median employment income for 48% of Deck Officers, Water Transport who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $85,125. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Deck Officers, Water Transport525stable60Moderate
Minimum: $19.60
Median: $34.34
Maximum: $57.69
Minimum: $20,281
Median: $80,949
Maximum: $179,235
Occupations in Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology25,875Strong growth3,095Low
Minimum: $17.69
Median: $31.35
Maximum: $47.18
Minimum: $13,568
Median: $60,422
Maximum: $107,009
Deck Officers, Water TransportCompared to: Occupations in Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology
Percent employed full-time97%94%
Percent self-employed0%7%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentDeck Officers, Water TransportCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton19%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley5%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeDeck Officers, Water TransportCompared to: All Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4843
GenderDeck Officers, Water TransportCompared to: Occupations in Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology
% Employed% Employed
EducationDeck Officers, Water TransportCompared to: All Engineering, Math, Science, and Information Technology
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolN/Ax0.7%$28,107
High school15.1%$64,04412.1%$35,125
Trades certificate18.3%x6.8%$54,923
College certificate or diploma42.9%$92,71633.7%$52,476
University certificate or diploma6.3%x3.7%$52,446
Bachelor's degree11.9%x29.7%$58,011
University advanced certificate or diploma3.2%x2.0%$54,917
Master's degreeN/Ax9.7%$37,706
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryN/Ax0.1%$57,566
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Masters and Mates
Not Provincially Regulated:This job may be regulated by a federal regulatory body.
Regulating body:
Transport Canada - Marine Safety Services
45 Alderney Drive
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4K2
(855) 859-3123
(902) 426-6657
Useful contacts:
Canadian Coast Guard College
1190 Westmount Road
Sydney, NS B1R 2J6
Tel: (888) 582-9090
Fax: (902) 567-3233

Training Paths & Education

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Additional resources:

Work Occupation Video(s)