Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels

risk level
Based on 161 votes
by year 2032
or $42.66 per hour
as of 2023

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Automation risk

34% (Low Risk)

Low Risk (21-40%): Jobs in this level have a limited risk of automation, as they demand a mix of technical and human-centric skills.

More information on what this score is, and how it is calculated is available here.

Some quite important qualities of the job are difficult to automate:

  • Manual Dexterity

  • Finger Dexterity

  • Social Perceptiveness

  • Assisting and Caring for Others

  • Persuasion

  • Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions

User poll

39% chance of full automation within the next two decades

Our visitors have voted there's a low chance this occupation will be automated. This assessment is further supported by the calculated automation risk level, which estimates 34% chance of automation.

What do you think the risk of automation is?

What is the likelihood that Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels will be replaced by robots or artificial intelligence within the next 20 years?


The following graph(s) are included wherever there is a substantial amount of votes to render meaningful data. These visual representations display user poll results over time, providing a significant indication of sentiment trends.

Sentiment over time (yearly)


Slow growth relative to other professions.

The number of 'Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels' job openings is expected to rise 1.2% by 2032

Total employment, and estimated job openings

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period between 2021 and 2031
Updated projections are due 09-2023.


High paid relative to other professions

In 2023, the median annual wage for 'Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels' was $88,730, or $42 per hour

'Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels' were paid 84.6% higher than the national median wage, which stood at $48,060

Wages over time

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Lower range of job opportunities compared to other professions

As of 2023 there were 34,520 people employed as 'Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels' within the United States.

This represents around < 0.001% of the employed workforce across the country

Put another way, around 1 in 4 thousand people are employed as 'Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels'.

Job description

Command or supervise operations of ships and water vessels, such as tugboats and ferryboats. Required to hold license issued by U.S. Coast Guard.

SOC Code: 53-5021.00


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Jayl (Moderate) says
There are some limitations to AI in regrds to replacing human that I'm not going to list here, but I could definitely see reducing number of crew responsible for navigation from a captain, 3 mates and 3 helmsmen, to a captain, a mate and a helmsmen. AI would be in charge during long sea phases while captain or mate would take control in emergencies and during transits through congested waters, narrow waterways and during berthing or unberthing.
Mar 30, 2024 at 01:43 PM
. (Uncertain) says
There are times when weather conditions can change as quick as our eye blinks in my opinion robots may be able to do this but huminitic experience and skills are unbeatable.
Mar 12, 2024 at 03:46 AM
Amit kumar (No chance) says
Oceans are too vast and entire world uses them in their own possible way, the risk of loss of an unmanned vessel with their costly cargoes are too huge to leave them on robots... so this job is safe for at least a 100 year period...
Jul 17, 2023 at 12:16 PM
Slava says
It is possible to automate the industry by "tomorrow". Worldwide. Every vessel. There are technologies out there.

Why it is not happening? Mostly because of money but also the complexity of the problem.

Simple example: Average salary of a Safety Officer is 3000 USD. He is carrying out inspections and maintenance of firefighting equipment and other stuff. To automate only this process company will probably need to spend tens of thousands. Why would they if one can use this money now to scale one's business?

Besides navigation ship's crew has a lot of other critical roles. It will take a lot of scientific effort to set up new safe processes. Most marine companies don't have the necessary resources and infrastructure for that. I won't say a word about the lack of initiative and natural resistance of the industry to everything "new".
Mar 21, 2023 at 09:05 PM
frank (Moderate) says
I believe computers can complete tasks much more efficiently than humans, saving a lot of money for companies. This includes costs such as food and amenities. Additionally, humans take up a lot of space on ships.

However, I also believe that there will always be some humans watching over ships at all times, whether on shore or elsewhere.
Jul 22, 2022 at 01:17 AM
Old Sailor says
For all you who have sailed, I can't believe AI will do what is needed when there is that not often but inevitable "Oh Sh*t" moment.
May 16, 2021 at 09:26 PM
Jesse F. Malone (Moderate) says
If we already have unmanned aircraft and are working on unmanned vessels, (tankers, freighters, car carriers, passenger ships) then who is to say the AI wont take over maritime jobs? Soon we will probably have remote control vessels or completely auto piloted vessels and no need for a bridge crew or engine room crew!
Dec 06, 2019 at 04:41 PM
Jason (No chance) says
more jobs being created from new vessels and old crew retiring than people graduating out into the industry
Oct 11, 2019 at 01:45 AM
me (No chance) says
they cant deal with water
Sep 11, 2019 at 05:12 PM
Another me says
Then people will make them waterproof
Jan 14, 2020 at 04:26 PM
Angus Mansbridge (Moderate) says
In a number of maritime sectors the hands on element of ship handling has already been given over to Dynamic Positioning Systems. That these systems require constant local supervision is only a question of communication and reliability. We already see automatic mining trucks, container cranes and transporters and more recently harbor tugs supervised from remote locations. Because of the financial advantage to the ship owner in not having to accommodate and pay people to operate a vessel, it is only a matter of time before we see ships are operating in the same way.
May 16, 2019 at 09:57 PM

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