Ocean Jobs That Pay Well

Jan 19, 2020

There are a number of varied careers that involve working with the ocean in some way, many of which also offer generous salaries. We will discuss these careers in the article below.

Careers Involving the Ocean That Pay Well

For individuals who are interested in working with the ocean in some capacity while still earning a high salary, there are several options that they may want to consider. We will discuss five different career paths below, all of which were accompanied by a median salary higher than the 2018 median across all careers of $38,640, as established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Marine Engineer/Naval Architect $92,560 9%
Transportation Engineer $66,000 (2020)** 6% (for all civil engineers)
Oceanographer $67,000 (2019)** 6% (for all geoscientists)
Commercial Diver $49,140 7%
Marine Biologist $52,000 (2020)** 5% (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

Information About High-Paying Careers that Involve the Ocean

Marine Engineer/Naval Architect

As a marine engineer or naval architect, you will be responsible for designing various vessels that travel on or in the ocean, like submarines, aircraft carriers, and ships. Marine engineers typically are in charge of planning all of the systems within the ship, like the electricity, steering, and propulsion, while naval architects design the overall structure and form of the vessel. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that marine engineers and naval architects made a median salary of $92,560, significantly higher than the national median of $38,640. To become a marine engineer or naval architect, you will usually need a bachelor's degree in marine engineering or naval architecture.

Transportation Engineer

A transportation engineer is a type of civil engineer who is in charge of designing the plans for large systems of transport, which could include ship ports and harbors if you are interested in working with the ocean. You will be responsible for studying the location of the future port or harbor in order to understand the type of conditions you will face in order to create well-thought out designs, as well as prepare cost estimates and a timeline for the completion of the project. According to PayScale, transportation engineers earned an annual median salary of over $66,000 in 2020. To become a transportation engineer, you will need a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.


Oceanographers fall within the broader category of geoscientists, which are scientists who are interested in studying Earth and all of its processes and composition. Oceanographers specifically focus on the water in the ocean, how it moves and circulates, its composition, and how the ocean affects the ecosystems that are situated close to the ocean, as well as how weather and climate patterns are related to the ocean. Oceanographers made a median salary of $67,000 in 2019 (PayScale). To become an oceanographer, you will usually need a bachelor's degree in geoscience, though many employers may desire applicants who have master's degrees.

Commercial Diver

Commercial divers can work in many different industries, like oil and natural gas, law enforcement, and scientific research. They are in charge of using SCUBA equipment to make long dives underwater in order to perform specific tasks, like repairing the hull of a ship, collecting specimens for research, or cleaning up hazardous materials. Commercial divers made a median salary of $49,140 in 2018 (BLS). The requirements to become a commercial diver may vary depending on the industry but you will definitely need to be a certified diver.

Marine Biologist

As a marine biologist, you work within the larger field of wildlife biology, which is concerned with the study of different types of animals and how they interact with each other and their environment. Marine biologists focus specifically on the ocean and the many types of marine animals that live within the ocean, as well as how human activity affects the ocean. They may spend much of their time conducting research in the field and then writing reports and giving presentations to share their findings. Per PayScale's 2020 report, marine biologists made a median salary of $52,000. Marine biologists need at least a bachelor's degree in a field like zoology or wildlife biology, though those who are involved in research-oriented work usually had a doctorate.

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