Top Careers for Ocean-Lovers By Salary & Career Outlook in 2020

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

Jaques Cousteau, French Naval Officer

There is an inexplicable draw to the ocean for many people. For ocean-lovers, the waves, sand, salt, and breeze have a magnetism. While spending time at the seashore can be enough to satiate many ocean-lovers, some need to be around it all the time—and that makes sense because being by the ocean is scientifically proven to be good for you.

A study published by the Journal of Coastal Zone Management found that people who live in homes with ocean views report being calmer than those who don’t. Other research has shown that the constant sounds of crashing waves calm the nervous system, helping people to relax or even fall asleep. The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s journal further found that staring at the color blue, such as the ocean, can produce a mood boost.

Choosing a career outside of an office can seem daunting or even scary for many reasons. Working outdoors isn’t typically associated with high wages, and often relocation or travel can be required. However, people who find joy and peace in the ocean don’t have to give up the idea of having a lucrative career just to spend time with the sea. There are numerous careers available that offer both high wages and the ability to spend extended time with the ocean.

Some of the best jobs for ocean-lovers also have a balance of time in an office with extensive periods outdoors. Those wanting to be outside all the time will also find several careers that have them on the water almost every day.

Compiled below are some of the top-paying careers for ocean-lovers. Data was compared from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and top job websites such as Monster.com and Glassdoor.com to determine which jobs offer the highest wages and the opportunity to spend time with the ocean. It should be noted that the statistics for both the number of people employed in the careers and the average wages are based on all professionals in the field, not just those in marine-specific ones.

Continue reading to discover the most lucrative careers for ocean lovers are for 2020.

Become a Marine Environment Economist

Economists study how people distribute resources to produce goods and services. Marine environment economists apply economic principles to the ocean. They examine the sea, evaluate the resources available in it, develop forecasts, and evaluate the relationship between the ocean and the economy. The end goal of their work is to create a more sustainable environment, both ecologically and financially, when it comes to the ocean’s resources.

Marine Environment Economist (Economists) – 19,000 employed in the U.S., $50.49/hour, $105,020/annually on average (BLS May 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $59,450
  • 25th percentile: $78,800
  • 50th percentile (median): $105,020
  • 75th percentile: $143,620
  • 90th percentile: $185,020

Top-paying industries: Legal services; securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities; monetary authorities-central bank; other professional, scientific, and technical services; and other information services
Top-paying states: New York, District of Columbia, Virginia, California, and Maryland
Career outlook: 8 percent increase in positions nationally between 2018 and 2028 (1,700 jobs added)
Requirements: Most jobs required a master’s or doctorate, although some entry-level work can be available to those with a bachelor’s

Become an Aquatic Veterinarian

Aquatic veterinarians have received additional training to care for animals that live in the water. These can include whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, and all kinds of fish. They are employed by zoos, marine parks, and aquariums. They can also often be called to remote ocean locations to participate in the care of wild marine animals or to conduct research.

Aquatic veterinarians’ day-to-day work involves performing physical evaluations on animals, administering necessary medications, treating wounds, taking x-rays, and supervising veterinary technicians.

Aquatic Veterinarian (Veterinarians) – 74,540 employed in the U.S., $45.90/hour, $95,460/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $58,080
  • 25th percentile: $75,580
  • 50th percentile (median): $95,460
  • 75th percentile: $122,590
  • 90th percentile: $160,780

Top-paying industries: Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; scientific research and development services; spectator sports; and general medical and surgical hospitals
Top-paying states: Texas, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, and New York
Career outlook: 18 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (600 jobs added)
Requirements: Doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM)

Become an Ocean (Marine) Engineer

Ocean engineers, also called marine engineers, participate in research and development of engineering in marine environments. They can engage with work in numerous fields, including shipbuilding, oil rigs, marine instrumentation, and other equipment. A marine engineer has designed most of the equipment used in the ocean or other water bodies. There is a subset of ocean engineers who work specifically with coastlines and address the specific needs of buildings and equipment next to the ocean.

Ocean Engineer (Marine Engineers and Naval Architects) – 11,360 employed in the U.S., $44.42/hour, $92,400/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $65,440
  • 25th percentile: $75,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $92,400
  • 75th percentile: $116,770
  • 90th percentile: $147,710

Top-paying industries: Ship and boat building, inland water transportation, and deep sea, coastal, and Great Lakes water transportation
Top-paying states: Washington D.C., Alaska, California, Texas, Maryland
Career outlook: 9 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (1,000 jobs added)
Requirements: A bachelor’s degree is required, although a master’s is highly recommended. Typical majors include ocean engineering, general engineering, civil engineering, and physics.

Become an Oceanographer

Oceanographers study the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. Many oceanographers work as marine educators and take the information they have gleaned from their research and use it to teach others about the ocean. Other oceanographers work strictly in research analyzing everything from ocean currents to ecosystems to waves.

While you can enter this field with just a bachelor’s degree, most oceanographers have completed advanced studies. Strong interpersonal skills, an inquisitive nature, and an ability to analyze large amounts of data are necessary to succeed in this field.

Oceanographer (Geoscientist) – 29,260 employed in the U.S., $43.81/hour, $91,130/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $49,430
  • 25th percentile: $64,390
  • 50th percentile (median): $91,130
  • 75th percentile: $128,580
  • 90th percentile: $187,990

Top-paying industries: Management of companies and enterprises; oil and gas extraction; computer systems design and related services; scientific research and development services; and employment services
Top-paying states: Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, Hawaii
Career outlook: 6 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (1,800 jobs added)
Requirements: At least a bachelor’s degree, although many employers require a master’s. Typical majors include biological oceanography, marine biology, physics, and chemistry.

Become a Hydrologist

Hydrologists study how water moves across the surface of the earth. While the work can entail time inland evaluating lakes and rivers, many hydrologists dedicate their research to the ocean. The research’s focus can include evaporation, how water influences the surrounding environment, and water quality and quantity. Much of the work entails installing and monitoring sensors and subsequently evaluating the data gathered. Once conclusions are reached, the information is published in journals to inform policymaking and best practices worldwide.

Hydrologist – 29,260 employed in the U.S. 6,440, $39.07/hour, $81,270/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $51,220
  • 25th percentile: $63,650
  • 50th percentile (median): $81,270
  • 75th percentile: $104,280
  • 90th percentile: $127,400

Top-paying industries: Management of companies and enterprises; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; architectural, engineering, and related services; federal executive branch; and local government, excluding schools and hospitals
Top-paying states: New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, California, and Colorado
Career outlook: 7 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (400 jobs added)
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s recommended.

Become a Ship Captain

Ship captains are not only responsible for moving a boat from point to point, but they also must ensure passenger and cargo safety and adhere to maritime laws. They are the most senior member on any given vessel and strive to maintain a smooth-running ship.

Becoming a ship captain takes years of experience and often involves working up the hierarchy on a specific ship. Many professionals work for years on the deck of a ship, progressing eventually to the first mate, before earning the privilege of being a captain. Wages for ship captains can vary widely, and top earners in this field can make more than $150,000 per year.

Ship Captain (Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels) – 33,370 employed in the U.S., $34.78/hour, $72,340/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $37,270
  • 25th percentile: $50,020
  • 50th percentile (median): $72,340
  • 75th percentile: $105,330
  • 90th percentile: $153,700

Top-paying industries: Highway, street, and bridge construction; support activities for water transportation; rental and leasing services; seafood product preparation and packaging; and state government, excluding schools and hospitals
Top-paying states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Washington, New York, and Iowa
Career outlook: -2 percent decrease between 2018 and 2028 (1,500 jobs lost)
Requirements: High school education and Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). Sometimes a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Become a Marine Environmental Scientist

Protecting the marine environment by using science is the work of marine environmental scientists. Professionals in this field participate in clean up from oil spills, managing the trash in the ocean, and writing policies to reduce waste dumping in marine environments. They can be employed by government agencies or work for nonprofits or nongovernment organizations who strive to keep the ocean clean for generations to come.

Marine Environmental Scientist (Environmental Scientists and Specialists) – 84,290 employed in the U.S., $34.31/hour, $71,360/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile:$42,810
  • 25th percentile: $54,100
  • 50th percentile (median): $71,360
  • 75th percentile: $95,140
  • 90th percentile: $124,760

Top-paying industries: Natural gas distribution; merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods; federal executive branch; oil and gas extraction; and wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers
Top-paying states: District of Columbia, California, Washington, Virginia, and Colorado
Career outlook: 8 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (1,700 jobs added)
Requirements: Most work requires a master’s or doctorate, although some entry-level work can be performed with a bachelor’s.

Become a Marine Archeologist

Marine archeologists investigate the secrets lying on the seafloor. Not only do they need to have excellent training in archeology, but they also have specialized training in diving or submersibles to reach the underwater archeological sites. Sites explored can include shipwrecks, underwater seismic activity sites, or seaside structures that have been submerged. Materials that have been preserved underwater must be handled differently from artifacts found on land, so specialized training in maintaining samples is necessary.

Marine Archeologist (Anthropologists and Archeologists) – 6,720 employed in the U.S., $30.61/hour,$63,670/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $39,460
  • 25th percentile: $49,760
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,670
  • 75th percentile: $81,480
  • 90th percentile: $97,950

Top-paying industries: Management, scientific, and technical consulting services; scientific research and development services; federal executive branch; architectural, engineering, and related services; and colleges, universities, and professional schools
Top-paying states: Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington, Hawaii, and Nebraska
Career outlook: 10 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (600 jobs added)
Requirements: Master’s degree or doctorate in archeology with research in marine archeology

Become a Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study the lifeforms found in the water. Most marine biologists are engaged in research and data gathering. Common areas of research include marine diseases, human impact on marine environments, marine animal behavior, and evolution. Much of the data is gathered in the field, be it the ocean, seashore, and freshwater sources, such as lakes and rivers. The data gathered and subsequent research published helps inform public policy, additional research, and even business best practices.

Marine Biologist (Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists) – 19,250 employed in the U.S., $30.42/hour, $63,270/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile:$38,880
  • 25th percentile: $49,860
  • 50th percentile (median): $63,270
  • 75th percentile: $79,000
  • 90th percentile: $101,780

Top-paying industries: State government; federal executive branch; colleges and universities; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; and local government.
Top-paying states: Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Maryland, Alaska, Connecticut
Career outlook: 5 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (900 jobs added)
Requirements: At least a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, master’s degree preferred

Become a Commercial Diver

Commercial divers use scuba gear to go underwater to perform various tasks such as welding, repairs, equipment installation, rigging explosives, and taking underwater photos. Professionals in this field have to not only be excellent divers, but they have to be masters at the tasks they are hired to perform. They also must be certified to scuba dive, hold any certifications necessary to perform the task they must complete, and have a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Although median wages for this job aren’t very high, this career made the list because of the high earning potential for top performers.

Commercial Diver – 3,420 employed in the U.S., $24.03/hour, $49,980/annually on average (BLS 2019)

  • 10th percentile: $32,470
  • 25th percentile: $40,490
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,980
  • 75th percentile: $69,020
  • 90th percentile: $119,830

Top-paying industries: Other support services; other heavy and civil engineering construction; support activities for water transportation, management, scientific, and technical consulting services; and nonresidential building construction
Top-paying states: Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, Louisiana, and Virginia
Career outlook: 7 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 (300 jobs added)
Requirements: High school diploma, diver certification, and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson
Writer

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.

Artisan 2.0: A Guide to Craft Careers

Making. DIYing. Handcrafting. The rise of makers and crafters may seem like a departure from the traditional nine-to-five career with benefits, but as the Economist points out, the notion of the “company man” (or woman) is really just a post-war construct: self-sufficient artisans are the labor market’s historical norm

Green Thumb: How to Grow Plants for Your Home or Business

Local plant expert and owner of Fox Hollow Creek Nursery in Eugene, Oregon, Michael Kaszycki recommends that novice gardeners looking to beautify their properties, decorate their homes, or grow their own veggies, think carefully about what they want to do before planting.

Guide to Awesome Careers Out in Nature

It’s rarely about the money. Ask someone with a job that keeps them outdoors why they’re there, and very few put “earning a steady, sizeable paycheck” at the top of their priority list.

How the Youth is Taking on the U.S. Government to Combat Climate Change

The landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit, Juliana v. the United States, was filed in 2015 by 21 youth plaintiffs from around the U.S. The case against the federal government targets national fossil fuel programs, claiming that ignoring the harmful impact of fossil fuels on climate change is a violation of the constitutional rights of children and a failure to protect public trust resources.

How to Track Animals: An Interview with an Expert

Animal tracking not only provides an in-depth knowledge of animal behavior and movement, but it also allows a broader understanding of how societal development could hamper or benefit animal populations. And while animal tracking has changed drastically due to advances in modern technology, the human element remains of critical importance.