With water covering about 3/4 of the planet, it is logical that there are positions available for seamen. A seaman is any individual who makes his living primarily on the water. The three main categories of seamen include merchant marine -- which includes water transportation -- naval personnel, and the fishing industry. Pay varies slightly between categories, but the ranges for each category are comparable.
Merchant marines are those in the water transportation industry. These workers include those who work on tugboats, ferries, cruise ships, towboats, barges and similar vessels. On each of these vessels there may be varying levels of authority and skill-specific jobs. For instance, a cruise ship may have both electrical maintenance workers and cooks. There thus is a wide pay range in the industry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics separates those in water transportation occupations into four major categories, each of which has different salary averages. Sailors and marine oilers make the least at $37,310 per year, according to 2009 data. Next are motorboat operators, who earn $38,390 a year. Ship engineers earn $69,420, while captains, mates and pilots average $70,740 a year.
Fishers gather water wildlife such as tuna, salmon, crab and lobster from lakes, rivers and oceans for food. These workers make an average salary of $26,600 per year, or $12.79 an hour, according to 2009 data from the bureau. The lowest 10th percentile has an average salary of $16,690, while top earners in the 90th percentile make $41,150 per year. Earnings for this industry rose 2.5 percent between 2008 and 2009.
Naval personnel may be either enlisted sailors or officers. Enlisted sailors do not need a bachelor's degree the way officers do, and officers tend to take on more managerial responsibilities.
As with any branch of the military, those in the Navy have to earn their wage increases. Enlisted sailors start out around $1,447 a month as of 2011, says the U.S. Navy. By the time they have four years of experience, they earn between $2,061 to $2,414. Officers start out between $2,745 and $3,454. Four years of experience yields an officer $5,788 to $6,776 a month. The rate of increase depends on how quickly a sailor or officer goes through the ranks -- pay increases with each rank completed. These figures do not include other compensation, such as housing or health care benefits, which can total thousands of dollars.
The earnings of fishers are dependent in part on the haul they collect. If they have a good catch, earnings are higher. The economy can influence the pay of merchant marines. If the economy is low, people cannot afford to take as many trips, for example, or businesses don't send as many goods by sea. Subsequently, merchant marines may get fewer hours. Although pay may increase for naval sailors and officers more quickly in wartime due to the fact performance may yield opportunities for promotion, operation in wartime presents considerable risk to naval personnel, and raises aren't guaranteed despite the increased risk.