According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a merchant seaman as of 2012, when the last study was conducted, is $48,980 annually or $23.55 per hour. Salaries vary greatly, however, based on position, type of boat and years of experience.
Ship engineers are on the high end of the pay scale, with a median wage in excess of $70,000, while the median wage for motorboat operators was less than $40,000. The median income for captains, mates and pilots is just over $66,000. The highest paid seamen over all are those who work in areas that provide support for water transportation and on deep sea vessels. Those who work in tourism earn the least.