How Do I Become a Stevedore?

Research what it takes to become a stevedore. Learn about job duties, training requirements and potential salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Stevedore Do?

Stevedores are dock workers who are responsible for the loading and unloading of chemicals and bulk materials on ships. Depending on where they work, they may use specialized equipment to move materials such as coal, sand and grain to and from the ship's holding tank. They may also perform related tasks, like gauging shipping tanks or testing the tanks for leaks.

The table below outlines the general requirements for a career in this field.

Education Required High school diploma (or equivalent)
Key Responsibilities Load and unload ships
Ensure cargo safety
Operate heavy machinery
Training Required On-the-job training typically offered
Licensure States may require a license to operate specific machines
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 4% (for all tank car, truck and ship loaders)*
Average Salary (2015) $41,010 (for all tank car, truck and ship loaders)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Stevedore?

A stevedore is a dock worker who loads and unloads ships. It might be your job to ensure a ship's cargo is loaded safely and according to any special instructions. You might be trained on a variety of equipment used for loading and unloading, such as forklifts, cranes, power winches, grain trimmers or lift trucks.

What Is the Work Environment Like?

This work can be physically demanding. Even if you operate material moving machinery, you could be required to lift and move heavy loads manually. As a dock worker, you'll sometimes work irregular hours because your schedule often depends on when shipments arrive. As a stevedore, you'd likely spend most of your time outdoors on a dock and around water. There could also be safety risks if your job includes moving hazardous material, harmful chemicals or dangerous machinery.

How Do I Get This Job?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can typically secure this position with a high school diploma or GED, though it's possible to find work as a stevedore without a high school diploma if you're at least 18 years old and in good physical condition (www.bls.gov). Most employers provide on-the-job training, though if your job entails moving hazardous materials, you might receive special training. Some common skills you'll need include a good sense of balance, adequate depth perception and manual dexterity.

You might need a license in some states if part of your job includes operating a specific type of crane, such as tower or overhead cranes. In this case, you might need to complete a crane operation apprenticeship or training program to qualify for licensure. You'll usually also need to undergo safety training specific to your work location, the equipment you use and the materials you move.

Some counties, states, cities or ports might require you to complete Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Maritime Training program hours. OSHA training programs instruct you in safety practices and health hazards associated with maritime jobs, like stevedores. Courses are available in 10-hour or 30-hour formats. The 10-hour course is often appropriate if you work as or want to become a stevedore or other entry-level dock workers; the 30-hour class is best if you're interested in a supervisor position.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The BLS reported that tank car, truck, and ship loaders would expect an employment increase of 4% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). You could improve your employment opportunities or salary potential by earning professional certification, such as crane operator certification offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in operating heavy machinery, you could consider getting a job as a crane operator at a construction site, where you would use the machine to lift and move heavy objects and equipment for infrastructure projects, like the construction of buildings or bridges. For this job, you need to have a high school diploma; licensure may also be required. Alternatively, you could consider getting a job on the crew of a ship, such as a deckhand. In this job, your responsibilities might include monitoring motor equipment, cleaning the deck and assisting the ship's passengers. There is no educational requirement for deckhands.

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