How can MSC 3rd Engineers Average $190,433 Annual?

According to the MSC Website, 3 A/Es make $190,433 a year On Average (MSC - Third Assistant Engineer). Given there are no references to the standard deviation, percentiles, range, or skewness of this number, it is very difficult to see how true this is.
I made a quick Excel sheet to figure out if making 190 a year is possible, and I simply couldn’t figure out a way it could be done. My pay data was based on the 2023 East Coast Payscale.

As you can see here, assuming that you work 365 days a year, by my math, you can only make about $177k. Given the posted average is $190k that implies that there are many values higher than $190k a year as well.
This leads me to believe there are one of two conclusions: 1. MSC is lying or 2. My math is wrong. I hope MSC isn’t lying to try and increase their recruiting, but I wouldn’t put it past them. That then leaves the option that my math is wrong. I know MSC has lots of weird little bonuses like night diff and other oddities that can drastically increase pay but aren’t listed on the pay scale.
Would any active MSC employees mind confirming or denying how accurate this, and other pay on the website is?

Different types of ships have different payscales. When I was there diesel ships paid 10% more than steamships. Why? Don’t ask me. The UNREP Oilers paid less than the dry cargo UNREP ships.

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Like Seadog said, different ships have different pay scales. The data you’re using is the permanent base pay rate, which is the pay scale while on leave or on the smallest class of ships (Towing and Salvage). Pay is based on horsepower and tonnage. Which is dumb, but that is the union negotiated contract. There are also separate pay rates for watch standers and day workers. a 3 A/E standing watch on an ammo ship has a lower base pay than a 3 A/E working as a dayworker on a tanker.

Overtime is also very easy to come by at MSC and sometimes you dont even do extra work. Night Differential, for example, is overtime while in a US port and on watch from the hours of 1700-0800. So if you’re a 3 A/E on an ammunition ship in San Diego, the 8hr watch you stand from 0001-0800 is all OT plus your base pay.

All that said, 190K is disingenuous. They are fudging the numbers in their favor to improve recruiting. Can you do it, sure. Is it common, it wasn’t when I worked there. I hit 190k as a 2/M working 10 months my last year employed at MSC, 2022. I was also 3 months overdue.


It’s possible, but as mentioned before, it would take the right ship. Even then as a 3AE, you’re looking at having to be out sailing for at least 10 months a year to make 190k/year.

The other reason it’s also probably a bit higher is that almost every MSC ship is currently sailing short at least one (sometimes two) 3AEs at the moment and having to pick up the other vacant 3AEs collaterals and standing additional duties.

Current FY24 manning requirement for 3AE is 300.

They just reported they are at 168 or 132 short. A fill of 56% and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those are sailing temp promote in 2AE positions.

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You are using the shore/pool base bay of $69k (“Perm” tab on the pay scale spreadsheet), but the shipboard base pay is (average between the most common vessel types - the other tabs on the pay scale spreadsheet) $83-86k for Watchstanders and $105-110k for Dayworkers. And the shipboard overtime rate is $61-62/hr for both.

Just using your own spreadsheet math at the actual $63/hr OT rate that’s $119k in overtime. Add that to the actual base and your calculation puts it at $200-230k if you worked every single day of the year with OT on every week day too. So that 190 doesn’t seem to far-fetched, mathematically anyway, for diehard homesteaders with no relief.

For reference, as a new 3A/E in 2006 I made $140k working 10-months/yr on T-AOEs and T-AOs.

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Thank you very much. Do you have access to the full pay scale for 2024? The website for MSC only has the perm pay scale that I linked here. The MSC website has the full 2021 payscale for all ships, but not the 2024 one haha! To get the numbers you have I had to find the percent increase in the wage from 2021 to 2024 at about 7%, then the numbers add up.

East Coast Pay Scale

West Coast Pay Scale

The different tabs refer to vessel name abbreviations, grouped by vessel class. For example the East chart, last tab starts with DI,GRU,KAN are the T-AO tankers. The first tab “Perm” is the non-shipboard permanent base pay.

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