Physician Positions on Cruise Ships

Ship physician is such an important position on the ship that the ship would never sail without him. The ship’s physician is the chief medical officer on the vessel. On small ships, there may be only one physician (doctor), but on most larger ships, there are two or more qualified physicians. On larger ships, one doctor is assigned to passengers, meaning he will handle all health care needs for guests on the ship. The other physician will oversee the health care needs of the crew. Both doctors share in the responsibility of running the ships hospital and nursing staff.

Both physicians on cruise ships are scheduled for regular office hours and they are on call for all emergencies. While there is no charge for crewmembers to see the ship’s doctor, passengers are charged according to a fee schedule. The schedule is typically posted in the hospitals for patients’ convenience.

Physicians on cruise ships must have the same education and skills as physicians working in hospitals on land with one major difference. Physicians on cruise ships must have two-three years in subordinate positions on ships. Cruise ship physicians must have also have a current license, extensive experience with internal and emergency medicine, cardiac and primary care, and trauma. A medical degree or doctorate from an accredited medical school is required and the physician must be fluent English. A second language such as French, Spanish, or Italian is desirable, especially on cruise ships that travel around the world.

At present, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) has accredited 129 medical schools. The LCME is the national accrediting body for M.D. medical education programs. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) accredits schools that award a D.O. degree. Most medical students enter the medical degree program with an advanced degree, although entering medical school with a bachelor’s degree is not uncommon.

Physicians on cruise ships receive several special perks. They do not have to share accommodations like most other crew and staff members. Accommodations are free as well. Physicians on cruise ships also receive free health care (of course), free meals, free air travel to and from the ship, and discounts on all services aboard the ship. Physicians on cruise ships also receive a handsome salary. Depending on the cruise line, cruise ship doctors earn anywhere from $57,000-$76,800+ per year or $4,800-6,400 U.S. per month.

If you have all of the qualifications needed to become a physician on cruise ships, you can begin the process of securing a position by signing up with a placement agency, by using Cruise Ship Jobs’ service or you can search for positions on your own. For information about signing up with a placement agency, a click here. To use Cruise Ship Jobs’ service online, click here. Once you are at the Cruise Ship Jobs website, you can download the 2010 cruise ship employment guide; you can read through cruise line profiles; you can find out which ships are hiring and for what positions — and you can even apply for a cruise ship job right online. Please note that this website charges a fee. You can apply for a job on your own, free of charge, by locating the official website for the cruise line you are interested in at This cruise line directory lists official websites for cruise ships around the world.

Once you have located the official website for the cruise line you are interested in, visit the website and click the career center tab, employment tab, or jobs tab. If the cruise line lists physician positions, simply follow the application procedure. If the cruise line does not have any listings for physicians on its website, send a polished cover letter and resume to the cruise lines Human Resources Department. The Human Resources Department is typically located at the cruise lines headquarters. This information is usually listed on the cruise line website. It is important to include the position you are interested in so that it can be directed to the appropriate department manager. Good luck!

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