How To Become an Ship Captain

How To Become an Ship Captain

How To Become an Ship Captain
Mandira Pangeni - oldMon Aug 01 2022

A ship is a big boat that navigates the oceans and other sufficiently deep rivers, carrying cargo or people or supporting more specific missions like fishing, research, or defence. According to size, shape, load capacity, and purpose, ships can be distinguished from boats.

A captain is a person who directs the workers or staff and oversees the guides. A commander of a military unit, a ship, an aeroplane, a spaceship, a port, a fire or police department, an election precinct, etc., is known by the title "captain."

The marine industry is perfect if you enjoy reading sea stories and have always wanted to explore the ocean. To learn more about ship captains, read this article through to the conclusion.

What is a Ship Captain?

Watercraft in lakes, oceans, coastal waters, rivers, or bays are under the authority of a ship captain. They guarantee that ships are operated safely and effectively. A ship captain employs radar, depth finders, radios, buoys, lights, and even lighthouses to navigate their vessel while considering the weather. They determine whether the boat has enough oxygen, hydraulic fluid, or air pressure.

Seafaring is a way of life, not merely a profession. On boats of all sizes, in inland rivers and lakes and even on the open sea, captains, mates, and ship pilots spend their days at sea. The Captain is in control of the overall trip and the ship.

What are the role and responsibilities of a Ship Captain?

  • Take appropriate action after evaluating reported cargo spaces, hatch covers, ballast tank faults and damage.
  • Control the ship's stress, stability, and sail adjustment.
  • Organize the search and rescue efforts.
  • Create plans for damage control and emergencies, then deal with them.
  • Make provisions and procedures for maintaining watch.
  • Forecasts of the oceanographic and weather conditions.
  • Organize and direct the ship's crew.
  • Maintain contact with relevant coastal states by the passage of navigation.
  • Control the transport of risky items.
  • Navigate and control a ship in any situation.
  • Observe and manage adherence to legal requirements and restrictions.
  • Organize and oversee the onboard medical facilities.
  • Create a route and perform navigation.
  • Plan and guarantee secure cargo loading, stowage, care during the voyage, and discharging.
  • In case of a maritime emergency, act.

How to become a ship captain? Qualifications

Select a Career Path

Seaman jobs are typically entry-level positions for supply boat captains on interior waterways or rivers, where they can learn skills. Then, through accumulating knowledge and passing rating tests, they climb the ranks. As an alternative, before even being appointed Captain, commanders of deep-water boats frequently complete formal training at merchant marine academies.

Character and personality

A good captain is a specialist in administration and emanates a sense of confidence. They have a steady nature, feel confident in themselves, and know how to assign tasks. There will be difficult choices to be made, and a seasoned captain knows how to prioritize the requirements of the ship over those of the outside world. 

Setting expectations before leaving is one of the best ways to maintain balance aboard a boat. Before setting sail, all crew members, passengers, family, and friends should know their obligations.

Must know Safety Procedures, & Emergency Protocols

A good captain always follows the rules. This entails instructing your passengers on all crucial processes to follow emergency protocols even if you aren't there (say, should you fall overboard, become injured, or have a medical emergency). 

Even if you are an experienced boater, your passengers whether they are friends, family, or coworkers should be familiar with the basics of boating, including steering, throttle control, and navigation as well as the location and proper use of all safety equipment, including PFDs, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and survival gear. Every boat needs this first companion, but sailors should also be familiar with the fundamentals of emergency procedures.

Obtaining Deck Officer Experience: 

Academy graduates may serve as deck officers or third mates Strategic Sealift Officer Program (formerly the Merchant Marine Reserve), the Coast Guard Reserve, or the Naval Reserve in the US. On the other hand, deckhands who did not complete a marine academy program typically need to accumulate significant work experience before being promoted to deck officers.

Gain Credibility

All sailors must get a Transportation Worker Identification Certificate, according to the Coast Guard (TWIC). The document serves as proof that a mariner has passed a security check and is a citizen or permanent resident of the nation or state. The majority of seafarers must additionally complete the country-specific Coast Guard's Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) program. 

The type and size of the ship the applicant will work on, and the sort of water the boat will go through may affect the MMC requirements. An applicant often has to pass a background check, character references, a training course, an exam, a drug test, a vision test, and a physical.

Other Skills

  • Fair judgment.
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Technical expertise.
  • Talents in swimming.
  • Physical prowess.
  • Strong communication abilities.
  • social viewpoint
  • Negotiating abilities.
  • Management Skills.
  • Influencing abilities.
  • Excellent coordination
  • Listening intently.
  • Decent emotional restraint.

Steps to Becoming a Successful Ship Captain.

Academic Requirements

Captains of ships must hold a bachelor's degree. Marine Engineering, Marine Science, and Marine Biology are required courses for becoming a ship's Captain, while a related Bachelor of Science degree may also be sufficient. Usually, three to four years are needed to finish these courses. When you have completed secondary school or a comparable educational program, search for universities focusing on maritime degrees and credentials.

Acquire higher degrees.

A ship Captain can work without a postgraduate degree, but it helps ease the job search. Additionally, it may help you land a high-end position in research, policy, or university teaching related to Ship Captain.

If you decide to change occupations later in life and become a Ship Captain earning a master's degree can also be helpful. Even if you hold a different degree, you can learn about subjects like environmental tracking, climate change, and marine animals through a relevant master's degree. 

One of the most well-liked master's programs for marine biologists is the Master of Science in Marine Science and Management. PhDs in specific academic fields, including Quantitative Marine Science, may be necessary for employment.

Experience (work and related fields)

Before assuming the position of Captain, most ship captains have years of experience in various leadership positions. They gain a practical understanding of the ship and learn how each crew member contributes to its efficient operation when it sets sail. Obtaining internships or volunteer roles while you are still in high school or university is the most remarkable approach to acquiring experience in the industry.

Training (job or related fields)

A vital part of becoming a ship captain is completing an internship. Getting work experience is essential in this sector, just like in any other technical one. Training programmes are the best approach to gaining practical experience in the profession. 

Finding an internship won't be difficult if you are a student at a prestigious maritime academy because they have connections with the best ships. Being in charge of a ship with significant cargo or passengers aboard is a very tough job.

Must have Requirements

  • Years of experience: 3 to 4
  • Level of Education: Bachelor's
  • Key Skills: Hand-eye coordination, the capacity to operate a ship's mechanical apparatus, the power to use navigational software and facilitate management software, mechanical aptitude, physical stamina, and strong communication abilities.
  • Degree Field: Marine Transportation, Marine Engineering, Maritime Operations and Technology, Logistics and Intermodal Transportation, Marine Engineering Systems, and Shipyard Management.


The Captain is in charge of the entire trip and the ship. They guide crew members, determine course and speed, keep a log of the ship's movements and cargo, oversee the loading and unloading of goods and passengers, and ensure proper protocols are followed. We have a better career as ship captains. 

Employment areas

  • Port and terminal operations
  • Maritime law
  • Celestial navigation
  • Ship handling
  • Maritime communications
  • Maritime business
  • Cargo operations
  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Environmental management
  • Information technology

Job titles

  • Ferry boat captains
  • Tug boat captains
  • And charter boat captain 
  • Department of Maritime Transportation (MARAD) 
  • Strategic Sea Lift Officer Program (SSOP)
  • Pilots associations
  • Tugboat companies
  • Maritime unions.

Salary of a Ship Captain 


Annual Average Salary of Ship Captain 


$123,511 (AUD)/yr


$ 1.846.774 (ARS)/yr


72.961 € (EUR)/yr


R$129.580 (BRL)/yr


$101,006 (CAD)/yr


¥272,314 (CNY)/yr

Costa Rica

₡17 497 602 (CRC)/yr


630.439 kr. (DKK)/yr


193,948 ج.م.‏ (EGP)/yr


66 928 € (EUR)/yr


64 643 € (EUR)/yr


73.719 € (EUR)/yr

Hong Kong SAR

HK$587,620 (HKD)/yr


₹10,72,001 (INR)/yr


56.550 € (EUR)/yr


¥8,286,092 (JPY)/yr


RM115,843 (MYR)/yr


$402,707 (MXN)/yr


€ 71.358 (EUR)/yr

New Zealand

$111,680 (NZD)/yr


130 014 zł (PLN)/yr


41 102 € (EUR)/yr

Russian Federation

1 324 329 ₽ (RUB)/yr


CHF 105'950 (CHF)/yr


51.595 € (EUR)/yr


฿789,928 (THB)/yr


£53,920 (GBP)/yr


457 606 ₴ (UAH)/yr

United Arab Emirates

276,149 د.إ.‏ (AED)/yr

United States

$94,738 (USD)/yr


477.657.879 ₫ (VND)/yr

Training Course for Ship Captain.

Below are some educational degrees one must obtain before becoming a Ship Captain.





Bachelors in Marine Engineering

Bachelors in  Marine Science

Bachelors in Marine Biology

Bachelors of Science,

Bachelors in maritime qualifications and credentials

Bachelors in Marine Transportation.

Bachelors in Marine Engineering Systems.

Bachelors in Marine Engineering.

Bachelors in Shipyard Management.

Bachelors in Maritime operations and technology.

Bachelors in Logistics and intermodal transportation.



Masters in Marine Engineering Systems.

Masters in Marine Engineering.

Masters in Shipyard Management.

Masters in Maritime operations and technology.

Masters in Logistics and intermodal transportation.

Master in  Marine Science

Master in Marine Biology

Masters of Science,

Masters in maritime qualifications and credentials

Masters in Marine Transportation.

Masters in Marine Engineering



PhD in Science and Marine Biology,

PhD in maritime qualifications advanced.

PhD in Marine Transportation.

PhD in Marine Engineering.


Pros and Cons of Becoming a Ship Captain 

For individuals who enjoy adventure, the wide water beckons and is a desirable field of employment, but it's crucial to understand the benefits and drawbacks of working in the marine industry. From work on fishing and cruise ships to a job on the docks, the sector comprises many roles with a wide range of responsibilities. 

Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of this profession. By learning more about the benefits of working at sea, you'll be better able to decide on your career path.

Advantages of becoming a Ship Captain.

  • Develop your leadership competencies.
  • Make a connection that will benefit you both personally and professionally.
  • Gain a deeper comprehension of who you are.
  • Learn about the co-professional pilot's background and expertise so that you might benefit from it in your career.
  • Free meals and opulent quarters when at sea
  • Respect and Power
  • Possibility to travel to distant places in the world.
  • Inspirational Journey
  • Longer Holidays

Disadvantages of becoming a Ship Captain.

  • Within Onboard
  • Not Enough Social Life
  • Dynamic Life
  • Out of the Family Away
  • Personal or family issues
  • Maritime Piracy on the Rise
  • Not enough shore jobs
  • reducing the crew
  • strict maritime regulations

How to Become a Ship, Captain. FAQs

What is the time needed to become a ship captain?

Candidates must possess a captain's license from the federal maritime authorities to captain a ship in India. The process of receiving a permit from the sources takes about ten years.

What should I focus on learning if I want to captain a ship?

To become a ship captain, students must earn a maritime engineering bachelor's degree.

What courses does one choose to take to become a ship captain?

Students interested in pursuing a career as a ship captain must have completed one of the following Bachelor's degrees:

  • Marine Transportation via Sea
  • Systems for Marine Engineering
  • Management of Shipyards and Marine Engineering

Do I need a degree to be a captain?

Depending upon the position, the candidates should have a bachelor's degree from a merchant marine academy.

Do I Have to Have a License?

A Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) from the U.S. Coast Guard are necessary for most seafarers on ships. 

To obtain your TWIC credential, you must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States and pass a security check. The number of licenses included in your MMC credential varies depending on the kind of vessel and body of water it is on.

Any additional or must-have requirements?

You must satisfy the minimum age requirement, pass a drug test and medical exam, and apply for your TWIC and MMC credentials. A profession as a ship captain may benefit from your excellent physical health, great vision and colour perception, agility, and balance.

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