How to make money as a boat captain

You’ve decided to apply for a job as a boat captain. Great! You’re taking the right first step. But don’t dive into the deep end just yet. There are some things you need to know before applying for any position—especially one that involves navigating boats through potentially turbulent waters (figuratively speaking). So, let’s explore some general information about what being a boat captain entails and how you can get started on your new career path.

What are the Different Boat Captain Jobs?

The different types of boat captain jobs can be divided into two categories: commercial and recreational.

Commercial captains are in charge of larger vessels, such as cruise ships or boats that transport goods on the water. They often have a degree in marine engineering and decades of experience aboard large ships. Recreational captains are more likely to be working for small private yachts or fishing boats with less than five passengers at a time. Usually this means they worked their way up from being an assistant captain before getting promoted to lead the vessel themselves (and earning more money).

Get Certified

  • Get a captain’s license.
  • Get a boatmaster’s license.
  • Get a boat handling certificate, if you haven’t already (in some places this is mandatory).
  • Obtain any first aid and CPR training that’s required for your area (again, this may be mandatory).
  • Learn how to use marine radios and get your radio operator license, which will allow you to communicate effectively with other boat captains in the area or on shore when there is no cellular service available on board

Gather Experience

If you want to be a captain, first you must get experience.

  • Deckhand: A deckhand is someone who works on the deck of a ship. This means they help tie ropes, raise and lower sails, operate winches that pull in or let out lines and cables, move cargo around the ship (such as by hand when loading or unloading), and perform other tasks to keep the ship running smoothly.
  • Mate: A mate is usually an experienced person who has been working on boats for many years and can often do everything that a captain does except actually piloting the boat while it’s underway (this is called “steering”). The mate will also have training in things like mechanics, meteorology and navigation so they’re able to take care of routine maintenance on any mechanical systems on board as well as charting courses around islands/land masses such as reefs or icebergs depending upon where exactly one might be located at any given time.”

Decide Where You Want to Work

You’ll want to consider the type of boat you want to captain because it will determine where you can go and how much money you make. For example, if you love sailing and want to travel around the world, then a sailboat might be more up your alley than a tugboat.

If you don’t have a preference for what kind of vessel best suits your interests and lifestyle, there isn’t anything wrong with starting out on smaller boats in order to get some experience under your belt before moving on up (or down) the ladder. This is especially true if this is only something that interests you part-time or as something fun to do on weekends—a lot of captains start out by renting their own private yachts or working as deckhands before they make the leap into larger vessels which require licenses and permits that may not be available in certain areas outside U.S., Canada or Europe (the most common).

Learn How to Interview for a Boat Captain Job

Being prepared for an interview will help you to make a good impression on the hiring manager. You can expect to be asked questions about your background, job experience, and goals. Be ready to talk about:

  • Your education and training
  • Your most recent employment history
  • Your greatest strengths in this position (i.e., leadership, organization skills)

Know what you are getting into when applying for a job as a boat captain.

To make sure you are a good fit for the job, you should know what to expect from the interview. You should have a strong resume and be able to answer questions like “why do you want this job?” or “what is your greatest weakness?”.

You will also be asked to state your salary requirements during the interview process. The interviewer may ask what kind of money you are looking for by asking “What are your salary requirements?”.


There are a lot of ways to make money as a boat captain. You can work in places like the Bahamas, Alaska or any other area that has boats. You will need to be prepared for this job and get certified before you start working on ships. Make sure you know what your responsibilities will be before accepting a position as a boat captain because it may not be what you expect!

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