How to Become a Boat Captain

Steps for Obtaining a Captain’s License

About the Captain’s License

If you want to work on a boat charter, you’ll need a captain’s license. If you want to own a boat charter, you’ll need a captain’s license. If you want to work for various state/federal agencies or boating companies, you’ll need a captain’s license.

As a recreational boater, the license is definitely a boost to your resume and expresses to others your advanced knowledge of maritime rules and regulations, but it is not a requirement. The license is only necessary if you get paid to operate an auxiliary powered boat in waters patrolled by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

The license is issued by the USCG after a training session and examination. The course teaches and then tests participants on ocean and water navigation, chart plotting, maritime rules, boating safety regulations and weather patterns.

There are different types of tests depending on your proficiency level and overall goals. The courses range from eight days to two and a half weeks of classroom learning and examinations. Depending on the course, prices range from the low hundreds up to $1,500. Licenses issued by the USCG must be renewed every five years. The renewal process requires passing a physical test and a drug test. You do not need to pass an exam for renewal.

Step 1: Ensure You Meet the Requirements

In order to proceed with earning a captain’s license there are requirements that need to be met. Applicants must:

  • Have logged 360 days on the water, at four hours each day, documented within the last five years, and have proof of doing so;
  • Pass a drug test;
  • Pass a physical exam;
  • Present three character references;
  • Posses CPR/First Aid certifications (often you can get these certifications with your captain’s license); and
  • Pass a background test, with fingerprinting.

Step 2: Find a Certified Course Provider

Once you are sure you pass the requirements find a location approved for training and examination. The USCG Maritime Center keeps an updated list of course providers; we recommend you start here. In addition, you can find relevant forms, including the application, on the right hand side on the main USCG website.

Step 3: Complete the Follow-Up Instructions

After you’ve completed the course you have 365 days to submit the materials to the USCG for processing. Your testing facility can likely assist in this process. You will gather your application, sea time log, drug and physical test results, insurance fees, proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate), first aid and CPR certifications, letters of reference and fingerprinting cards for submission to the USCG.

How Boatsetter Helps Boat Charter Captains

Devoting your career to the ocean has its perks. According to 2015 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the wages of captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels ranged from $39,100 to $102,870 a year. The average hourly wage in 2015 was $39.98 and the average annual wage for the same year was $83,150. Yet, a career as a boat captain is rewarding for reasons beyond money. Boat captains enjoy flexible schedules and opportunities for a variety of work – two days are never the same out on the water.
Boatsetter is always looking for experienced boat charter captains to help navigate the vessels in our ride sharing database. When working with Boatsetter you get to do what you love and share the excitement with less experienced boaters. Read more about boat charter captains working with Boatsetter.

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