How to Become a Ship Captain

5 minute read
Ship Captain

If you have been an admirer of sea stories and exploring the sea is something you have always wanted to do, then the maritime career is right for you. A number of job profiles are associated with the ships for which aspirants take up Maritime Engineering or an ETO course but the most fascinating job on the vessel is that of a captain. The captain is the person who is responsible for the navigation of the ship and keeps the track of the maintenance of the ship by guiding the maintenance team for the routine checks. He directs all the crew members and ensures that the procedures are followed. If your goal is to be the master of the ship, then this blog will unveil to you a stepwise guide on how to become a Ship Captain.

Check Out: Career in Marine Engineering

What does a Ship Captain do?

Since we can’t control the winds, the captain can surely direct the sails.  A ship captain is a skilled individual who is the chief of the vessel. They navigate routes, assign essential tasks, manage the business functions, and command the staff. They make sure the ship is maintained with every part and machinery functioning smoothly. They also maintain a record of their journeys, coordinate with other ships at the port, and supervise the crew and passengers. The skipper is also responsible for the safety of his/her ship and its members. They must be on their feet during an attack by pirates or hijackers. The Seamaster must also be quick to assist any physical injury or death of any member on their ship and keep the crew prepared for any unforeseen conditions. A ship captain must also be able to read and interpret weather reports and regulate their navigation. 

 “It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures a prosperous voyage.” – George William Curtis


Apart from receiving responses like ‘Aye Aye Captain!’, a ship captain has various monetary benefits. Owing to the extraordinary responsibilities, accountability for any mishap on the ship, and unanticipated hours in the ocean, the shipmaster earns a solid amount including overtime and bonus. The average salary of a ship captain in India is INR 4,500,000/ year. The salary during the initial years of work is approximately INR 4 million with an increase after 6-7 years till up to INR 5 million. 

Skills Required

Leading a ship across oceans, bays, lakes, etc requires a strong will and a set of skills that will lead the way smoothly. The following are a few skills that are crucial for the journey on how to become a ship captain. 

  • Sound Judgement
  • Critical Thinking
  • Technical skills
  • Swimming skills
  • Physical competence
  • Effective Communication skills
  • Social perspective
  • Negotiation skills
  • Management
  • Persuasive skills
  • Good Coordination
  • Active listening
  • Good emotional control

Being a ship Captain means constant learning and gaining experience. As fascinating as the job looks, it is important that aspiring students are prepared to face unusual conditions in the sea. Keep building up on your education. There are various Maritime courses that offer professional courses that can keep you updated with your knowledge about new technological advancements.

Ship Captain: Choosing Education

The primary thing to become a Ship Captain is to choose the right education where the first step is to complete a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in Maritime Engineering. There are a number of universities and engineering schools that offer the best Marine Engineering courses. The course can take you 3-4 years to complete and will give you a strong footing in the field. Serving as the gateway to your dream job, the degree is the prerequisite to get admission into a maritime training academy.

Top Marine Engineering Colleges in the World

The second thing after completing the academic qualification is to get into a maritime training academy. The academies are known for equipping students with the leading class skillset to carry the duties on the vessel. Being the easiest way to move up the ladder in marine jobs, the academies train students for the various job roles on the vessel and one of them is that of a Ship Captain. The academies offer full-fledged degree programs or diplomas comprehensively designed for the students to get hands-on training in the field. The admission into the academies may be a challenging task as they have a very strict selection procedure to screen out the best candidates for the job. A candidate is made to go through various subjective and medical tests. Qualifying all the stages of the entry exam guarantees admission into the academies. Some of the top maritime academies in the world are:

  • Tokyo University of Maritime Science and Technology.
  • Australian Maritime College
  • California Maritime Academy
  • Florida Institute of technology
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • Dalian Maritime University
  • Korea Maritime University
  • The Marine Society College of the Sea
  • International Maritime University of Panama

Also Read: Career in Naval Architecture 

Gaining Experience

Like any other technical field, gaining working experience is mandatory. The best way to get hands-on experience in the field is through internship programs. Internship plays a crucial role in the process of being a Ship Captain. If you are enrolled in a top maritime academy, then finding an internship won’t be a big deal as they have connections with the top vessels. The job of a Ship Captain is quite demanding as handling a ship with a bulk of goods or passengers on board is a great responsibility.

Obtaining Ship Captain Certification

Certification is important when it comes to working professionally as a Ship Captain. The certification depends on the country you want to work in. The process of the certification involves a range of tests such as physicals, vision test, drug screenings besides written and practical exams. For certification in the USA, you are required to pay a minimal fee of around $50 to $100. Certification acts as a license for you to be a recognized shipmaster. 

How to Become a Ship Captain
Courage and Determination is your certification to become a Ship Captain

Work Environment

The work environment of a ship captain is extremely demanding in both physical and psychological ways. The main workplace is determined by the type of ship/boat like passenger, Naval, Cargo, Container, etc. and the roles may vary for each. The chief often spends weeks without any form of communication from the world due to the lack of network in the open ocean. 33% of ships worldwide have no type of communication access with only 9% having internet access. The duration of stay on the ship depends on the length of the journey, knots (speed) of the ship, and many unforeseen factors. The voyage could last for a day or for many weeks or months. 

Did You know? The term “knot” originates from the 17th century when sailors measured the speed of their ship by using a device called a “common log” which was attached to a rope. As the ship moved towards the log, the number of knots during the period of time would measure the speed of the ship.

A career as a Ship Captain is adventurous and a demanding one. Controlling ship is a matter of pride and a task of great responsibility. If you are someone who is adventure-loving and have great zeal for voyages, then the maritime career is right for you. To get a complete overview of the job profile and information on the best institutes to take your learning to the new level we are here to help you. On your journey to becoming a shipmaster, let Leverage Edu be your chief mate.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *



  1. Dear Sir/Madam
    Hopefully this my email finds you previously well.
    I am a diploma holder in Civil engineering; and have shown my interest in Marine Engineering.
    How can I further my education in Marine Engineering field.

  2. The information provided here has helped me a lot.
    I do feel like knowing more about being a captain of a ship.
    Thank you.

  1. Dear Sir/Madam
    Hopefully this my email finds you previously well.
    I am a diploma holder in Civil engineering; and have shown my interest in Marine Engineering.
    How can I further my education in Marine Engineering field.

15,000+ students realised their study abroad dream with us. Take the first step today.
Talk to an expert