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If you have dreams of spending your days at sea, commanding your own vessel those dreams can definitely become a reality. No matter what type of vessel you are looking to captain, there are certain criteria that you must meet. In your endeavors to become a yacht captain, there are five steps that you must take.

1. Get an Education

No matter what type of vessel you seek to captain, you must obtain a high school education, and it is suggested that you also seek your bachelor’s from a Coastal Guard approved academy or college. There are several skills that you should look to obtain in your studies, including:

  • mathematics
  • mechanical drawing
  • engineering systems
  • maritime operations and technology
  • ship/facility management
  • communications
  • and more

Though many of these skills can be sharpened during your time on a ship, having a firm knowledge base can help you to advance quickly.

2. Gain Experience

In order to obtain your license you must log at least 360 days at sea within the course of five consecutive years. A day at sea is defined as four consecutive hours. Even if you are not directly captaining or assisting the captain, the hours can still count towards your credentialing. If you are captaining a ship under the watch of another yacht captain, you will be required to have the captain sign your application.

3. Submit an Application With Required Material

A captain’s license is formally known as a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). Along with completing the actual application form, there are a few other pieces of documentation that you must submit to complete your packet.

• log of time at sea

• three notarized letters of recommendation from licensed boat operators

Once you have collected all of these documents you can submit them in person or through the mail to the Regional Exam Center (REC). After your paperwork is received and processed, you will have to undergo a physical exam and background check. Upon successful completion, you then take the written test and pay the application and testing fees. The National Maritime Center will receive and review all of your documents, after which your license will be sent to you.

4. Look for a Job

As with many different careers, you will have to work your way up the ladder. One of the best ways to obtain a job on a ship is through personal connections. You may also search online or contact maritime companies.

5. Continue Your Education

Even after you have secured a position it is critical that you continue your education. It takes a combination of knowledge and skill to become an excellent yacht captain. Also, as new technologies and best practices emerge, it is in your best interest to be abreast of them. Constantly pursuing knowledge through continued education courses and various maritime magazines can help you to stay in the know.

By following these steps you can be well on your way to becoming a captain. As you embark on your pursuits, be sure to make connections that will help you along the way, not only with other captains, but also with ship providers and servicers. Such relationships can help you to not only become but to succeed as a yacht captain.


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