The captain of a cruise ship is the master of a cruise ship. Captains typically have a college degree in addition to years of boating or naval navigation experience. They must have a lot of experience in analyzing speed, weather conditions, and other factors that have an effect on the ship's navigation while also monitoring a staff of officers. Skills needed from a captain include communication, customer service, delegation, and organization. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, through 2016, the demand for ship captains was expected to increase by 17%, but competition for positions as cruise captain will continue. In fact, you may need to complete 4-8 years of education and gain decades of experience to qualify. In case you dream of becoming a cruise ship captain, you should start now with your preparations and create a contingency plan for alternative professions that use the same set of qualifications.
Part 1 of 3: Get the Right Education
Step 1. Go to high school
Your high school education does the groundwork for a successful post-secondary experience, which is needed for a career as a cruise captain. There are several factors to consider for a successful high school experience:
In the US, many aspiring captains attend maritime high schools, which are often found on the shores or on the Great Lakes. Maritime high schools are competitive in admissions and follow a unique curriculum established by the US Maritime Administration that emphasizes English, math, and science classes with additional courses in maritime skills, law, and professional training. This is such a competitive line of work that a diploma from a maritime high school is highly recommended for your best chances of becoming a cruise captain
Step 2. Focus on your high school studies
Regardless of which high school you attend, it can help you focus your studies in school to gain admission to a maritime academy and prepare for the kinds of courses you will need.
- If you live in the U. S., the government recommends three units of mathematics (algebra, geometry, and trigonometry), three units of English, one unit of physics or chemistry, and eight additional units of mathematics or science, foreign languages, economics, and social studies.
- If possible, look for a part-time job (evenings, weekends, and summer vacations) in a shipyard or aboard a ship or marine vessel of any kind. You will learn about ship parts, worker roles, the chain of command and ship repair, as well as gain experience at sea, which will help you to know for sure that a profession as a captain is ideal for you. If you do not live near the sea or large lakes, try to get a job during the summer on board a boat.
Step 3. Get your high school diploma
If you don't finish high school, you can get the General Education Development Test (GED) certificate if you live in the US, or its equivalent in your country. Keep in mind that a certificate of this type will make it more difficult (although not impossible) for you to achieve a profession as a cruise captain.
A high school diploma and GPA are required to be admitted to a maritime academy. Even if you choose not to attend an academy or university, you must have a high school equivalency to gain additional professional experience commanding a ship
Step 4. Apply and attend a maritime academy
If you live in the U. S., the Merchant Marine Academies allow you to earn four-year Bachelor of Science degrees, which are monitored by the Coast Guard, and teach engineering, maritime law, and shipbuilding.
- The fastest way to climb the ladder on a maritime vessel is to attend a maritime academy. In the US, maritime academies are located in California, the Great Lakes, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas A&M, and the US Merchant Academy. They are funded by the US Maritime Administration to have the assurance that the government has a steady stream of properly trained merchant marine officers.
- In case you cannot get a position as a cruise captain (which, unfortunately, is quite likely due to the competitiveness of the industry), a diploma from one of these educational institutions can help you land a job in the government of the U. S. or as a captain in the merchant marine. In case you are based in another country, seek naval education or experience based on the best path in your region.
Part 2 of 3: Obtain Necessary Certifications and Experience
Step 1. Find an internship on a ship while you are studying
It is mandatory that most maritime students gain practical experience before graduation, and maritime academies have working relationships with the government and local sailors to help you land an internship that is ideal for your interests.
If possible, try to get an internship on a cruise ship, which will help you gain experience and determine what is the right career decision for you. If you have the opportunity to do more than one internship while you're in college, try getting one on a cruise line and one on a commercial or government ship. This will help you see the difference between these career paths
Step 2. Apply for a job as a third deck officer on a maritime vessel
Most maritime academies offer placement services to help you land your first job and develop qualifications throughout your career. Also, if you live in the US, you can apply for an officer position with the US Merchant Marine Reserve, the Coast Guard Reserve, or the Naval Reserve.
- Your career goal is to be a captain, but you must start on deck to gain the necessary experience. If you haven't earned a bachelor's degree, you'll need to spend thousands of hours (and many years) gaining experience as a deckhand before you can rise through the ranks of a ship and become a deck officer, which qualifies you. to take the exams to become a captain. If you have obtained a bachelor's degree, you can skip the deckhand stage altogether.
- The exams test your knowledge and readiness, as well as include a thorough background check, including a criminal and citizenship background check, as well as a physical exam, and vision and hearing screenings. There are fees associated with these credentials, ranging from $ 50 to $ 100.
Step 3. Earn a Master of Science degree in Maritime Engineering, Maritime Science, or a related field
Before applying to a program, be careful that the institution offers courses specifically related to being captain of a cruise ship. Get the best grades during your studies, since, in many cases, cruises only hire captains who are in the top fifth or tenth of their class.
While you don't always need a master's degree to get a position, it could make a difference in your job search because positions on cruise ships are highly desirable. You will need to decide if your experience is sufficient or if it could be beneficial to have a master's degree on your resume. For example, if you have not attended a maritime high school or maritime academy or have not had many years of experience on a ship, you may need the additional education to be viable as a candidate for a position on a cruise ship
Step 4. Get your certifications
If you intend to work based in the US, you will need to obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC). English). Outside of the US, you should check with your local governing bodies to determine what certifications you will need.
For certification exams, physical exams, vision exams, drug tests, and written and practical exams are needed. The merchant marine academies train their students in the topics that will feature in these exams. Those who earn their qualifications through experience may need to take exam preparation courses to ensure they pass. There are fees associated with these credentials that range from $ 50 to $ 100
Step 5. Take the sea captain's license exams
This exam is administered by the US Coast Guard (or another country's licensing agency). After about 10 or more years of experience, you may be qualified to take this exam.
In addition, a sea captain license qualifies you for positions in the US government, including the Coast Guard
Part 3 of 3: Find a Job
Step 1. Work as a sea captain
You must hold the position of sea captain for a number of years before applying to become a cruise captain. Build an excellent track record.
In the vast majority of cases, sea captains are promoted after serving as deck officers on that ship. Time to promotion varies by organization and company, as well as your own performance in each position
Step 2. Apply for positions as cruise captain in your home country
Most cruises hire people from their home country.
For example, most officer positions in Norwegian Cruise Line are awarded to Norwegian citizens. The exception is their ship Pride of America, which hires only US citizens. You will need to check the websites of the cruise line companies to find out what their hiring requirements are for particular vacancies
Step 3. Have a contingency plan
It is such a competitive field that nothing guarantees that you will be able to get a position after obtaining all the necessary qualifications. You can pursue multiple career paths while you wait for a cruise captain vacancy to open.
- He continues to work as a captain in the merchant marine. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this industry are on the rise, with an expected growth rate of 14% between now and 2022, outpacing the number of new captains available. Therefore, the odds of landing a position on a cargo ship are much higher than those of landing a position as a cruise captain.
- If you live in the US, consider joining the military or working for the government. Especially if you attended a state maritime academy, this country is looking for capable and well-trained captains who can meet its national security needs.