The easiest way to pique the interest of captains in a competitive field is to have certifications. In the same way that people spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives on college, people spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives to become sailboat captains. Fortunately, the minimum requirement to begin working on vessels is 1 course that ranges anywhere from $500 – $1300 and takes less than one week to complete. This course is a MUST HAVE for most yachts that you will work on and it is called your STCW-95.

STCW 95 – Basic Safety Training Course

What is the deal with the difference in pricing?

Some of the cheaper courses that I have found are limited certifications – great if you only plan on working on smaller yachts, but a waste of money if you want to work on the big boats! That being said, more expensive does not always = better. As long as all certifications are met with no limitations (a question you should ask the school) you are good to go.

Building a CV

Yachting Resume

Marketing Yourself and Dock Walking


Crew Agencies

crew agencies cheat sheet

Who needs to take this course?

If you have never stepped foot on a boat before, it’s a better idea to go back to the beginner guide and consider getting a bit of sea time before taking the STCW Course. For all other people looking to work professionally on boats, you should consider this course to be a great first step in landing the yachting job of your dreams! Officially, personnel working on the following types of vessels are REQUIRED to take the course:

  • Vessels that cross international boundaries.
  • Commercial vessels over 200 gross tons.
  • USCG inspected passenger vessels.


What will I learn?

This course is a 3-5 day endeavor depending on each school’s preferred schedule. The course is based around 4 subcategories:

  • Basic Fire Fighting – Course includes lecture and practical training on the fire ground fighting fires with various extinguishing methods. You will get into fire fighting gear and learn how to extinguish fires.
  • Personal Survival – Course includes classroom and in-the-water practice with water survival techniques and lifesaving equipment including life rafts and survival suits. This course is actually really fun, normally you have to try on a Gumby Suit and get familiar with launching, entering and turning over life rafts, as well as practicing the art of throwing life rings.
  • Elementary First Aid – Course covers basic first aid techniques for injury assessment, immediate care and CPR. As with all CPR Courses you will need a refresher every year but the rest of the lessons learned should last a lifetime!
  • Personal Safety/Social Responsibility – Course includes basic emergency procedures, alarm signal recognition, lock out/tag out, personal protective gear and social responsibility. You will learn a lot of information about what to do in an emergency situation and consider moral dilemmas that you may not have thought about before. It is much easier to think about these things while in a classroom setting, so you are prepared if shit ever hits the fan!


Where can I take the STCW 95?

The STCW 95 course is offered all over the world. Click on this link to find the course closest to you. You can also simply google “STCW 95” and your city to find something close. If there aren’t any courses nearby, consider making a vacation out of it. I took my course in St Thomas, USVI and it was only $495. As to be expected, the more certifications and licenses you have, the more desirable of a candidate you become. It is my recommendation to start with just the STCW-95 and see if you enjoy working on boats. There is no sense in wasting more time and money before getting the first job and making sure it is a good fit. After you have landed that first job and fallen totally in love with “the life”, I definitely recommend continuing your education with further courses. Also, once you have an income you can write off many of these courses and deduct them from your taxes depending on your home country.


Interested in continuing your education? Here are some logical next steps:

  • STCW – Crowd Management – Recommended for captains and crew who will be working on vessels carrying more than six passengers and/or traveling through international waters. In this course you will learn about how to manage people in emergency situations.
  • STCW – Crisis Management – Recommended for captain and crew who will be working on vessels carrying more than six passengers and/or traveling through international waters. In this course you will learn all of the basic information about shipboard organization, how to use emergency equipment and how to communicate effectively in emergency situations.
  • VSO – Vessel Security Officer – This is a higher level course with several requirements including around 12 months of sea service, a valid TWIC card, etc. It is a GREAT way to set yourself apart from other potential crew. Almost all of the potential yachts that you will be working on will require at least one Security Officer onboard. Typically the captain will have their VSO, but to have an additional crew member who can satisfy this requirement would be a huge relief to the captain and owners. If you are having any trouble finding work, consider adding this feather to your cap and try submitting your CV again!
  • MROP – Marine Radio Operating Permit – This, like the VSO is a great piece for your resume. It will usually be required of all captains, but to have another crew member who satisfies this requirement for the vessel is always a bonus!



Always keep track of your sea time: name of vessel, days worked, weather conditions, etc. I recommend purchasing a log book as soon as possible because all of your days at sea will need to be accounted for if you decide to go for a captain’s license in the future. This is the logbook that I use: Adlard Coles Nautical Logbook. If you plan on getting a USCG License this is the sea service form that they require – it may be a good idea to start documenting on the actual forms as early as possible:  USCG SEA SERVICE FORM.