How to become a Ship's Officer

Ship's officers navigate and supervise the safe operation of ships at sea, in port and at anchor. They coordinate the activities of the crew and control cargo stowage loading and unloading operations.

Personal requirements of a Ship's Officer

  • Willing to spend time at sea, away from home for long periods
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Pass an eyesight test and have normal colour vision
  • Responsible and diligent
  • Able to work as part of a team

Education & Training for a Ship's Officer

To become a ship's officer you usually have to complete a four-year cadetship with a shipping company involving on-the-job training at sea and study at a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). To get into the cadetship, you will need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English, mathematics and physics. You can also become a ship's officer by studying nautical science or marine engineering at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, physics and chemistry are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

Those who do not sign on as a cadet may achieve the level of Watchkeeper (the basic requirement for a ship's officer) by obtaining employment as an integrated rating (sailor). This training must include experience at sea, as well as off-the-job training. This training can be provided by RTOs approved by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), including TAFEs. This method can take at least eight years because it requires private study outside working hours. Once you have completed this training, you may be eligible to sit the AMSA Certificate of Competency test. You must be at least 18 years of age to gain a Certificate of Competency. You will also need to pass a medical examination. The AMSA Certificate of Competency is an internationally recognised qualification.

Duties & Tasks of a Ship's Officer

Ship's officers: • liaise between the master and the crew of the ship • keep watch from the bridge in watches (shifts) • determine the position of the ship and other vessels and obstructions by using navigational aids • supervise the work done by the crew • provide medical and/or first aid treatment for the crew • make sure safety regulations are observed • perform designated safety and firefighting drills in emergency situations • observe and record the ship's course and any alterations, the weather conditions and the ship's position in the daily logbook • observe the ship's on-board security procedures and take part in security drills • coordinate cargo loading and discharge operations and maintenance • update charts and other nautical publications • ensure that all necessary documentation has been completed.

Working conditions for a Ship's Officer

Officers may be required to work or remain on duty for long periods. Generally they work in two watches of four hours on and eight hours off over a 24-hour period, depending on the type of ship they are working on. Other duties are performed during off watch periods.

Employment Opportunities for a Ship's Officer

There are opportunities for officers with Australian qualifications to work overseas. To do this you will need to have an internationally recognised qualification from AMSA. With experience and further study, there are opportunities for promotion to ship's captain/master.

Future growth:


Employment by state:


NSW NSW 27.2%

NT NT 2.6%


SA SA 9.5%

TAS TAS 4.8%


WA WA 14.8%

Hours worked:



Average unemployment

Gender split:

Male 95.8%

Female 4.2%

Education level:

Age brackets:

15-19 - 4.6%

20-24 - 0.4%

25-34 - 14.9%

35-44 - 17.3%

45-54 - 39.9%

55-59 - 13.4%

60-64 - 7.6%

65 and Over - 1.8%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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