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Ship's officer

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Summary of occupation

Ship's officers serve in positions of authority on seafaring vessels, co-ordinating crew and directing the ship's operations. They liaise with the captain to determine the ship's movements, supervise the work undertaken by crew members, record the details of the ship's course, position and weather conditions in the log book, and handle any emergencies that arise onboard. Officers on passenger ships are responsible for the safety of passengers. On cargo ships they are responsible for ensuring the safety of cargo and the ship's structure, as well as for checking the navigation equipment. Ship's officers are required on ships that move in and out the eight major ports and eleven minor ports that operate along the coast of Western Australia.

ANZSCO description: Navigates and controls the safe operation of a ship and supervises and coordinates the activities of deck crew. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Deck Officer
Specialisations: Ferry Master, First Mate, Navigating Officer (Ship's), Seaman Officer (Navy), Ship's Pilot
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A ship's officer needs:

  • an interest in nautical transport
  • confidence and composure
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • leadership and motivation skills
  • physical fitness and strength
  • the ability to spend time at sea
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Working conditions

Ship's officers work on passenger liners and ferries, cargo and freight ships, other ships such as barges, fishing vessels and rescue boats, and special-purpose ships, such as those used for research purposes or as ice-breakers. They are required to work in all weather conditions, which may include rough seas. Whilst their ship is anchored or in port they usually work regular hours, although this may involve early mornings, but when they are at sea they usually work in shifts, which can include working nights, and on weekends and public holidays.

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Salary details


On average, ship’s officers, classified under marine transport professionals, can expect to earn about $2 299 per week, ($119 543 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a ship’s officer develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Ship's officers often work in the cabins and control stations of ships, and are required to understand and use a variety of navigation and steering controls. They are also in charge of radio, morse lighting, code flags and pyrotechnic equipment, as well as firefighting, life saving, medical and signalling equipment, and must ensure that this equipment is in working order. Officers on cargo ships may also be required to use cargo storage and freight handling equipment such as pallet jacks, cargo scales, lifting equipment and strapping tools.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a ship’s officer you usually need to complete a qualification in maritime operations.

The Diploma of Maritime Operations (Watchkeeper Deck) is offered at TAFE Colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

To work as a ship’s officer in Western Australia, you may need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

​Alternately, it may be possible to complete a cadetship with a shipping company or other employer, which includes on -the -job training and study over four years at sea. Cadetships are usually available to those who have completed year 12.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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