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Ship's Officer

Other Qualification On The Job Training Year 12 Preferred Subject Prerequisites University Course Subject Prerequisites Aptitude Tests Minimum Age 18+ Medical Exams

Also known as Ship's Mate and Ship's Deck Officer.

Ships' 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.

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.


    Ships' officers may perform the following tasks:

  • 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. Officers may be required to work or remain on duty for long periods


  • 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

Interest Area

Clerical/Administrative Figures/Computational Technical/Engineering Influencing/Personal Contact


Ship's Master - oversees navigation and manages the operation of ships at sea, in port and at anchor. They consult weather forecasts, make voyage plans and conduct equipment and inventory inspections in preparation of a vessel leaving port.

Ship's Pilot - assists the ship's master with navigating and steering ships in and out of harbours. Ships' pilots direct the speed and course of the ship with their specialised knowledge of wind, tides, current and weather. They are sometimes on stand-by duties at a port with a tugboat so that they can assist an incoming ship when needed.


Other Qualification On The Job Training Year 12 Preferred Subject Prerequisites University Course Subject Prerequisites Aptitude Tests Minimum Age 28+ Medical Exams

To become a ship's officer you usually have to complete a 4-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 HSC/ACT Year 12. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics and physics are normally required.

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 HSC/ACT Year 12 with one or more of English, mathematics, physics and chemistry.

A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas.

Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact Open Universities Australia or the universities you are interested in for more information as requirements may change.

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 Authority (AMSA), including TAFEs. This method can take at least eight years because it requires private study outside working hours. See the separate entry for Integrated Rating for details.

    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.


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.

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More Information - External Links

Job Outlook for Ship's Officer Australian Maritime Authority Maritime Industry Australia Limited Careers at Sea Logistics Information and Navigation Centre

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