Transport & Logistics

Ship Officer

Ships' officers are responsible for crew, cargo, and the safe operation and navigation of ships at sea, in port and at anchor.

  • Entry-level education

    VET qualification

    Apprenticeship or traineeship

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does a Ship Officer do?

Ships' officers are responsible for crew, cargo, and the safe operation and navigation of ships at sea, in port and at anchor.


Work activities

As a ship's officer, you would:

  • liaise between the captain and the crew of the ship
  • keep watch from the bridge in watches (shifts) and monitor weather reports
  • determine the position of other vessels and obstructions by using navigational aids
  • navigate the ship, using radar, satellite and computer systems
  • supervise the work done by the crew
  • provide medical and/or first aid treatment for the crew
  • ensure the readiness and condition of safety equipment and lifeboats
  • make sure safety regulations are observed.

The senior officer, or Master, of a ship is the Captain. the Captain has full responsibility for the overall running and safety of the ship, crew, passengers and cargo. As a Captain, you would handle legal and commercial matters and keep all the ship's records up to date.


Key skills and interests

To become a ships' officer, you would need:

  • a willingness to spend time at sea, away from home for long periods
  • good medical fitness
  • excellent maths and navigational skills
  • leadership skills and the ability to motivate others
  • to be responsible and diligent
  • to be safety conscious and aware at all times
  • good teamwork skills
  • a calm and controlled disposition, especially in emergencies
  • good people skills if you work on cruise ships or passenger vessels.

Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

Ships' officers may be required to work or remain on duty for long periods. Officers work in watches, the duration of which will depend on the type of ship they are working on. Other duties are performed during off watch periods.


Ship's officers work on passenger liners and ferries, cargo and freight ships, barges, fishing vessels and research vessels. Ships' officers may spend long periods of time at sea, away from home. Conditions on board ships can be rough and you would work in all types of weather.


How to become an Ship Officer?

Entry Level Education

To become a ships' officer you usually need to complete a qualification in maritime operations, to at least Diploma level.

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. To get into the cadetship, you would usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent, with English, maths 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 school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, physics and chemistry would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.

To work as a ships' officer, you may also need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).


Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Employment opportunities for ships' officers are expected to grow at an average rate.

The boom in the cruising industry has increased the need for ships' officers with knowledge of maritime regulations and conditions of Australian waters and sea ports. As a greater volume of international cargo comes in and out of Australian ports, more ships' officers will be needed to control and command these vessels. Potential growth may be tempered by the appointment of offshore based, rather than local, staff on internationally registered vessels.


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