October 1, 2020

What is a Captains License

Nothing says class and fortitude than flashing your very own Captain’s License. As many boat owners miss out on the fun and bragging rights of cruising around behind the ship’s wheel, acquiring a license enables you to enjoy your passion on the water and getting paid for it. Common ways to get paid for your captains license include fishing charters, and working on sightseeing vessels. Another common reason for boat owners to get their captains license is for insurance purposes. Most men and women are now required to complete a boater safety class, but insurance companies really like to see their customers have a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License. 

Read on as we take a close look at the various types of captain’s licenses, how much the annual salary of a captain is, and a Captain’s license requirements.

What Is A Captain’s License?

A captain’s license is one of the most valuable credentials that boat owners can have. It is a professional document that authorizes the bearer to operate a vessel to carry cargo and to ferry passengers. Apart from making certain that the captain knows of the rules of the sea, it serves as a safety precaution for the people and goods aboard the boat.

Why Should I Get One?

The most essential reason for becoming a licensed captain is safety. Seminars and classes cover the basics of staying cautious such as the proper navigation procedures, how to respond to emergencies, and the most appropriate mariners’ rules. Not only does it make you a respectable figure while you’re in the water, but it also allows you to obtain boating insurance at a much lower rate.

Apart from having something to show for when the coast guards require it, here are the top reasons why a captain’s license is well worth it:

Opens Work Opportunities

Much like a driver’s license, securing a captain’s license allows you to use it professionally. It takes about 1 to 2  months to get your license back from the Coast Guard provided that you have sent all the information required.  Having the absolute freedom to move around the waters for charter fishing, snorkeling and dolphin watching, plus the availability to serve on a Tugboat or on tow boats on inland waterways, simply supersedes all the hassle. Master Mariners operate a number of Inspected Vessels including the afore mentioned tugs and pushboats, they can also operate Offshore Supply Vessels, Crewboats, and even Ships if the mariner chooses the path to unlimited tonnage.

Most insurance companies will not permit you to operate even a private boat without a captain’s license. Getting your hands on one allows you to establish yourself as an official Merchant Mariner and be of use as an introduction to numerous maritime jobs. 

What Are The Types Of Captain’s Licenses?

Whether you’re seeking a license to charter your own fishing boat, snorkeling the reefs, or simply cruising around the waters, it will be more assuring if you have the proper authorization in hand. Here are the different types of captain’s licenses to help you make the best call on what to apply for:

Operator Of Uninspected Passenger Vessels

Also referred to as the 6-Pack license, it allows you to operate a vessel up to 100 gross tons and travel 100 miles offshore while carrying only 6 passengers without requiring your boat to be inspected. The Coast Guard is really cracking down on people that run charters without having a Licensed Captain onboard. It is illegal to use a vessel for hire without having a captain onboard. 

Master Mariner License

This license is for mariners of inspected vessels that travel 200 miles offshore and carry 7 or more passengers for hire or as long as they are of qualified tonnage and stays within the maximum passenger-carrying capacity. These mariners can now operate Inspected vessels. 

Inspected Vessels are categorized by their tonnage. For instance, a Licensed Master of 100 gross tons can operate any vessel (providing additional endorsements if required) up to less than 100 gross tons. If the vessel is 100 gross tons or over, a 200 ton Masters License is required. 

Special permits such as the Auxiliary Sail and the Assistance Towing endorsements can be issued to a Master Mariner License holder, allowing them to operate inspected sailing vessels considering that they have completed the 180 to 360 days sea service requirement. Assistance Towing allows the mariner to work with companies like SeaTow, and Towboat U.S. It does not, however, qualify the person for operating towing vessels such as Tugboats and Towboats. A Mate Pilot of Towing, or Master of Towing endorsement is required for those vessels. 

What Is The Average Annual Salary Of A Captain?

A captain’s pay depends upon the vessel size and his responsibilities. The captain focuses mainly on completing a safe voyage, using all his expertise to navigate through calm and at times rough seas. Besides his duty to keep the ship afloat and away from hazards to navigation, the captain manages his crew, oversees the proper loading and unloading of cargo and the safety of each passenger.

Aside from keeping track of unpredictable weather changes, they also need to have a keen knowledge of the vessels engine room operation in some cases (Vessels that do not require licensed engineers) and must be an expert navigator. They must know the best route to take from Point A to Point B, act as the leader of a large floating city, and base his or her decisions on the well-being of  the crew and in some cases, passengers.

That much responsibility and being on-call round the clock earns a captain around $80,000 to well over $200,000 annually, with Offshore Oil and Gas and  inland water transportation captains having the most potential to earn. Bear in mind that to make that much, a captain may have served as a deckhand before being promoted through the ranks by going to school and studying for his exams to eventually becoming the Master of the vessel. This requires  years of seamanship experience until finally standing at the ship’s helm.

What Are The Captain’s License Requirements?

Commanding  your own boat provides numerous ways to bond and have fun with family and friends. Having a captain’s license provides reassurance to your loved ones that you have the proficiency to make the right decisions if something should happen on the water. Emergency situations can happen at a moments notice, and without warning.  A good captain trains his crew on these situations regularly. 

Here’s a quick look on the general prerequisites to sailing your own ship:

Operator Of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (6 Pack)


– Must be 18 years old.

– Must have 360 days of documented experience on a vessel, with 90 of those days completed on the ocean, near coastal, or Inland waters within the last 3 years.

– Must pass an OUPV course or take OUPV exams at the nearest Regional Exam Center. The OUPV course is your best route. You can take your exams at the school and receive a certificate of completion from the school instead of taking your exams at the Regional Exam Center.

Master/Mate of Inland Or Near Coastal Inspected Passenger Vessel

Master/Mate Inland Checklist

Master/Mate Near Coastal Checklist

– Must be 19 years old

– The person must have 360 to 720 days of documented experience on a vessel, with 90 of those days completed on the ocean, near coastal, or inland waters within the last 3 years for the Master Mariner License and 180 days if you are applying as a Mate Near Coastal.

– A sailing endorsement is required to operate an inspected sailing vessel with 180 days of sail or sail auxiliary time.

To finish the process, a Captain’s License Course must be completed, as well as the acing of a comprehensive exam. The last step, the one which may prove to be the easiest, is to finally send your required documentation to the Coast Guard to receive your License. Although it may seem like a long and difficult procedure, overcoming it provides a tall list of personal and professional benefits.


While nothing beats soaking up the sun or fishing from the shore, the experience is entirely different from the water. Whether it’s exploring small islands and finding a remote fishing spot, or ferrying passengers and cargo as an extra hustle, everything is plain sailing when you’ve earned your official captain’s license

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