How to become a Coxswain

Coxswains manage the operation of small commercial marine vessels, such as fishing boats, ferries, water taxis, jet boats, yachts, catamarans and tourist craft.

Personal requirements of a Coxswain

  • Willing to spend time at sea
  • Able to lead and manage a crew
  • Commitment to safety
  • Pass an eye test and have normal colour vision
  • Good health and able to pass a medical examination.

Education & Training for a Coxswain

To become a coxswain, you usually have to complete a traineeship. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10.

Additional Information

To work as a coxswain you will need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). To be eligible, you must be at least 16 years of age, complete minimum sea service requirements, hold a current Provide First Aid Certificate and meet specific medical and eyesight standards. You must also hold a Marine Radio Operator’s VHF Certificate of Proficiency. Visit the AMSA website for more information. Once you are employed, you may be able to develop, and have recognised, additional skills under the Maritime Training Package that will expand your career opportunities within this industry.

Duties & Tasks of a Coxswain


  • manoeuvre and navigate small vessels
  • consult weather authorities before planning a voyage
  • give instructions to the crew
  • communicate with passengers
  • update vessel logbooks
  • assist with mooring and unmooring vessels
  • monitor condition and seaworthiness of vessels
  • transmit and receive information by marine radio or telephone
  • respond to emergency situations
  • use navigational information and techniques to conduct a safe passage
  • service propulsion systems, low-voltage electrical systems and auxiliary systems
  • operate pumping systems, and outboard and inboard diesel engines.

Working conditions for a Coxswain

Coxswains may operate vessels up to 12 metres in length in sheltered waters. Those who wish to operate larger vessels further from the coast will need to gain additional qualifications.

Employment Opportunities for a Coxswain

Coxswains usually start their careers in the maritime industry as deckhands before gaining enough experience to sit the Coxswain Certificate of Competency test. Possible employers include fishing charters, tourism operators, government organisations and offshore mining companies. With further training and experience, coxswains may work in the deck or engineering department of near coastal or blue water vessels.

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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