How to become a Deckhand

Deckhands undertake a wide range of fishery and maritime work on land and at sea, including communications, supply, seamanship, hospitality and stores. They may also use equipment such as nets, lines and traps to catch fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Personal requirements of a Deckhand

  • Physically fit (a medical examination may be required)
  • Normal colour vision (to become a skipper, although restricted licences may be available)
  • An awareness of maritime safety issues
  • Good hand–eye coordination
  • A good sense of balance
  • Able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • Able to work as part of a team

Education & Training for a Deckhand

You can work as a deckhand without formal qualifications. You will probably get some informal training on the job. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications. You may like to consider a VET qualification in fishing operations or maritime operations. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a deckhand through a traineeship in Aquaculture, Fishing Operations or Maritime Operations. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school.

Duties & Tasks of a Deckhand

Deckhands may perform the following tasks:

  • relay information to crew, other ships and harbour authorities using radio and satellite equipment
  • provide hospitality services such as table preparation, bar service and cabin care for patrons
  • attach runners, weights, buoys, anchors, poles, stakes, wood or metal beams to nets, traps or pots
  • sort, clean, process, preserve and package catches
  • load, unload and stow supplies and equipment
  • operate dinghies and dories
  • operate winches and other deck equipment.

Working conditions for a Deckhand

A deckhand's duties may vary depending on the function of the vessel. A fishing vessel may require the use of pots, lines and scuba equipment, whereas a recreational or transportation vessel may require hospitality services such as table preparation, bar service and cabin care for patrons. Deckhands work in all types of weather conditions and spend long hours at sea. Conditions can be cramped and deckhands may be required to work odd hours. Shifts may include four hours of work followed by four hours of sleep.

Employment Opportunities for a Deckhand

Employment may be available in fisheries cooperatives; state, territory or federal fisheries agencies; fishing gear manufacturers; research vessels; equipment suppliers; and fish processing firms. Many smaller fishing vessels are family owned and operated, and recruitment on such vessels is often from within the family. Demand for people to work on fishing vessels is seasonal. While the fishing sector provides the most job opportunities for deckhands, employment is also available on recreational, transport and other commercial vessels.



A skipper oversees the maintenance, preparation and operation of vessels, including the hiring of crew and logistics preparation for voyages.

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