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 for 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.


  • Directs the activities of the deck crew for navigational support tasks, berthing and unberthing, maintenance, cleaning and painting of superstructures, and the repair and replacement of defective deck gear and equipment..
  • Ensures compliance with regulations pertaining to safety at sea and protection of the marine environment..

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.


Fishing Charter Operator

A fishing charter operator manages a fishing charter business, which may include work as a coxswain.

  • Average age
    Average age
    48 years
  • Future Growth
    Future Growth
  • Gender Share
    Gender Share
    4% female
  • Average full-time
    Average full-time
    54 hours
  • Weekly Pay
    Weekly Pay
  • Skill level rating
    Skill level rating
    Very high skill
  • Unemployment
    Average unemployment
  • Full-Time Share
    Full-Time Share
    80% Full-Time
  • Employment Size
    Employment Size
    3,600 workers
  • Employment Size
    Employment by state
    ACT: 0.1%
    NSW: 23.7%
    NT: 3.2%
    QLD: 37.0%
    SA: 6.0%
    TAS: 4.3%
    VIC: 7.4%
    WA: 18.0%
  • Employment Size
    Age brackets
    15-19: 0.6%
    20-24: 2.3%
    25-34: 14.4%
    35-44: 23.7%
    45-54: 29.6%
    55-59: 13.4%
    60-64: 9.7%
    65 and Over: 6.2%
  • Employment Size
    Education level
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma: 32%
    Bachelor degree: 9.3%
    Certificate III/IV: 32.4%
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 3.9%
    Year 10 and below: 10.3%
    Year 11: 3%
    Year 12: 9%
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