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Fishing vessel skipper

Alternative titles for this job include Trawler skipper

Fishing vessel skippers are in charge of operations and safety onboard sea-going fishing boats.

Average salary (a year)

£20,000 Starter


£45,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

41 to 43 variable

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays away from home

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become Fishing vessel skipper

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role


You may be able to start by doing a course in maritime skills with a fishing industry college, then apply for work as a trainee deckhand on a fishing vessel.

A separate option might be to take a course in marine engineering and join a crew as a trainee in the engine room.

Once you have enough experience you can do further training to go on and become a skipper.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

More Information


You could apply for a place on a Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship, such as:

  • Boatmaster
  • Officer of the Watch
  • Small Commercial Vessel Crewmember

These apprenticeships typically take between 2 and 3 years to complete, and are a mix of training on the job and classroom study.

Entry requirements

To get onto an apprenticeship, you'll find it useful to have:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More Information


You can start as a deckhand at sea and learn while you work. You'll usually need at least 18 months' experience before you can skipper a boat. You'll also need to have completed mandatory basic safety training for:

  • sea survival
  • fire fighting
  • health and safety
  • first aid

More Information

Career tips

You'll need to be willing to move if necessary, as fishing industry training centres tend to be located near established fishing ports around the country.

Further information

You can find more advice about being a skipper and other careers in the fishing industry from Seafish.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • leadership skills
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
  • knowledge of geography
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and Requirements

You'll need to:

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Fishing vessel skippers work on different types of boat, including:

  • inshore vessels, working close to the shoreline
  • limited area vessels, fishing within a set distance around the UK coast
  • unlimited area vessels, trawling fishing grounds in international waters

As a skipper, you would:

  • plan voyages, including locations, time away and supplies needed
  • operate and maintain fishing gear, sonar equipment and storage areas
  • navigate the vessel and maintain radio communications
  • manage the safety of the vessel and crew
  • work closely with onshore agents to land and sell your catch
  • follow maritime laws and fishing regulations

Working environment

Your working environment may be physically demanding, outdoors in all weathers and cramped.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

With experience and further training you may be able to move into related areas, like:

  • the Merchant Navy
  • port operations
  • fish or shellfish farming
  • offshore sustainable energy development
  • cargo or passenger ferry work
  • deck or engineering officer roles

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Marine Workboat Apprentice

  • Wage: £14,107.50 a year Annually
  • Location: Tyne Dock, South Shields

Courses In England

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