How to Become a Deck Officer on Cruise Ships

Deck officers on cruise ships are responsible for the safe navigational operation of a vessel while at sea. These highly skilled individuals enjoy high levels of responsibility, so they perform a wide range of duties. When a ship is in port, deck officers are responsible for coordinating cargo operations ensuring that all operations are carried out safely and effectively at all times.

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics offers the following detailed job description for deck officers:

Deck officers or mates direct the routine operation of the vessel for the captain during the shifts when they are on watch. On smaller vessels, there may be only one mate (called a pilot on some inland towing vessels), who alternates watches with the captain. The mate would assume command of the ship if the captain became incapacitated. When more than one mate is necessary aboard a ship, they typically are designated chief mate or first mate, second mate, third mate, etc. Mates also supervise and coordinate activities of the crew aboard the ship.

Captains and mates determine the course and speed of the vessel, maneuvering to avoid hazards and continuously monitoring the vessel’s position with charts and navigational aids. Captains and mates oversee crewmembers who steer the vessel, determine its location, operate engines, communicate with other vessels, perform maintenance, handle lines, and operate equipment on the vessel. They inspect the cargo holds during loading to ensure that the load is stowed according to specifications and regulations. Captains and mates also supervise crewmembers engaged in maintenance and the primary upkeep of the vessel. –

To become a deck officer, you must follow the procedures established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. According to, beginning April 15, 2009, mariners on board most ships must obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). In order to pass the necessary tests required to become a deck officer, you should consider enrolling in a bachelor-of-science degree program at a merchant marine academy. Licensure is required as well.

When you have completed the necessary training and obtained the proper licensure and other credentials, you may begin applying for jobs on cruise ships. If you have a specific cruise line in mind, locate the cruise lines’ OFFICIAL website first. Visit the Ships and Cruises Directory for official listings. Once you have located the site, visit the website and search around for job postings. Most cruise line websites have a career center or job postings page. If the cruise line lists job openings, be sure to follow the application procedure to the letter. If the cruise line does not list job openings on its site, send a polished cover letter and resume to the cruise lines Human Resources Department. The Human Resources Department is typically located at the cruise lines headquarters. This information is usually listed on the cruise line website. It is important to include the position you are interested in so that it can be directed to the appropriate department manager.

For more information about jobs on cruise ships visit Cruise Ship Jobs online. Here, you can download the 2010 cruise ship employment guide; you can read through cruise line profiles; you can find out which ships are hiring and for what positions — and you can even apply for a cruise ship job right online. Please note that this website charges a fee. You can apply for a job on your own, free of charge, sign up with a placement agency, or use the Cruise Ship Jobs’ employment service. Good luck!

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