Why Become a USCG Licensed Captain?

If you are thinking of becoming a boat captain, you are not alone. Thousands of people each year apply to the Coast Guard to become licensed whether they are recreational boaters or interested in starting commercial ventures. The fact that so many people have taken steps to become a USCG licensed captain speaks volumes about the allure, attraction, and aura of earning your license.


Infographic: Why Boaters Go for a USCG License Infographic: Why Boaters Go for a USCG License
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Common Questions About the Captain’s License Test

1 What is a USCG captain's license?

A USCG captain's license is a credential issued by the United States Coast Guard that enables the holder to operate a commercial vessel. The two main licenses are the OUPV/Six-pack and the Master License, and endorsements can be added for sailing vessels or assistance towing. These USCG Captain's licenses can be obtained by taking the exam and meeting other requirements such as passing a physical and drug test, having a minimum amount of boating experience, and passing a background check.

2 When do you need a captain's license?

You need a captain's license in order to transport passengers commercially. The OUPV or Six-pack license allows you to carry up to six passengers for hire whereas the Master License is required for inspected vehicles carrying six or more passengers. While a captain's license is not required for personal use, some boaters seek out courses to brush up on their skills and feel the pride that comes with getting a USCG license.

3 Who becomes a boat captain?

People from all walks of life become USCG licensed captains! They include but are not limited to:

  • Boaters who would like to enhance their resume and become a licensed expert
  • Retirees who want a second career
  • Sail boaters
  • Scuba divers
  • Power boaters

4 How much money does a boat captain make?

There is no set amount for how much you earn as a commercial licensed boat captain, but there are many lucrative options. With your captain’s license, you’ll have the freedom to embark on a wide range of careers and business ventures. Common opportunities for holders of captain’s licenses include:

  • Transporting yachts for customers: The cost of transporting a boat more than 8-feet wide by land can be very high, making boat delivery by water an attractive solution. A typical delivery captain will charge $275 to $475.00 per day.
  • Charter boats or fishing charters: Fishing boats that charge per person are known in the industry as head boats or party boats and can be lucrative operations. A charter boat captain can charge upwards of $625.00 for a four hour fishing trip.
  • Providing water taxi services: This is a great way to get your foot in the door. While not the highest paying opportunity, water taxi operations are always looking for extra captains.
  • Conducting sea trials: Many boat brokers and dealers use licensed captains to conduct sea trials on behalf of potential buyers.
  • Being a ferry boat captain: A captain running a ferry boat can make $45,000 to $85,000 or more per year.

Next Steps for Aspiring Boat Captains

If becoming a USCG licensed boat captain sounds right for you, here's what you can do next:

Ready to Get Your Captain's License?

The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Licensed Captain

It's all in this eGuide!

Learn how to get your Captain's License, determine which license is right for you, and understand the USCG license requirements.

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