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How much does a yacht captain make?

If you’ve ever experienced the luxury of a yacht, you have likely wondered who is commanding the ship.

Captains and other yacht crew members get the privilege of travelling to amazing destinations around the world with different guest groups. They eat world-class meals and enjoy other glamorous perks.

But there is a lot of hard work and training involved to achieve this high-level career. After further consideration, you may be left wondering—how much does a yacht captain make, after all?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. Actual salaries for yacht crew depend on various factors. This includes licensing, experience, and yacht size, to name a few.

One unique factor to consider in salaries for yacht captain jobs is the pay structure. In addition to base crew salaries, there are tips and other benefits to take into account as well.

Read on below if you have ever wondered—how much does a yacht captain make?

How Much Does a Yacht Captain Make?

While the life of a yacht captain may appear glamorous, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that makes it more demanding. While luxury and leisure are a part of the job, it is rightfully earned.

Yacht captains carry vast responsibility on their shoulders at all times. The captain acts as the president or CEO of the vessel—while there are other crew onboard all working towards the goal of a safe ship, any issues fall back on the person in charge. In this case, the captain. 

The salary range for the captain of a yacht can vary greatly. Like any other profession, there is no umbrella salary that applies to all in this position.

For instance, in the United States, the mean annual wage among captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels was €72,025 ($87,420 USD) in 2019. But, in reality, this figure varies quite a bit.

The actual yacht captain salary depends on the company, the size of the yacht, and experience. The type of license held also affects the rate of compensation.

The base salary for a yacht captain job can range from €4,000 and €6,000 per month—to more than €18,000—depending on the size of the yacht. But, additional compensation is earned in the form of tips and other benefits.

While each captain may still earn a higher or lower rate based on many factors, below are the general parameters depending on the size of the yacht.

Yacht Captain Salary Range Breakdown

Salary guidelines for yacht captains tend to fall into the following ranges. They are organized by vessel length, as the complexity of the position increases with yacht length. 

For example, a Junior Captain would likely be found handling a ship 20 meters to 30 meters in length. A Captain might be manning a ship 30 meters to 50 meters feet in length. Finally, a Senior Master would be found in charge of vessels 50 meters to 60 meters and greater. 

Typical salary ranges per charter for these sizes are detailed below.

Furthermore, these figures vary within the range depending on owner and guest use, qualifications for the position, and the vessel’s itinerary. 

They also vary depending on the captain’s experience and licensing.

Yacht sizeSalary
20 meters to 30 meters€4,000 to €6,000
30 meters to 40 meters€6,000 to €8,000
40 meters to 50 meters€8,000 to €10,000
50 meters to 60 meters€10,000 to €12,000
60 meters to 70 meters€12,000 to €14,000
70 meters to 80 meters€14,000 to €16,000
80 meters to 90 meters€16,000+
90 meters to 100 meters€17,000+
100 meters and greater€18,000+

Licensing

Licensing is crucial to becoming a captain, but simply studying the material alone is not enough. Experience is also an imperative factor in obtaining proper licenses and becoming a yacht captain. 

Prospective captains typically need 3-5 years of experience in an office or mate position to move up to a captain. Each step of the licensing classifications carries an experience mandate to ensure individuals are ready for the responsibility of the position.

As previously mentioned, one of the most influential factors in determining a yacht captain salary is the license held. There are various levels for captain’s licenses, each requiring its own educational programs and certifications.

Six-Pack Captain’s License

This license allows you to captain a boat with up to six paying passengers. The crew are not counted in this tally. Additionally, the vessel must weigh 100 gross tons or less. 

These vessels are usually not the super yacht vessels you may imagine. Instead, these tend to be charter fishing, scuba, diving, or tour cruise ships.

Throughout this program, captains learn topics including:

  • Navigational rules
  • Navigation aids
  • Chart plotting 
  • Electronic navigation
  • Characteristics of weather systems 
  • Lifesaving equipment and safety

There is also a mandatory test following the course.

To obtain a Six-Pack Captain’s License, you also need at least 360 days of documented vessel operation experience. 90 of such days must be within three years of obtaining the license. Any experience prior to 16 years old does not count toward this total.

Master’s License

A Master’s License is needed to captain a boat with more than six paying passengers. Examples of these ships include ferries, harbour tour boats, and of course—charter yachts.

Those seeking to obtain a Master’s License cover topics listed for the Six-Pack license. In addition, you also learn:

  • Basic seamanship skills
  • Tides and currents
  • Marine radio operation
  • Pollution prevention
  • Vessel handling skills
  • Emergency procedures

Obtaining a Master’s License is no easy feat. There are several variations of the license, each with its own criteria.

A Master Inland license requires 360 days of underway experience, not including anything prior to age 16. 90 of these days must be within three years of securing the license.

A Master Inland/OUPV carries the above requirements. Plus, 90 of these days must be obtained outside of boundary lines.

A Master Inland/Mate NC requires the above requirements, as well. However, the number of days outside the boundary lines is increased to 180 days.

A Master Near Coastal is much more extensive.

This license requires 720 days underway, not including any days prior to age 16. 90 of these days must also be within three years of licensing. Plus, 360 days must be outside the boundary lines.

After completing each course, there is also a mandatory assessment to obtain the applicable license. Furthermore, each candidate seeking a Master’s License must:

  • Obtain a Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC Card)
  • Be 19 years or older
  • Pass a physical examination
  • Pass a drug test
  • Complete CPR/First Aid training

You can also add endorsements to your license. Examples include towing or auxiliary sail endorsements.

These are not required, but they do open up more job opportunities. Plus, they are likely to increase yacht captain salary. 

Other Compensation

Base salary is important, of course. But it is not the only area that goes into yacht captain salaries.

Tipping

In addition to their salary, a chunk of the money for both a captain and other crew member compensation comes from tips.

In particular, captains typically earn 10 to 15 per cent of the charter price in tips.

Benefits

As with other career paths, there are various benefits in addition to yacht captain salaries and tips. These benefits include:

  • Bonuses
  • Health insurance
  • Flight expenses
  • Paid vacation time
  • Training and certification cost reimbursement
  • Uniforms

Plus, while on the vessel, food and supplies are typically included as well.

The Responsibilities of a Yacht Captain

While it’s true yacht captains can earn six-figure salaries, this comes with a great deal of responsibility.

Yacht captains are ultimately responsible for all matters of the vessel, personnel, and guest safety. This includes:

  • Following yacht owner instructions
  • Scheduling and rotating ports each month depending on guests
  • Hiring, supervision, and dismissal of crew
  • Ensuring legal and regulatory compliance
  • All aspects of navigation—including plotting a safe course, departing, following said course, and docking
  • Managing vessel maintenance
  • Managing the ship’s finances
  • Securing goods and services for the vessel

To be successful in this career path, captains must be quick on their feet. They must maintain a problem-solving mindset at all times, to ensure the safety of the vessel and everyone on board.

But at the same time, these individuals must be extremely personable. Whether it be interacting with the owner, guests, or crew, the captain’s communication skills must be top-notch. This way, everyone is on the same page about the given expectations.

As a captain, you are also in charge of staffing the ship. You will quite literally depend on these workers for the safety and security of the vessel you are responsible for.

With this in mind, it’s important to thoroughly vet every individual who works on your ship. Using a managed hiring agency to vet these individuals ahead of time is one of the most effective ways to screen potential hires.

Be sure to carefully review these agencies, as well. With so much on the line, it’s critical that they remain professional yet tailor their services to your needs. These agencies should come well-reviewed to ensure the success of the staffing process.

Yacht Captain Resources

Nearly everyone who has seen a luxury yacht floating by has wondered—how much does a yacht captain make? With this salary guide, you can gain further understanding of this career path and its salary potential.

For more information on positions available in Europe and other areas, or for managed staff recruitment services, contact us today.

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