Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Skippers and Marine Officers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects are good for skippers and marine officers, especially those with experience. Income is high; however, it can be a hard occupation to get into, because it is difficult to find a position where one can gain the experience needed to become a skipper or marine officer.

How to become a skipper or marine officer

What they do

Skippers are the captains or masters of a ship. They are responsible for everything that happens on the ship and have overall command on board. Marine officers assist the captain in running the ship. They have authority over the rest of the ship’s crew, and if there is more than one officer, they will take turns in steering the ship from the bridge.

Their tasks may include:

  • directing fishing operations by using knowledge about the species sought, fishing areas, seasons and the capabilities of the vessel and crew
  • directing crew in catching fish, molluscs and crustacea at varying depths using nets, lines, poles, pots and traps
  • planning, controlling and coordinating the operational and maintenance requirements of a ship's propulsion and domestic plant and equipment
  • operating plant and equipment and performing routine maintenance on ship's systems including mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, steam generating, and fire prevention and control systems
  • controlling and directing shipping operations to ensure the safe and efficient loading and transport of cargo and passengers
  • ensuring compliance with regulations pertaining to safety at sea and protection of the marine environment
  • directing the activities of the deck crew for navigational support tasks, berthing and unberthing, maintenance, cleaning and painting of superstructures, and repair and replacement of defective deck gear and equipment
  • navigating a ship by supervising the ship's course and speed according to predetermined passage plans and safety procedures
  • examining and approving design plans of hulls and equipment such as main propulsion engines, auxiliary boilers and turbines, electrical power generating plant, refrigeration and airconditioning plant and pumping systems
  • conducting periodic surveys throughout a ship's life to ensure standards are maintained.


To work as a skipper or marine officer, you need to complete a qualification and get a certificate from Maritime New Zealand. There are various qualifications available. The qualification and certificate needed depends on the size of the ship, where it operates, and the nature of the ship’s operations (carrying passengers, carrying cargo, or fishing).

There are many different pathways to becoming a skipper or marine officer. They all involve completing a New Zealand qualification, spending time at sea, and require the candidate to pass a Maritime New Zealand examination at the end of the training period. Training can be done while working on a ship, at a polytechnic, or a combination of the two.

On large foreign-going vessels you will need to spend time at sea working as part of the crew before you can become an officerand you will need to spend time working as an officer before you can become a skipper.

To work at sea, you must pass a medical test and an eyesight test and you must be assessed as a “fit and proper person” by Marine New Zealand. You also need to hold some additional qualifications, for example, in first aid and survival.

Maritime New Zealand’s website has further details about the different certificates and qualifications.

Cost of study

Costs vary depending on which certificate is being taken and in what way. The cheapest way to obtain a certificate is to train while working on a ship at sea. Training at polytechnics usually costs more, but this sort of training will be required to obtain the qualifications needed for some certificates.

The fee for the certificate itself is usually around $800-1000. In addition, there are usually fees for gaining qualifications in first aid and other required subjects.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

Certificates and diplomas in maritime subjects are offered at different levels at Manukau Institute of Technology, Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Westport Deepsea Fishing School and Coastguard Boating Education.


Completed qualifications

In general, the number of students completing a Level 4 certificate in the broader category ‘Maritime Engineering & Technology’ has decreased since 2011, but has risen for 2016. Note that this is the lowest possible qualification for a skipper, and to obtain foreign going certificates higher qualifications are needed. The number of graduates at higher levels has increased in recent years.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The average annual income for skippers and marine officers in New Zealand is estimated to be around $84,000. Experienced skippers on larger ships can earn considerably more than this. The overall income level for senior officers and skippers is high.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Skippers and marine officers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
2,241 2,304 2,320 2,470
  0.4% 0.1% 1.0%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the broader category “Air and Marine Transport Professionals”.

The number of skippers and marine officers in employment rose slightly from 2006 to 2013. This trend is projected to continue for the next few years, before a small increasw in numbers expected during 2023-2028. An additional 150 to 200 workers will also be required each year to replace older workers as they retire.

Skippers and marine officers often work on ocean-going ships and often work a shift schedule where they work on the ship for three months before getting three months off.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

As of 27.02.2017, skippers and marine officers are no longer on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2013 the number of online job vacancies for the broader category ‘Marine Transport Professionals’ has grown slightly more quickly than the average for all vacancies. This means that getting a job in this industry should be easier than a few years ago.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Skipper and marine officer vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Marine officers can go on to become skippers. Skippers can gain higher-level certificates that allow them to work on larger ships or in international waters. Competenz has an overview of career opportunities for skippers and marine officers.


Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry skippers and marine officers.

  • Chief Master
  • Chief Mate
  • Deck Officer
  • Dredge Master
  • Fishing Skipper
  • Master
  • Mate
  • Navigating Officer
  • Ship's Captain
  • Ship's Master
  • Ship's Officer
  • Ship's Pilot
  • Tug Master

Other information


More information on skippers and marine officers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of skippers and marine officers has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for their purpose of this report:

2312 – Marine Transport Professionals