Fishing vessel skipper

Animals, land and environment

Career outlook for fishing vessel skipper

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would move onto this role after working as a deckhand. You would be in charge of a boat that catches fish at sea. You’d plan voyages, navigate to fishing grounds, work on deck and sell the catch to agents when back on shore.

There are different types of boats you could work on:

  • Inshore vessels, which do not go far from the coast
  • Limited area vessels, which work within a set area around the coast of the United Kingdom
  • Unlimited area vessels, working in distant fishing grounds in international waters

As a skipper, you’d use your knowledge of the sea and weather patterns to plan fishing voyages. You’d also navigate the vessel.

And understanding of electronics and basic engineering will help you safely operate and maintain the equipment. Most modern vessels use electronic systems for navigation, to locate fish and monitor the onboard storage conditions.

It’s a responsible job. The crew will rely on you to keep them and the boat safe. You will be expected to remain calm under pressure and make quick decisions in emergency situations. First aid skills will be valuable.

You’d also need to make sure that the fishing trips are profitable. You’d work closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch.

Each fishing trip will need to follow maritime laws and international fishing regulations.

You could work on fishing vessels ranging from small, single-handed boats to large factory trawlers.

Working conditions


Your working hours would vary according to which fishing areas you work in, but would usually be long and include shifts and sharing the 'watches'.


You would also spend some time onshore, repairing nets and maintaining the vessel. Your time would be split between working on the bridge and on deck. You would work in all weathers and sometimes in hazardous conditions, such as freezing weather, storms and gales. Conditions onboard would depend on the type and age of your vessel.


In inshore waters, you would usually return from sea each day. If you work farther afield, around the UK coast or more distant grounds, you could be away for anything from several days to weeks or months at a time.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Resilience
  • Building relationships
  • Cooperating
  • Working with technology
  • Developing a plan
  • Taking initiative
  • Making decisions
  • Taking responsibility

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


There are no set qualifications for this role. However, you'll need at least 18 months experience as a deckhand before applying to be a skipper. 

All skippers need to hold a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificate of Competency. 

Useful subjects

  • Maths
  • English
  • Science subjects
  • Practical technologies
  • Engineering
  • ICT subjects

You will also need

You will also need to complete a mandatory Safety Awareness and Risk Assessment Course.

Helpful to have

Relevant work-based qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Maritime Occupations (SVQ level 2) and the Diploma in Maritime Studies (SCQF level 5) may be helpful.  

Skills for Work Maritime Skills (SCQF level 5) may be a helpful introduction to the industry.