Essential Deckhand Training:

Entry-level deckhand courses and qualifications are essential to your success in the industry. Obtaining your first job as a deckhand is difficult as it is a fiercely competitive position. Without experience, it is difficult to differentiate yourself from every other aspiring deckhand. It is therefore essential to gain experience through the correct course training.

Below is a list of courses you should take as an aspiring deckhand with little or no experience:

Not having any of the above qualifications will limit your ability to perform mandatory deckhand tasks on board a superyacht.

Detail of beautiful Superyacht, deckhand lifting the huge fender of the starboard side of the megayacht, spotless grey and white superstructure
Image of two crew members fighting a fire during STCW superyacht training.

STCW 2010 Basic Training

In order for you to legally obtain a job on a superyacht, you have to be STCW certified, no matter your role.

STCW is the abbreviation for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. The STCW needs to be refreshed every five years and is offered in most countries worldwide.

The STCW Basic Training ensures that all crew are competent and willing to engage in safety and survival operations that one may encounter while working at sea.

Powerboat / Rib Training:

As an aspiring deckhand, this course is a necessity. Without a powerboat license you will be unable to drive the tenders.

The two most popular courses are the RYA Powerboat Level 2 course or the IYT Small Powerboat & Rib Master

You do not need any prior qualifications or experience and these courses focus on the basics of driving a powerboat. It teaches skills such as; close-quarter handling, recovering a man overboard, driving on the plane and very basic collision regulations.

Powerboat: Rib with deckhand driving near iceberg
Closed Yacht Door for Security Awareness

Proficiency in Security Certificate

In order to work on an ISPS-compliant vessel, one of the following will be required:

Proficiency in Security Awareness (PSA)

Commonly included in STCW Basic Training packages, Proficiency in Security Awareness is a mandatory course for seafarers employed or engaged in any capacity on ships that are required to comply with the ISPS Code. For yacht crew, this applies to commercial yachts of more than 500 gross tons. PSA is mandatory for crew wishing to be employed on such a vessel.

Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)

The PDSD course is mandatory for all seafarers working on board vessels with designated security duties on ISPS-compliant vessels (usually commercial vessels over 500GT (+-50m). The PDSD includes the PSA and can also be done in class or in an online format. Although it is advised to go straight to the PDSD, it can also be done at a later stage or once employed, should it be a requirement (provided a PSA is held).

Scanning visitor pass to enter an event or conference
Cleaning the yacht

Superyacht Deckhand Course:

Many training schools around the world offer introductory deckhand courses. These aim to teach some of the basic skills required to be a deckhand, such as; sanding, painting, varnishing, scrubbing decks and washing down. These courses are useful for teaching basic deck maintenance skills and preparing deck crew for their first job. However, these are not recognised qualifications and these skills can be learned ‘day working’ or even on the job. If you have not been exposed to the industry by and friends or family, we recommend taking an introductory course.

RYA Personal Watercraft Certificate (PWC)

As a deckhand seeking your first job in the industry, it is advisable to complete PWC training which is considered an important deckhand course that is needed at all levels. It is a one-day course that trains you to drive and operate a personal watercraft, also known as a jet ski or wave runner. No previous experience or qualifications are required. It is an entry-level course that can help boost your CV and improve your chances of landing your first deckhand position.

Jet ski instructor riding a personal water craft
Detail of hands cleating off superyacht mooring lines on the foredeck with teak deck and stainless steel fittings

Extensive Practical Deckhand Course

Entry-level courses are a great introduction to your role as a deckhand. Although you will feel more confident stepping onto a vessel for the first time, you may not have had sufficient time during the course to become proficient in the required tasks. Captains will still view you as green, inexperienced, and a risk to employ during busy periods. Thankfully there are now courses that cover all aspects extensively so that you are competent enough to hit the ground running. If you are serious about becoming a deckhand and would like to be considered for job opportunities that would usually only be reserved for crew with a few months of experience, we recommend you enroll in the comprehensive 8-week course or select one of the specific practical courses.


As a deckhand seeking your first job in the yachting industry, it is advisable to complete a VHF course. This 1-day course will enable the use of the VHF radio equipment on board and no previous experience is required. It is an essential qualification to progress on deck. The sooner a deckhand member becomes familiar with this equipment the better. It is, therefore, a good course for green deckhands to have. Additionally, qualifications like this reflect long-term industry commitment. It is also a prerequisite for a Yachtmaster / Master of Yachts 200GT.

Male superyacht Deckhand with a handheld radio getting ready to drop anchor, with a blue sky in the background
Seamanship center - chart plotting

Yachtmaster / Master of Yachts:

Certain training schools around the world will also make it possible for ‘green crew’ to complete courses and qualifications that usually require industry experience and/or previous qualifications. This is made possible by gaining the necessary sea time and miles through the training school. It is often referred to as the ‘zero-hero’ method and is most commonly used for the Yachtmaster qualification.

RYA Day Skipper:

This course is not essential as an aspiring deckhand but can be beneficial. It provides a good introduction into seamanship, watchkeeping and collision regulations. It is a 5-day theory-based course and adds value to your CV.  It provides good fundamental knowledge which is useful on board and for future courses.

Day Skipper

Tender Operator

Although the powerboat level two is a great introductory course to tender driving, it has been identified by the RYA and PYA that there are a few areas that are not covered by the course. The RYA tender operators certificate will result in greater competence in areas such as night navigation, GPS plotting, vessel drop-offs as well as high-speed maneuvering to name a few.

Advanced Powerboat

If you would like to be better equipped for large power boat driving during the day and night, then the advanced power boat course is strongly recommended. With an RYA/MCA Advanced Powerboat Commercial Endorsement, license holders are able to drive an MCA coded boat up to 24m in length or 80 gross tons up to 20 miles away from the shore or safe haven.

2 deckhands driving a large powerboat
Yacht Crew Scuba Diving Course

Scuba Diving:

Scuba diving experience and qualifications are beneficial in helping land a job as a deckhand. Dive Instructor and Dive Master courses considerably improve the chances of getting a job, however, Open Water and Advanced diving qualifications are also beneficial and will improve your CV.

Advanced Yacht Deckhand Training

Efficient Deckhand (EDH) Course

Once you have built up sufficient sea time to start working towards your OOW and start taking on more responsibility, it is advised to complete the efficient deckhand course. This will ensure that you operate in a safe and professional manner when moving to a more senior role. It is important to understand that this is a more advanced course when compared to an entry-level Superyacht deckhand course.

Find Deckhand Training Courses Near Me

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Deckhand Training Course Centres in South Africa:

Select Durban, Cape Town and Langebaan to find the best training centres in the region or view all deckhand training centres in South Africa.

Superyacht in Fort Lauderdale

Deckhand Training Course Centres in The United States of America:

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Deckhand Training Course Centres in The United Kingdom & Ireland

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superyacht and warship on the Thames river, England, UK
superyacht in malta

Deckhand Training Course Centres in Europe:

Deckhand Training Course Centres in The Asia Pacific Region

Deckhand Training Yacht in Sydney Harbour