Can a Felon Get a Captain’s License?

If you’ve committed a crime and you’re looking for job opportunities, you may want to become the Captain of a ship. Perhaps, you grew up on the water, or you enjoy fishing.

Maybe, you already work on a ship and you want to be the Captain of that ship. If you have the talent to lead people and put their safety first this may be a great job for you.

What Does a Captain Do?

If you want to operate a ship in the ocean or even a lake you can become a Captain. It is not as simple as driving a boat.

Ship Captains are responsible for understanding how their vessel works. They also have to know the laws of the water they’re in, and weather conditions.

You’ll need to be familiar with special equipment that keeps boats safe. The Radar will help you navigate your journey. Things like Depth Finders make sure that you don’t hit anything in the water you can’t see.

You’ll also have to understand the hydraulic pressure and oxygen levels of your ship. To make sure you have a safe and successful trip, you will have to understand your vessel.

How Do You Become a Captain?

To begin your career you’ll need licenses. To work on a ship, you must have the Transportation Workers Identification Credential.

You will have to have this credential before ever stepping foot on a ship. To work on the ocean, you’ll have to have a Standards of Training Certification. The Watchkeeping endorsement is also required.

You get these licenses from the Coast Guard once you have completed training and tests. You will have to renew your license every five years. This means if you had the credentials before getting in trouble, you may have to renew them.

You’ll have to have the education and training it takes to do all the Captain’s responsibilities. You can start as a worker on a boat, or you can get a formal education like going to college.

You can get a formal education at a merchant marine academy. Some employers may want you to have this before hiring you as a captain.

If this education isn’t an option, you can start by getting an entry-level position and working your way up. The training that you get will be vital to your success and reaching your goals.

Getting Your Captain’s License

This is a professional license that allows you to operate a water vessel with a crew and a job to do. Government authorities issue Professional Licenses. These state that you have specific skills to do your job.

Any time you apply for a professional license, you will have to prove that you can do a job safely and honestly. You will have to have the skills and knowledge to operate in your job functions.

Captain’s licenses are required for you to carry passengers on your ship. Having this ability opens a lot of opportunities for you.

You can do fishing tours or take people who pay you for sight-seeing. The possibilities for financial growth are endless.

There are two types of licenses depending on what you’d like to do;

  • Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels – This is also called the “6-Pack” license. It allows you to have up to 6 passengers and is less regulated. You can travel rivers, lakes, and up to 100 miles off the coast into the ocean.
  • Master License – This means you work on a ship that is regulated and can carry more than six passengers.

All licenses need you to have a health physical. You’ll also have to complete an application, take drug tests, and have CPR training.

Basic first aid skills are important too. All these requirements have a time frame of 6-12 months before applying.

How Do You Get the Captain’s License with a Felony?

Let’s suppose you’ve worked on a ship for a long time and now it’s time for you to take the wheel and drive. Will your felony prevent you from being the Captain?

When you apply for your license there will be a background check. For some jobs, having your felony expunged from your record will help you. Not in this case though.

The Coast Guard considers a conviction any crime where the courts made you do something. This can mean you had to serve time in prison or pay fines.

Unless you were innocent of any wrongdoings you’ll want to admit to your crimes in the application. Failing to do this can get you in a lot of trouble, and it will get your license denied.

Your conviction does not mean that you won’t ever get a Captain’s License. It can mean you have to wait to get one though.

Each crime has a waiting period called an “assessment period.” This means you can get your license. First, you must show that you are not going to commit any more crimes once you have it.

Crimes that involve drinking alcohol or using drugs is especially looked at. This is because you will be operating a ship which can be very dangerous at times. People onboard will trust you to get them back to land safely.

If you are not trustworthy, you may not get your license. Stay out of trouble and learn as much as you can during your assessment period.

Is it Worth It?

Aside from following your passions, having a Captain’s license can earn you a great living. It is always best to make a living doing something you love.

In the case of ship captains, the jobs are only expected to grow. This means you will have a lot of work opportunities.

If you’d like to be home often, an Inland Captain job would be right for you. These captains stay close to their homes and make about $88,000 per year on average.

Going out on the ocean may mean being away from home for longer periods. If you’d like to travel you can earn around $84,000 per year.

With the 6-pack license, you can take small tours and sightseers on the water. You will earn an average of $55,000 per year with this job.


Even if you’ve been in trouble before you can get a job as a ship Captain. It will mean that you have the right licenses and experience to go out on your own.

You may look to the support of family and friends who can help you reach success. Although it may take time and hard work, if this is something you’d like to do, you can get your license.


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