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First & Second Officer job description

Superyacht first officer at outside bridge

All superyachts generally have a First Officer on board, but larger yachts would employ a Second Officer as well. The roles are quite similar, but specific duties are likely to vary from one yacht to another. The First Officer, sometimes known as the Chief Officer or Chief Mate, is second in command to the Captain and manages all of the deck crew including the Second Officer, Bosuns and Deckhands. 


The main responsibilities include the safety of the yacht and everyone on board, overseeing all deck operations and maintenance, supervision and preparation of toys on board, and a long list of administrative and safety duties on board. It is usual for the First Officer to undertake the navigational passage planning for the yacht.

As First Officer you will undertake bridge watches while at sea and your navigational abilities will be put to use. As the Captain’s second-in-charge you must be flexible to work many hours and familiarise yourself with all aspects of the yacht and its operations.

The Second Officer acts as understudy to the First Officer. He/she may be specifically responsible for the navigation of the yacht and keeping charts and publications up to date. Other duties include monitoring the navigation and radio equipment and undertaking bridge watches when at sea. The Second Officer may also be the designated security, safety or medical officer.

Required Skills and Experience

The position of First or Second Officer demands someone who has a firm knowledge of working on deck, and therefore usually has a background working as a Deckhand or Bosun on superyachts. Additionally, they should have diplomacy, good personnel management skills and the ability to assign duties and delegate crew on various projects. Knowledge of safety issues is paramount.

Required Certification

Most First and Second Officers will be required to hold either the MCA STCW Officer of the Watch (Yachts) <3000gt or Chief Mate (Yachts) <3000gt certification.

On smaller yachts candidates may have RYA or IYT certificates such as the Yachtmaster Ocean.

Some First Officers come from a Merchant Navy background, and although the superyacht sector is very different, Merchant Navy certifications are recognised.

Salary Range

First Officers can generally expect around £2,750 to upwards of £4,000 per month. Second Officer salaries are usually in the range of £2,250 to £3,000 per month. There may also be rotation opportunities for the First Officer and occasionally for the Second Officer positions, especially on larger yachts.

Career Progression

Superyacht Crew
An experienced First Officer can progress to Captain. Second Officers usually progress to First Officer.

Marine Industry
Your experience is likely to stand you in good stead for a whole range of careers within the wider maritime industry. If you want to continue working with Superyachts you may choose to work for a Yacht Management or Service company, or in a Superyacht Yard or Repair/Refit company.

Alternatively you could look to the Leisure Marine or Port industries, finding a position as a Marina Manager or Harbour Master for example. Jobs in surveying also value your experience.

You may also wish to be involved in training and education as a Lecturer or Instructor.

Other Industries
Your excellent management skills and good head for problem-solving, customer service and operational management will serve you well in any other industry.