Career Development

What Does a Bosun Do?

Find out what a Bosun does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a Bosun.

Bosuns are responsible for the day-to-day operations on board a ship. They ensure that everything is running smoothly and that everyone is doing their job. They’re often in charge of organizing the crew’s schedules, assigning duties, and ensuring that safety protocols are being followed.

Bosuns may also be tasked with maintaining the ship’s equipment and keeping an eye out for any signs of wear or damage. This includes everything from inspecting the hull for cracks to making sure that all of the pumps and engines are working properly.

Bosun Job Duties

Bosuns typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Maintaining safety standards on board by conducting regular safety inspections and drills, including fire, disaster, and safety drills
  • Reporting to officers regarding the status of the crew, ship, or voyage
  • Supervising the work of other crew members and making sure that their work is done properly, efficiently, and safely
  • Informing officers about any problems that may arise on board, such as damage to equipment or injuries to personnel
  • Determining whether repairs are needed and directing workers in performing repairs
  • Assisting in the navigation of the ship by maintaining logs of nautical charts and instruments used during navigation
  • Maintaining the ship’s supplies of food and drink by monitoring the inventory of stores and ordering additional supplies as needed
  • Coordinating the loading and unloading of cargo onto and off of vessels
  • Maintaining order among the crew by enforcing regulations, discipline policies, and safety protocols

Bosun Salary & Outlook

Bosuns’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the company they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,570 ($25.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $124,000 ($59.62/hour)

The employment of bosun is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

Employment growth will largely be limited to the repair and maintenance of ships, as opposed to new ship construction. The need to maintain and repair existing ships will continue to drive demand for these workers. However, automation may limit the number of jobs available in this occupation.

Related: Bosun Interview Questions and Answers

Bosun Job Requirements

A bosun is responsible for a number of qualifications and requirements, which include:

Education: A bosun is typically required to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some employers may require a candidate to have a minimum of an Associate’s Degree in Marine Transportation or a related field. An aspiring bosun can also pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Transportation or a related field.

Training & Experience: Most of a bosun’s training will take place on the job, under the guidance of a senior bosun. This training can last from a few months to a year, depending on the company and the complexity of the job. A new bosun will learn how to use the company’s computer systems, how to keep track of inventory and how to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.

Certifications & Licenses: Though not required, many employers prefer candidates who are certified. A bosun who is certified has a greater chance of being hired by an employer and can expect to earn higher wages than uncertified bosuns.

Bosun Skills

Bosuns need the following skills in order to be successful:

Leadership: Bosuns are in charge of a crew of deckhands and other ship staff, so they need to have strong leadership skills. Leadership skills like decisiveness, assertiveness and the ability to motivate others are all important for a bosun. They need to be able to make quick decisions and delegate tasks to their crew. They also need to be able to motivate their crew to work hard and be safe.

Communication: Communication is another skill that can help bosuns succeed in their careers. They often work with a variety of people, including other crew members, captains and passengers. They also need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively to ensure that everyone understands their orders and instructions.

Problem-solving: A bosun’s duties often involve overseeing a variety of tasks at once. They may need to identify and solve problems that arise during a project, such as when a crew member is injured or a piece of equipment malfunctions. They may also need to find solutions to problems that arise during a project, such as when a crew member is injured or a piece of equipment malfunctions.

First aid and CPR: First aid and CPR skills are important for bosuns, as they may be the first to respond to an emergency situation on a ship. Knowing how to perform CPR and other life-saving techniques can help save lives. First aid skills can also help you identify and treat injuries.

Mechanical aptitude: A bosun needs to understand how machinery works and how to repair it. They often work with engineers to ensure the ship’s equipment is in working order. This includes knowing how to operate and repair engines, pumps, electrical systems and other mechanical devices.

Bosun Work Environment

Bosuns work on the decks of ships, supervising the work of the deck crew and performing a variety of tasks themselves. They are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship’s hull, rigging, and equipment. They also keep the decks clean and clear of debris, and they assist in loading and unloading the ship’s cargo. Bosuns work long hours, often more than 12 hours a day, and they are on call 24 hours a day. They work in all weather conditions and must be able to climb tall masts and work aloft in the rigging. Bosuns must be in good physical condition and be able to lift heavy objects. They also need to have good eyesight and hearing and be able to communicate clearly.

Bosun Trends

Here are three trends influencing how bosuns work. Bosuns will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Workplace

The need for more diversity in the workplace is becoming increasingly important as businesses realize the benefits of having a more diverse workforce. This trend is especially true for positions that require strong communication and interpersonal skills, such as bosuns.

As the need for more diversity in the workplace grows, bosuns will need to be able to work effectively with people from different backgrounds and cultures. They will also need to be able to communicate the values of their company to employees in a way that is understood by everyone.

A Greater Focus on Safety

As the maritime industry becomes more regulated, there is a greater focus on safety. This means that bosuns will need to be well-versed in safety procedures and regulations in order to keep their crew members safe.

In addition to understanding safety regulations, bosuns will also need to be able to manage risk and make decisions based on the latest information. This includes keeping up with the latest weather reports and changes in shipping lanes.

More Collaboration Between Crew Members

As the maritime industry becomes more complex, bosuns will need to collaborate more with other crew members in order to get things done.

This trend is already being seen in the shipping industry, where crews are working together to operate large ships. In the future, we can expect to see this trend continue as technology advances and makes it easier for teams to collaborate across distances. Bosuns who are able to work well with others will be in high demand as companies look for ways to improve efficiency.

How to Become a Bosun

A bosun’s career path can be a great way to start your maritime career. As a bosun, you will learn how to lead and manage a team of deckhands, as well as how to handle ropes and cables on board a ship. You will also gain experience in working with cargo and heavy machinery.

As you progress up the ranks, you may become a chief bosun or even a master bosun. This is an excellent opportunity to develop your leadership skills and gain experience in managing large teams.

Advancement Prospects

A bosun typically starts out as a deckhand or able seaman and is promoted to bosun after demonstrating leadership ability and a thorough knowledge of maritime traditions, regulations, and procedures. Some bosuns are promoted to chief bosun or first mate. With further experience and training, they may eventually become captains of their own vessels.

Bosun Job Description Example

The [CompanyX] is currently seeking a highly experienced and certified Bosun to join our team. As a Bosun, you will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of all deck equipment, including but not limited to: mooring lines, anchor chains, hatches, and deck fittings. In addition, you will be responsible for the safety of all deck crew and will be required to maintain a watch while at sea.

The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 5 years of experience as a Bosun or Deck Officer on a vessel of similar size and complexity. In addition, the ideal candidate will hold a valid Bosun’s license from the United States Coast Guard.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as the chief assistant to the Captain, responsible for the overall operation and management of the vessel
  • Oversee the maintenance and repair of the vessel, including but not limited to: engines, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and painting
  • Ensure that the vessel is clean and presentable at all times, inside and out
  • Supervise the deck crew in the performance of their duties, including but not limited to: mooring, anchoring, lines, sails, and rigging
  • Assist the Captain in navigation, using both traditional methods and modern technology
  • Help to maintain the ship’s logbook, documenting all pertinent information regarding the vessel’s location, speed, weather, and any incidents or accidents
  • Serve as the primary point of contact with other vessels, docks, and harbormasters
  • Be prepared to take over the helm of the vessel in the event of an emergency
  • Help to train new deckhands in the proper procedures and protocols
  • Participate in safety drills and be familiar with emergency procedures
  • Work long hours, often in inclement weather conditions
  • Be on call 24/7, as the needs of the vessel come first

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • STCW95 certification
  • Bosun license
  • 5 years of experience as a bosun or similar role on board a vessel
  • Proven leadership ability
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong organizational and time-management skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • 10 years of experience as a bosun or similar role on board a vessel
  • Extensive knowledge of maritime law
  • Working knowledge of engineering systems on board a vessel
  • Ability to maintain a calm demeanor in stressful situations


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