How to get a job on a tugboat

Updated April 17, 2017

Living and working on a tugboat can be an adventure, requiring physical labour and weeks away from home. You will get to travel the world and visit new locations when you dock, while staying physically fit. Most tugboat companies offer entry-level positions for deckhands -- people who assist others in preparing barges for loading and discharging cargo. If you get a job as a deckhand, you will help build tows and cables to tie and untie barges and boats.

Research several tugboat companies online, and follow the application instructions. Most companies require that you submit your application in person.

Walk in to the company office, and fill out an application in person. For a deckhand position, there are two minimum qualifications. You must be 18 or older and able to pass a background check.

Get a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) license. While this is not a requirement for securing a deckhand position, the license will make you a more valuable applicant. Having a USCG license is the equivalent to having a bachelor's degree in the tugboat industry. This can greatly increase your chances of getting hired.

Pursue other qualifications that will make you stand above the competition. For instance, you can obtain a 100-ton master license, which will qualify you for crew boat captain positions. Other qualifications include a first aid license, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) radio operator permit, and towing and radar endorsement.


Become familiar with tugboat safety policies and procedures, environmental rules and governmental regulations. You may be asked questions about these during your job interview.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet
  • Relevant licenses and certifications
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About the Author

Eric Michaels has been a writer since 2004. His writing has appeared in the music of Paper Thick Walls and Glasko. He is a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in English and theater.