Captain Job Description

Captains direct and manage staff members, ensure compliance with company and safety standards, and maintain efficient day-to-day operations. Captains work in many different fields: sports teams appoint captains as leaders; restaurants and hotels hire banquet captains; shipyards hire ship captains; and police departments, firehouses, and airlines all use the rank of captain to denote supervisory professionals.

Though “captain” is also a specific military rank, many private businesses hire captains to work full time in service environments and aboard transport vessels. In many private businesses, captains are primarily responsible for maintaining operations and supervising staff within an assigned area and rarely travel outside this given location.


Captain Duties and Responsibilities

Daily duties for captains vary greatly depending on where they work and the nature of their job, such as whether they’re in charge of a vessel or a physical piece of property that provides services to customers. These tasks are commonly performed by most captains:

Train and Supervise Staff

Captains train staff members on how to perform their daily work tasks and adhere to company standards. They also supervise and manage staff by delegating work, ensuring employees are adhering to policies, and monitoring employee performance to guarantee proper execution.

Assist Customers

Captains address customer complaints and questions and find solutions to their problems.

Maintain Standards

Captains maintain company standards for cleanliness in all work and customer areas, and direct staff to clean up any disorganized or unsightly areas of the property.

Coordinate Events

Captains schedule and coordinate staff for special events and direct outside vendors on where to provide various event services.

Schedule Staff

Captains create staff schedules based on when employees are needed to perform work tasks.

Navigate Vessels

Captains who work on ships, aircraft, or other transport vessels are responsible for navigating the craft. This includes docking and undocking or landing and lifting off in various types of vessels.


Captain Skills and Qualifications

Captains are leaders who train and supervise staff members and direct daily operations to keep customers satisfied. Businesses look for captains who have all the skills needed to perform the various tasks associated with the role, including:

  • Leadership – captains supervise staff members and delegate tasks to employees, which requires excellent leadership
  • Customer service – captains use customer service skills to interact with customers and handle customer complaints and questions
  • Communication skills – captains use strong verbal communication skills to direct staff and address customers
  • Physical fitness – captains stand and walk for long periods at a time and lift heavy materials, tasks that require physical fitness
  • Attention to detail – captains maintain excellent attention to detail at all times to ensure cleanliness, efficient operations, and high work quality
  • Computer skills – captains use software to access event and staff schedules, and may use programs for navigational purposes when working onboard a ship or another vessel


Captain Education and Training

A majority of employers hire captains who have a high school diploma or GED, though a college degree in a related industry is preferred by many. In addition to education, employers seek captains who have past management experience of some type.

Paid on-the-job training is provided to captains, the length of which varies by employer and by the amount of experience the candidate already has. While in training, captains work closely with a senior captain or upper management executive to learn how to perform their daily tasks.


Captain Salary and Outlook

Data from PayScale shows that ship captains earn a median yearly income of $97,013, while airline captains earn $145,967 annually, and banquet captains earn $12.84 per hour. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that food service managers (who perform many of the same tasks as banquet captains) earn $52,030 in annual median income. The BLS expects employment in this field to grow 9 percent through 2026. This rate is as fast as the national average.

Captains typically receive complete benefit packages that include health insurance with dental and vision coverage. Life insurance is often included in these packages as well. Paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days are provided by a majority of employers. Captains also usually receive work uniforms.


Helpful Resources

These helpful resources provide job openings, career tips, networking opportunities, and workplace strategies for multiple types of captains across several industries:

American Professional Mariners Association – this website designed for ship captains and other professional mariners provides job openings, news updates, networking opportunities, and a marketplace full of goods

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy – learn how to run a tight ship with this book for boat captains of all types. The text contains tips from an actual Navy captain to teach others how to keep everything shipshape

National Restaurant Association – restaurant professionals of all types can browse this website to find restaurant jobs, read news updates, browse research resources, and look for upcoming training and networking events

How to Rock Restaurant Management: 5 Ingredients to Leading a Successful Team – find the keys to successful restaurant management with this book that’s full of real-world leadership tips, including information on managing guest relations, using wise time-management techniques, and maintaining positive team morale

American Management Association – AMA is designed for professionals who want to learn leadership skills to better manage staff in any industry

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – use this book to learn how to be a great boss and develop the essential management skills needed to effectively lead and supervise employees to get great results


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