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If you’re all at sea about your career path and/or working life in general, then why not consider the more vocational university of life – and life on the ocean waves?

The highly professional and burgeoning international maritime sector is certainly bucking the trend and youth charity UKSA is at the forefront of a plethora of ‘earn while you learn’ training opportunities, whatever your age, background, budget, timeframe, level of experience or life stage.

The Isle of Wight-based charity is the country’s leading maritime training provider and specialises in challenging and rewarding alternatives to conventional college or university. It’s an ‘all-inclusive’ career path that includes skills and experience, mentoring, food and accommodation, guidance, industry knowledge, career support, plus a social and leisure scene that is fun and exciting.
For starters, a brand new Opportunities Afloat five day residential taster course for just £199 - aimed at youngsters 16+ – lets you dip your toe in the water and find out if working at sea is the right path for you? You’ll get hands-on time out on a yacht, an insight into the glamorous and lucrative superyacht industry, plus experience of the exciting watersports industry and its worldwide opportunities. What’s more, no experience is necessary.

UKSA’s six-week Crew Training for 18+ is the ideal entry route and the most simple and cost effective way of gaining employment as a deckhand or crew on yachts of all sizes, including superyachts. It costs just £3,995 - and you would spend the same on a basic plumbing course, stuck at home, in your local college – but once employed students can typically earn €2500 a month tax free (not including tips) as deckhands working in exotic locations across the Mediterranean, Caribbean and worldwide.

If you want to skipper your own yacht, work with charter and flotilla companies, carry out short haul deliveries, or teach yachting, then Professional Yachtmaster Offshore opens doors to the whole industry. This 13-week intensive course costs £7,250, is world renowned, and typically attracts those looking for a career change, but entry at the appropriate level. As an example, those working on decent sized charter boats can generally live on tips alone and double a circa £30,000 per annum salary that could remain untouched in the bank.

The 23-week Professional Yachtmaster Ocean course (£14,995) offers the highest level of skills in the shortest space of time and gives you the qualifications, plus practical sailing, engineering and maintenance experience to work on all types of yachts – from commercial varieties under 24 meters right up to the world’s largest superyachts. This is increasingly proving popular with the older generation too, who have a spare six months through redundancy, early retirement or a lifelong desire to try something different, but can quickly recoup the costs via a profession that offers very well paid starter salaries.
For those more suited to working below deck, or attracted to glitz and glamour, UKSA’s Superyacht Interior Foundation course (just three weeks long and only £2,600) is a whistle stop tour of working in the uber rich and cool superyacht industry. It will equip you with all the hospitality and personal skills needed to excel in the playground of the seriously wealthy, together with the essential safety training required for work on board. 

Last, but not least, the flagship Yachting Cadetship is a structured three year apprenticeship for a long-term career in superyachts, which includes a Foundation Degree in Operational Yacht Science delivered in conjunction with Falmouth Marine School and validated by the University of Plymouth. Cadets can easily graduate debt-free because of what they earn during what amounts to some two years of paid work placements.

With the Foundation Degree recently being granted full-time status it can now be applied for through UCAS, plus successful 2014 cadets will be able to drawn down on student loans to assist them - as well as taking advantage of all the other associated benefits that full-time students enjoy. 

Ben Willows, UKSA’s Operations Director, explains: “We literally do have something for everyone and I’m constantly reassured by students saying we’re a unique organisation with a really different approach to teaching and learning. They also tell us UKSA has literally opened up their eyes to the many opportunities available in the maritime industry, which as an island race we don’t quite seem to appreciate.

“One in 10 yacht masters across the world are expertly trained via UKSA and more than 80% of our professional course participants overall gain employment. That’s because our students benefit from the unrivalled global network of over 1,500 employers that we’ve spend 25 years building and who work closely with us to maximise each student’s potential.

“Our industry used to be perceived as expensive and privileged, simply constituting the merchant navy, and not a proper career path by both parents and schools, but thankfully that has all changed now and UKSA has more than played its part.

“Given what will probably be another bumper year for university applications – despite the astronomical annual fees - it’s important that students of all ages know about alternative and vocational forms of education that are both more affordable in the long run and can often lead to better paid jobs.”

To find out more, contact UKSA’s career advisors – many of whom have experienced the courses available first hand – on 01983 203038, or visit

As a charity, UKSA is committed to removing the financial barriers some people may face and making training accessible to all, so the career advisors can also assist you with any funding and bursary opportunities available.


  • Date published: 30th October 2015
  • Written by: Ian Thomas

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