Education and Training Requirements

High School

There probably are not many classes offered at your high school that will involve you working directly with fishing and boats, especially if you live far from the water. But there are courses that can give you background for the career. Geography and history will teach you about the climates and industry of various fishing villages and port cities around the world; in biology class, you will learn about marine life. Agriculture courses may also include units in the fishing industry. Take shop courses, as you may be required to repair your fishing machinery. Business courses will prepare you for record keeping and accounting details of self-employment.

Postsecondary Training

Fishers learn their skills through experience on the job. Certain academic courses, however, can help prepare workers for their first job. Some high schools, colleges, and technical schools in port cities offer useful courses in handling boats and fishing equipment, biology, meteorology, navigation, and marketing. Associate's degree and certificate programs in fishery technologies, commercial fishing, and aquaculture (the commercial raising of fish and other marine life) are also available at some community colleges, such as Bellingham Technical College (Washington); Mt. Hood Community College (Oregon); and Morrisville State College (NewYork). Some four-year schools also offer bachelor’s degrees; for example, the University of Rhode Island offers a bachelor’s degree in aquaculture and fisheries technology. These programs usually combine course work and hands-on experience in the fishing industry. 

Experienced fishers often take short-term courses offered by postsecondary schools. These programs provide information on electronic navigation and communications equipment and the latest improvements in fishing gear.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Captains and first mates on large fishing vessels of at least 200 gross tons must be licensed. Captains of charter sport fishing boats must also be licensed, regardless of the size of the vessel. Crew members on certain fish processing vessels may require merchant mariner's documentation. These licenses and documents are issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Individuals seeking certification must meet physical and academic requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring fishers should obtain as much experience as possible fishing—especially in part-time summer positions with commercial fishers.

People who enjoy risk, independence, and hard work may enjoy commercial fishing. Fishers should be self-sufficient and able to cope with the everyday dangers of working with heavy equipment on wet decks and in stormy seas. Teamwork is essential when seas become rough or equipment breaks down, so fishers must stay calm in the face of trouble. Mechanical aptitude is also essential as fishers spend a good deal of time setting up, repairing, and maintaining equipment. Business acumen will help those fishers who want to be skippers of their own boats.