A career as Navigation Officer


"I have sailed to parts of the world I never imagined and I have seen things I never thought I would. There is nothing more rewarding than the thanks and appreciation you get from helping fellow mariners that encounter troubles at sea. The relief and happiness you see when we arrive to assist them makes the job worthwhile.”
– Jamie Shave, Navigation Officer, CCGS Henry Larsen

What is a Navigation Officer ?

As a Navigation Officer, you are responsible for the safety of the ship, your crew, and any other person on board the vessel. You must know how to safely navigate a vessel through confined and congested waters in all states of weather and visibility. You must understand safe navigation procedures and how to use the ship’s navigation equipment. You also directly supervise and coordinate the activities of the crew working on the bridge. You must keep the Commanding Officer informed of all events that might impact the vessel's mission, and vessel or crew safety.


Your responsibilities will depend on your rank. They may include:

  • piloting a ship
  • operating navigational equipment like radar, electronic charts, gyrocompass
  • executing the route planning following the Commanding Officer's direction
  • plotting and following routes on charts
  • verifying available water depths
  • reading ice charts
  • doing radio communications
  • supervising the activities of the wheelhouse crew
  • participating in search and rescue operations
  • operating small crafts during resupplying operations

Is this career right for me?

A Navigation Officer must be dedicated, clear-headed, and logical. Effective navigators can judge an approach correctly, anticipate accurately, and react effectively. They have heightened surveillance skills and must be skilled communicators, since radio and telephone communications are part of the job.

These qualities and interests are essential for this career:

  • strong interest in sciences and technological equipment
  • interest in working at sea
  • good concentration, judgment, and adaptability
  • good work organization and ability to set priorities
  • leadership and communication skills
  • team work abilities
  • ability to work on irregular schedules and go to sea for periods of up to 42 days

Career opportunities

You will move up in rank by accumulating sea time and passing Transport Canada exams. These are some of the positions available:

  • Captain / Commanding Officer
  • Navigation Officer (several ranks)
  • fleet management
  • various positions within the federal public service
  • various marine-related positions

Training and education requirements

There are three ways to become trained as a Navigation Officer:

  • Attend the Canadian Coast Guard College four-year paid Officer Training Program. Once graduated, you are guaranteed employment.
  • Attend a Transport Canada recognized four-year program at another college. 
  • Work on a ship in a crew position and work your way up, by gaining 36 months of sea time, doing ongoing training, and successfully completing Transport Canada exams.