Become a Sailing Instructor: Education and Career Roadmap

Sailing instructors teach students how to operate boats safely and effectively. This position typically requires candidates to have experience and meet basic criteria. The American Sailing Association (ASA) and other organizations offer clinics and certification for sailing instructors. Training typically requires study, hands-on instruction, and the passage of various exams. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 0:52 Step 1: Gain Sailing…
  • 1:09 Step 2: Meet Requirements
  • 1:42 Step 3: Attend an…
  • 2:01 Step 4: Gain Advanced…
  • 2:23 Step 5: Pass Required Tests

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Sailing Instructor?

Sailing instructors teach skills and safety techniques to beginning sailors, young and old. Instructors may find employment at local yacht clubs, universities, or private sailing schools.

Career Requirements at a Glance

Training Professional training program and sailing experience required
Licensure and Certification ASA certification test includes knowledge and skills assessment, safety knowledge, ability to communicate on the water, and 3 written exams. Instructors must also be CPR and first aid certified.
Salary (2015) $42,350 (median salary for self-enrichment education teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Gain Sailing Experience

The ASA requires prospective sailing instructors to have at least three years of experience. Prospective instructors can benefit by having knowledge of various sailing vessels and techniques that include keelboat and catamaran instruction, coastal navigation, and offshore sailing.

Step 2: Meet Requirements

Sailing instructors must meet minimum age requirements and basic criteria. Depending on the instruction program, they must be at least 16 to 18 years old and have experience teaching and/or possess strong communication skills. Instructors must be CPR and first aid certified, experienced in boating safety, and capable of sailing a variety of boats. They must also be able to swim 50 yards without a personal flotation device. To become an ASA-certified instructor, candidates must be existing members of the association.

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Step 3: Attend an Instructor Clinic

Many sailing schools offer instructor clinics over one or more days. These clinics teach risk and safety techniques, provide unique lesson ideas, and allow prospective instructors to enhance their instruction techniques. Coursework includes sailing theory and instruction, which includes a review of boat handling techniques.

Step 4: Gain Advanced Certification

Sailing instructors generally begin by completing training in small boat or basic keelboat instruction. They may choose to continue training and learn how to instruct on larger vessels or gain an endorsement in areas such as radar or weather. Advanced training is available to prospective instructors immediately following the completion of their basic course.

Step 5: Pass Required Tests

To become ASA certified, sailing instructors must pass multiple tests. A skills assessment test ensures that instructors are able to perform all actions necessary to sail a boat, including rigging, docking and proper sail use. A safety operations test requires instructors to complete specific maneuvers, complete equipment checks, anchor, and perform additional safety operations. They will also be tested on knot tying, professional conduct, and their ability to communicate on the water. Three written exams are also administered that test instructors on the required reading material for the class.

Sailing instructors must have many hours of sailing experience, CPR and first aid certification, and they must complete a professional training program in order to obtain an ASA certification. Their main goal is to teach the safety techniques and skills to beginning sailors.

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