Become a Pilot

Do you enjoy working on the water? Are you excited by the prospect of mentally stimulating challenges that trigger an adrenaline rush? Can you maintain calm in unpredictable environments with zero tolerance for error? If so, you might be interested in an opportunity to join an elite group of veteran mariners dedicated to safely navigating vessels and protecting the marine environment in the pristine inland waters of the Puget Sound Pilotage District.

The process to become a pilot is challenging and arduous, but mariners that reach this prestigious role find it to be the pinnacle of their career. The path to pilotage begins only after a requisite maritime career. Beyond that, becoming a pilot requires many years of specialized training, an ongoing commitment to continual learning, and constant adoption of new technologies.

Applicants to the Washington Board of Pilotage Commissioners Pilot Training Program are required to have at least two to four years sailing as master, depending on one’s experience. They must pass a written examination and a simulator assessment testing their situational awareness, judgment, and ship handling ability. Successful candidates are invited into the training program in their ranked order. The state training program requires several hundred trips, generally taking between eighteen months to over two years to complete. Additionally, trainees must obtain their USCG federal first-class pilotage endorsement covering the district. This requires many months of observation trips on local waterway routes, and successfully passing many chart and local knowledge tests.

The Washington Board of Pilotage Commissioners (BPC) administers all aspects of the pilot training program, including application and the pilot exam. Details regarding the specific qualification requirements for becoming a pilot can be found on the Exam Information page. You can also request more information by emailing the BPC directly at

Puget Sound Pilots are members of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots; the International Marine Division of the International Longshoremen’s Association; and the AFL-CIO.