How To Become A Pilot

To obtain a harbor pilot’s license, there are numerous procedures that are highly-regulated and required by state law and board ruling. The state, through the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) and its Board of Pilot Commissioners (Board), regulates which individuals receive their license.

A formal procedure determines the need for a new harbor pilot and who will be appointed to a port. Once the Board determines the need for new pilots, the DBPR advertises an opening nationally, accepts applications, determines applicant eligibility and conducts a competitive exam. After the exam results are thoroughly reviewed, the Board identifies the five highest-scoring candidates. Once the five individuals are established, the secretary will appoint one individual among the five candidates as the deputy harbor pilot. The deputy harbor pilot is determined based on the candidates’ scores and other qualifications.

The deputy harbor pilot is then sent to the port to be trained by the local member association. The DBPR and the Board oversee and approve port-specific training programs, monitor the deputy’s minimum two-year training, and when fully qualified and trained, they re-examine the deputy harbor pilot. Once this process is completed, the candidate can receive a state harbor pilot license.

It is important to note that this profession requires a commitment from an individual who has a strong and dedicated work ethic and is willing to go through the necessary training and educational procedures to become a licensed harbor pilot. Recent successful candidates have indicated that they studied at least 1,000 hours to prepare for the exam, and few candidates are appointed on their first attempt – most sit for the exam more than once.

Deputy Pilot Openings

The DBPR will no longer send notifications regarding deputy pilot openings by U.S. Mail. These announcements will only be available on the DBPR and its Board’s website. You can access the Board’s website by visiting and clicking on Doing Business With Us > Pilot Commissioners > Important Information. Deputy pilot openings are typically announced in February and October.

For more information, please contact the Board’s office at

(850) 922.6096.

To sit for the exam, applicants must have the following qualifications

  • Be a U.S. citizen, 21 years old;
  • Have a high school diploma;
  • Be physically and mentally fit;
  • Drug and alcohol dependency free;
  • Hold a minimum 2nd Mates Unlimited or a Master Tow Vessels 1,600 ton license, a USCG licensed First Class Pilot in U.S. ports or the Great Lakes, or certain service on certain specific type of military vessels; and
  • Have at least two years of sea time serving on the above license within a five year period immediately preceding the exam.

For exact details on the qualifications, applicants must review Florida Statutes Chapter 310.071.

Qualifications can be specifically found in Florida Statute 310 and Rule Chapter 61G14-11.002 of the Florida Administrative Code.

For more information on how to become a harbor pilot within the State of Florida, please contact the DBPR at (850) 921-7867 or visit