Because it takes much more than just flashy good looks, bedding aliens, and having a first officer whose name is Spock.

So you want to be the captain of your own ship? You see yourself as a leader. Men and women fall in line behind you issue a call to arms.

But how do you really become a captain? Assuming that civilization doesn’t collapse over the next few years in a zombie plague, then there are well-worn steps you must follow to captain your own ship.

Step 1. Pick Your Ship of Choice


Whether you’re joining the Merchant Marines or a private company, captains of all strips start as entry-level deckhands on supply boats on inland waterways and learn on the job from there.

They then advance through the ranks by gaining experience and passing rating exams in their professional discipline. Captains of deep-water vessels, though, often gain formal training from merchant marine academies before being promoted to captains.

Step 2: Attend a Coast Guard-Approved Training Academy


This is very important. Research any school you plan on attending very thoroughly. Entry, training, and licensing for most water transportation occupations, including ship captains, is thoroughly regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. These academies include the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a number of state academies across the country. But again, make sure the school is Coast Guard-certified. The school you want will offer 4-year programs that lead to Bachelor of Science degrees and prepare students for the licensing exam. Coursework may include meteorology and electronic navigation, as well as topics such as ship construction, and maritime law. Upon graduation, candidates may pursue a license to become a deck officer or third mate.

Step 3: Sign on as a Deckhand


From here, you need to first serve as a deck officers or third mates in the U.S. Strategic Sealift Officer Program (formerly the Merchant Marine Reserve), the Coast Guard Reserve, or the Naval Reserve. If you didn’t follow step 2 carefully, this is going to be very hard. Deckhands who did not graduate from marine academies have to obtain many hours of work experience before being promoted to deck officers. Very important: you need to embrace continuing education. School is never over for a captain. The best will be learning and adapting for their entire lives. That’s what makes them great. All of the best maritime academies offer continuing education courses for professional development. They help deckhands learn new skills or keep abreast of new technological developments – technology is rapidly changing shipping like every business on earth. For example, the global marine distress safety and radar systems are continuously evolving. Re-certification examinations in many of these fields are a fact of life.

Step 4: Get Your Credentials


All U.S. mariners must obtain a “Transportation Worker Identification Credential,” or TWIC, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Basically, it tells everybody that you’re real and not some phony baloney, or worse, a terrorist. It verifies that you’re a permanent resident or U.S. citizen and has passed a security screening. You’ll also need a “Merchant Mariner Credential,” or MMC, through the US Coast Guard. The requirements can vary according to the type and size of the ship you’re working on, and the waterways you’ll navigate. You’ll have to have a background check and provide character references. You’ll also complete a training course, pass an exam, pass a drug screening, and complete a vision test and physical.

Step 5: Captain, Oh My Captain!


You’re almost there! This is the easy part. You have the degrees, the certifications, the background checks, the physicals and the eye examination – all you need now is simple brilliance. After years of experience and daily on-the-job training, deck officers may qualify for captain. It’s all about you from here on in.