How to Become A Yacht Purser: Interview with Purser Trainer Angela Wallace
With nearly 10 years in total at sea, four of which as Purser, Angela Wallace decided to put her knowledge to use and help future generations of yacht pursers pursue their dream careers. Angela is an IAMI GUEST accredited trainer teaching Purser courses. She has also created an online course for Pursers, which makes it easier for people around the world to get the training needed to work as a yacht purser.
We have asked Angela to help us answer some of the most asked questions about becoming a yacht purser:
What does a yacht Purser do?
This role is directly responsible to the Captain, ensuring the smooth operation of all the administrative aspects in running a yacht. Duties include, but are not limited to port clearance procedures, crew documentation and administration, financial reporting, crew salaries, budget management, charter accounts, itinerary planning, assisting the Captain with ISM reporting and secretarial duties, assisting and ensuring the crew and vessel are compliant with the maritime legalities, guest, crew and vessel logistics. Basically, what every Captain on a smaller yacht or one without a Purser does, with the exception of actually driving the vessel!
How is the work-life balance of a position like this?
If you are lucky enough to be on a one-to-one rotation, it is fabulous! With pretty much six months off each year there really is nothing to complain about. That said, even when you are on leave, you are, and should be fully contactable by the vessel to answer any queries or assist in any way. Not all Pursers are on rotation though, so that obviously makes life a little more difficult. The role of the Purser has huge responsibilities, and therefore it is quite stressful, so remembering to take time out for you and to be firm with your boundaries is really important.
Do you have to work as a Chief Stew before becoming a Purser?
Absolutely not. This role has many transferable skills, so you can come in from any department onboard or even from shore. Naturally having knowledge and experience onboard is incredibly helpful, especially in being familiar with terminology. Many yachts will utilise the 2nd stew or even 3rd with some admin duties, normally this occurs due to the previous skills and experience this person has. Coming from a managerial role, working with HNW clients, P.A, working on private jets, cruise ships, having a bachelor degree in events, management, accounting will assist greatly.
I think it is important though to point out, this role is better suited to someone a little older who is happy to sit at a computer all day. Also, if looking for a direct Purser position, experience on a larger yacht, if already working onboard, is really beneficial. Working on yachts 28-40m doesn’t really prepare you for what it is like to work on an 85m or even a 150m yacht!
How do you make a switch from being part of the interior team to becoming a Purser?
Take on more admin responsibilities, be proactive in asking the Captain if he/she needs assistance, become more aware of your surroundings and what the yacht is doing. Naturally enrolling on the Purser course is advisable. With this course being accredited, the content is monitored closely and kept up-to-date, thus ensuring the correct and current information is passed on. If you are working on a yacht that already has a Purser, see if there is anything you can do to assist them. Be aware though, due to the confidentiality of the position, not all tasks can be delegated.
What qualifications and experience do you need to become a Purser?
All the basic qualifications to work onboard, plus the Purser IAMI GUEST certificate. Minimum of 2yrs in a senior position onboard, preferably on a yacht greater than 60m. You must be computer literate with experience in Excel, Word and some designing programs such as PowerPoint or Google Slides. Have excellent communication skills and be proficient in English, both verbal and written. Have great organisational skills, be able to take initiative, self-motivated, a problem solver, decisive and most importantly be a good listener and empathetic. As mentioned earlier, coming from a managerial role, working with HNW clients, P.A, working on private jets, cruise ships, having a bachelor degree in events, management, accounting will assist greatly.
Where does the Purser fall in the yacht crew hierarchy and who does he/she report to?
This is a high-ranking position, directly responsible to the Captain and assisting the other HODs. Pursers also work closely with the Management Company or Family Office/Accountant.
How much does a yacht Purser position pay?
Anywhere from €5,000 to €10,000 per month depending on size of the vessel.
What would be an ideal type of person to become a yacht purser? What are the top 3 skills that they should have?
People skills, though not guest facing per sé, so no need for that bubbly personality, but you do need to know how to talk and communicate with people. Highly organised is ESSENTIAL! And the ability to anticipate, be flexible, calm and proactive.
What have you noticed are the most challenging aspects of being a Purser?
COVID for sure! This has thrown the curve ball with an almighty punch as the travel restrictions have meant crew cannot go home on leave, having to quarantine, who pays for this? Contracts and visas being extended, visas not being able to be obtained, it’s just been massive! Back in normal times, the most challenging aspect of a Purser’s role is effectively prioritising and multi-tasking. Realising that plan A is not set in stone, so having alternative back-up plans will help no end with the stress levels when things change in a nano-second.
What have you noticed are the current trends? Has the position become more popular, are there more open positions for a Purser?
During lockdown, it was a perfect time to study remotely, so it seemed everyone wanted to become a Purser. This position, is highly sought after as it tends to offer rotation, and, as it is not guest facing, the behind-the-scenes aspect is rather attractive after many years of late nights and running around after guests. That said, many do not understand what a Purser really does, it is more than tapping on the computer keyboard and doing the monthly accounts. As more and more larger yachts are being built there is definitely more availability for this role. I am also seeing more and more 2nd Stews being tasked with some Purser related duties and the Stew/Admin role is gaining popularity. I think it is important to remember, a stewardess doing the interior accounts, is not a purser and is not doing purser duties.
What do you teach in your courses?
The list is endless! But in a nutshell, the Purser program will effectively teach someone all that is required to successfully become an efficient Purser onboard a Superyacht. From the role of the Purser, to crew administration and logistics, Muster Duties, port clearances, financial administration and budgeting, to Maritime legislation and legalities, charter accounts and cultural differences, guest logistics and itinerary planning, vessel logistics as well as familiarity of software programs, it’s all in there!
Are the people ready to work as Pursers after finishing the course?
Yes, some students are already in that role and still find the course useful and informative.
How long does the course last and how much it costs?
The course that I teach – Purser Trainer, the students have access to the learning platform for one year, irrespective if they finish the training earlier. Each module is different in respect of how long it will take to complete, but in total there is about 180-185 hours of study, zoom calls, and assignments to complete. The cost of the full course is €3,000.00. You can find out more about the course on the official Purser Trainer website.
Are you looking for a Purser job onboard a yacht?
If you are ready for your new yachting adventure register or log into your YPI CREW profile where you will be able to upload your CV and your certificates. After that you will be able to leave a message directly to our expert Purser recruiter Annabelle Huvelin via the ‘Check in’ option on your profile.