What Does a Marine Engineer Do? The Ultimate Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A marine engineer is a specific type of engineer. They commonly design, construct and repair marine vessels such as ships and submarines and other marine equipment like drills and platforms. As this is often a complicated and technical role, it's a good idea to fully understand what it takes to be a marine engineer before you decide if this is the career for you. In this article, we answer what does a marine engineer do? and explore the steps you can take to become one.

What does a marine engineer do?

A marine engineer is a specialised type of engineer who works in one vessel or piece of equipment. These can include:

  • boats, including fishing boats and speedboats

  • ships, including cruise ships and freight vessels

  • submarines

  • seaplanes

  • offshore platforms

  • drilling equipment

These professionals often work on the entirety of a project creating initial blueprints and prototypes before managing the construction of ships or other vessels. Marine engineers may also work onboard newly launched vessels, testing them for any issues, making improvements or work on repairs and maintenance.

Marine engineer typical job duties

The duties of being a marine engineer vary depending on their area of expertise, but commonly include:

  • communicating with clients to determine project goals and identify needs

  • researching the project thoroughly, exploring how to create the best solution that meets all of the client's desires

  • researching new and innovative technologies

  • drawing up budgets for the whole project

  • hiring and overseeing staff who can work on the project

  • managing staff throughout the project

  • experimenting with different systems, such as steering systems or ship motors

  • testing vessel prototypes and coming up with solutions to any issues

  • overseeing the construction of the vessel and making improvements or changes when necessary

  • working on newly constructed vessels and monitoring them for any problems, fixing them when required

  • repairing significantly damaged vessels

What skills do you need to become a marine engineer?

Marine engineering is a highly skilled role, and candidates often use soft and hard skills to qualify. A marine engineer might use the following skills daily:

Computer skills

Marine engineers often require powerful IT skills to perform their daily tasks. This can include using computer-aided design platforms when designing their vessels. They may also use special software programs to analyse data and create blueprints or design drawings.

Creativity

Creative abilities can help candidates produce accurate drawings of vessels or ships. A client may describe their goals and overall aesthetic. Then the marine engineer can use creativity to make an innovative design.

Mathematical skills

Working in engineering may require knowledge of mathematics. These professionals may use engineering equations and the ability to apply this knowledge practically. Most marine engineers study mathematics to the secondary level.

Scientific knowledge

Marine engineers may find it helpful to know physics, biology and the marine environment. This technical knowledge can help them create safe and effective designs. For example, they can knowledge of physics to design vessels that float correctly.

Communication skills

Marine engineers often work directly with many other professionals, including naval architects and boat builders. It may be beneficial if they can communicate the goals and needs of the project effectively. You may improve your communication skills by taking note of the language you use when giving instructions and developing active listening skills. You could also ask those around you for feedback on your communication abilities.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Presentation skills

Marine engineers are typically competent and confident when presenting their ideas to a group of people. These people may be clients or employees, so their presentation skills may be versatile. You can improve presentation skills through repeated practice on a presentation-based course at school or university.

Leadership

Senior marine engineers are usually in charge of a small team. Marine engineers can comfortably give directions to the team and are often manage the recruitment of new engineers. In a senior role, you might offer training to team members to develop their skills. These professionals may also use leadership skills to manage a project efficiently. You can practise your leadership skills by leading group projects and asking your peers and teachers for feedback.

Problem-solving

Marine engineers might come up with innovative solutions to issues in the design or repair process. It's often helpful if they remain calm under pressure, as these problems may require an immediate resolution. You can improve your problem-solving skills by troubleshooting obstacles that affect everyday tasks methodically and calmly. Doing this regularly can help you feel confident creating solutions.

Organisation

Marine engineers might manage a project by organising the construction of a vessel or piece of equipment from start to finish. Marine engineers generally have a clear idea of the project's next stage and how they might execute it. Marine engineers typically ensure that all the details and documents of a project are easily accessible and well organised.

You may practice organisation skills by planning your day, week and year. You could make yourself aware of all your duties such as school or university work, part-time paid work or commitments with friends and family. Practise creating lists and timetables to ensure that you complete each task effectively. You may use this practice as evidence for your organisational skills in job interviews.

Related: Top Organisational Skills For Your Resume and Workplace

Adaptability

Projects may evolve over time, and marine engineers might change plans to meet new client requirements at short notice. Marine engineers might also spend extended periods at sea, so they're typically adaptable in everyday life. You may demonstrate your adaptability skills by working on various projects, both engineering and non-engineering related. You could use evidence of undertaking different projects to display your adaptability at interviews. To demonstrate that you don't mind spending long periods at sea, you could study or work in a different country.

How much do marine engineers get paid?

The average salary of a marine engineer is $77,690 per year. However, the average wage of a marine engineer often varies depending on qualifications, location and years of experience. Companies typically pay entry-level marine engineers a lower salary, while senior marine engineers with more responsibility may earn a higher than the average amount.

Related: 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs

How to become a marine engineer

It can take several years to become a marine engineer as candidates might require education at a tertiary level. Employers might also prefer candidates with on the job experience from an entry-level role or internship, so it's often prudent to get some work experience while studying. The following steps can help you become a marine engineer:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Most engineers have a bachelor's degree in marine engineering, offshore engineering or marine technology. General engineering degrees may also be appropriate if the candidate completes a work placement at a real-life company. Alternatively, hiring managers may also consider candidates who have obtained another science-based degree and have suitable work experience or a master's degree in a related field.

2. Consider a master's degree

A master's degree may be optional if you already have a bachelor's degree in a specific subject for marine engineering. However, if you have a degree in another type of engineering, you might require a master's degree that focuses explicitly on marine engineering. A master's degree can also help you specialise in a particular area of marine engineering like submarines.

3. Gain relevant work experience

Candidates might also organise a work placement alongside their studies to gain on the job experience. Apply to relevant internships that are focused on marine engineering or email maritime engineering companies about possible opportunities. Starting a work placement can also provide you with contacts in the industry which may open opportunities to full-time work.

4. Obtain specific qualifications

After graduating, engineers might gain a certificate of safety training that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has approved before applying for entry-level jobs. Candidates also undertake a minimum of 36 weeks of sea service onboard the vessel that they wish to specialise in and keep a training record book. They might also complete a vocational education and training marine operations qualification and can apply for jobs.

5. Apply for entry-level marine engineer roles

People who want to become marine engineers usually start applying for entry-level roles once they have a bachelor or master's degree in marine engineering or appropriate work experience. These roles often include some further training, especially in the first few years. However, companies often expect candidates to apply the knowledge that they have acquired through experience or education.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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