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How to Become a Marine Engineer in the U.S

Marine Engineer
Royal Canadian Navy

Marine engineers design, build, service and maintain ships. They work on the electrical, propulsion and mechanical systems of the ships. When designing the ships, they work closely with naval engineers.

What They Do…

Marine engineers work in all kinds of ships, ranging from tankers and submarines to sailboats and liners. Their duties include:

  • Inspecting and monitoring the performance of marine equipment and machinery
  • Supervising the repair of ship equipment
  • Liaising with regulatory bodies to ensure safe and cost effective alterations and repairs
  • Preparing schematics and designing system layouts
  • Developing cost estimating, contract specifications and construction schedules
  • Maintaining contact with shipbuilding contractors
  • Writing reports on the progress of ship repair and maintenance.

Work Environment

Marine engineers can work from their offices or ships. They use their offices when analyzing projects and creating solutions and offshore when maintaining ships or working on oil rigs and tidal systems.

Mariner engineers often work in teams and wear protective clothing while performing practical tasks. Engineers working onshore have regular work schedules, while the schedule of engineers working at sea depends on the ship’s sailing itinerary.


The table below shows the top paying employers for marine engineers:


Annual Mean Wage

Government agencies


Architectural and engineering firms


Water transportation companies


Ship and boat building companies


Technical consulting firms


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Licensure

To become a marine engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in any of these subjects:

  • Marine engineering
  • Marine system engineering
  • Marine engineering technology
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering.

These degree programs cover units such as calculus, physics, and computer-aided-design. Those that focus on marine engineering also cover fluid mechanics, the mechanics of materials, and ship hull strength.

It is important to note that the degree you choose to pursue should be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

After graduating, you will need to take an exam that is administered by the US Coast Guard. After your first assessment, you will be awarded a 3 Assistant License. As you gain experience and undertake more assessments, you will obtain the 2 and 1 assistant licenses. The ultimate goal for marine engineers is to obtain the chief assistant license, which is the highest level of licensure.

Useful Skills

Marine engineers need the following skills:

  • Excellent math skills to use the scientific and mathematical principles effectively
  • Good communication skills
  • Good interpersonal skills to collaborate effectively with other professionals.
  • Problem-solving skills to easily troubleshoot faults
  • A high level of creativity and ingenuity.

Career Advancement

After getting a job, you will work under the supervision of experienced marine engineers or be taken through on-the-job training by your company. As you gain experience, you may be allocated more responsibilities.

You can join the following professional organizations to demonstrate your professionalism:

With vast experience, you may become a technical specialist or engineering manager. It is also possible to move into sales work.

Top Employers

Job Outlook

Between 2014 and 2022, there will be 800 new jobs for marine engineers. Although this represents a 10 percent job growth, it is a significantly small number. To enhance your chances of standing out amount among prospective marine engineers and attracting employers, you should focus on nurturing your ability to design systems that can enhance the performance of water vessels.

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