7 Steps To Become a Marine Engineer

Updated June 30, 2023

Creating the technology and equipment essential for navigating the ocean is an important job. Marine engineers use their knowledge of mechanics and physics to develop essential infrastructure that can successfully function in the water. If you enjoy solving large-scale technical problems and have an interest in marine technology, becoming a marine engineer could be the right career decision for you.

In this article, we explain the basics of a career in marine engineering and share the important steps you need to take to get a marine engineer job.

Key takeaways:

  • A marine engineer drafts designs for watercraft like ships, boats and submarines and other waterborne vessels.

  • Skills for a marine engineer include proficiency in math, problem-solving, communication, organization and creativity.

  • To become a marine engineer, obtain your bachelor's degree in marine engineering, participate in an internship program to apply your education under expert guidance, study for and pass your Fundamentals of Engineering exam and obtain your engineering license.

What is a marine engineer?

A marine engineer is a type of mechanical engineer who designs ships, boats, submarines and other watercraft. They also create other structures, machines and technological equipment related to sea travel and other marine activities. Marine engineers apply their complex understanding of fluid mechanics, hydraulics and other concepts to engineer durable water vessels based on their intended purposes. They combine electrical, steering, climate control, radar and engine systems to successfully guide a ship to its destination and overcome obstacles in the water.

Marine engineers are responsible for ensuring that other marine and naval professionals can safely complete their job functions, whether they work on large ships or at docks. They assess all of the factors that influence an aquatic environment and develop solutions for operating in and around the water. The machines that marine engineers create can support travel, ocean conservation, resource gathering and even military intelligence operations.

Related: What Is an Engineer?

What does a marine engineer do?

Marine engineers oversee the entire process of creating a seafaring vessel, from the initial blueprint design to ongoing ship maintenance. They collaborate with other engineers and naval technicians to determine the specifications for a new project and test it for launch in an aquatic environment. Some of the primary duties for marine engineers include:

  • Drawing the physical appearance and internal layout of a new ship

  • Determining the types of equipment and supplementary machines essential to achieve operational goals

  • Planning environmental impact assessments to ensure ship designs comply with legal regulations

  • Creating plans to supply a ship with enough energy or fuel for the duration of a sea voyage

  • Testing components of a water vessel in a controlled environment and making adjustments

  • Selecting appropriate materials and building techniques to construct marine equipment

  • Writing installation instructions and technical manuals for troubleshooting emergency repairs

  • Estimating the cost of an initial project and any ongoing maintenance

  • Supervising contractors to ensure stability and durability in all parts of the ship

  • Collecting and analyzing data on ship speed, buoyancy and other key metrics

  • Preparing a schedule for completing each step in the construction process and overseeing operations to meet deadlines

Marine engineer work environment

Marine engineers may work in a range of different environments throughout the completion of a project, from an office where they draw schematics to the deck of one of the ships they designed. They can work for commercial marine companies, non-profit organizations or government agencies like the Navy. Marine engineers visit shipyards, construction facilities and docks to oversee the development of their designs. Some marine engineers also work on offshore oil rigs to coordinate safe drilling.

Related: Engineering in the Navy: Job Responsibilities and Requirements

How to become a marine engineer

If the duties of a marine engineer sound interesting to you, learn about how to become one yourself by following these instructions:

1. Research undergraduate marine engineering programs

To start your career as a marine engineer, gather information about different marine engineering programs. You can look for colleges and universities that have a marine engineering major or apply to a maritime academy that offers an engineering specialty. Some marine engineers have a general engineering degree, but should be sure to select courses that directly apply to a marine engineering environment. Before applying to a program, make sure it has accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology to ensure you'll receive a quality education.

2. Sign up for internships related to marine engineering

While completing your undergraduate degree, apply for internship opportunities that can show you what it's like to be a marine engineer. Depending on your interests, you can apply for internships related to specific areas like naval architecture or underwater vessels. Common places to find marine engineering internships include energy companies, design firms, shipbuilding companies, the military and leisure water travel companies like cruise lines or yacht developers.

3. Complete your bachelor's degree

Demonstrate your ability to succeed as a marine engineer by earning high grades during your undergraduate education and completing your bachelor's degree in marine engineering. As a marine engineering student, you'll primarily take math and science courses that teach you the fundamentals of naval construction and all types of engineering. Some of the topics that you'll learn in your marine engineering major are:

  • Environmental science

  • Hydrodynamics

  • Propulsion systems

  • Naval architecture fundamentals

  • Calculus

  • Marine mining

  • Applied physics

  • Electronic navigation systems

  • Maritime commerce

  • Safety controls for engineering

  • Naval vocabulary and jargon

4. Take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam

Once you graduate, sign up to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE) from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). This general engineering exam validates your ability to apply the fundamentals of engineering to a real workplace environment. Passing the FE is an essential qualification for eventually becoming a licensed engineer.

5. Apply for entry-level marine engineering roles

Start applying for entry-level marine engineer jobs where you can gain practical on-the-job experience. Your first marine engineering position will likely be a junior engineering role where you take instruction from a licensed senior engineer who delegates and supervises your engineering tasks. When applying for your first marine engineer role, look for jobs that offer opportunities for advancement in your specific area of interest.

Related: 12 Jobs That Involve the Ocean

6. Become a licensed professional engineer

After you gain four years of experience working in marine engineering, you can apply to become a licensed professional engineer through the NCEES. To get your license, you need to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in naval architecture and marine subjects. The PE exam for marine engineers lasts about eight hours and establishes your expertise in topics like:

  • Hydrostatics and hydrodynamics

  • Wind, currents and waves

  • Structural design for cargo loads, collisions, stress and corrosion

  • Equipment and material selection

  • Power generation, piping, refrigeration and electrical systems

  • Shipbuilding and repair

  • Regulations and requirements

7. Earn extra certifications

While the PE certification is the primary licensing option for marine engineers, there are many other certifications you can earn to show your proficiency in different aspects of marine engineering. Some of the popular certifications you can earn include:

  • Naval Engineering Certificate

  • Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers

  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential

  • Merchant Shipping Builder's Certificate

Skills for marine engineers

To be successful in the marine engineering field, you should have advanced knowledge and skills across several competencies. Some of the most important skills for marine engineers are:

  • Creativity: Marine engineers use creativity to develop functional ship designs and equipment that meet specific operational requirements

  • Problem-solving: Testing and troubleshooting is an important part of a marine engineer's job, requiring them to have advanced problem-solving skills

  • Mathematical ability: Being able to quickly solve mathematical equations and determine the right ratios for a design helps marine engineers develop structurally sound ships

  • Organization: During a project, marine engineers have to organize and coordinate each component and aspect involved with developing a fully functioning ship.

  • Communication: Marine engineers work closely with other engineers, designers, construction professionals and clients. This requires them to be excellent communicators.

Average salary for marine engineers

As a marine engineer, you can earn an average yearly salary of $82,141 per year. Your level of experience, education, certification and the field you work in can all have an impact on how much you earn. Marine engineers also tend to have higher earnings in coastal or island areas that have a higher demand for marine engineering support.


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