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Careers in Marine Engineering

Marine engineering broadly refers to the engineering of boats, ships, oil rigs and any other marine vessel or structure.

Marine engineering is the discipline of applying engineering sciences, mostly mechanical and electrical engineering, to the development, design, operation and maintenance of watercraft propulsion and on-board systems; e.g. power and propulsion plants, machinery, piping, automation and control systems etc. for marine vehicles of any kind like surface ships, submarines etc.

  • The engineering of a vessel's propulsion system.
  • The engineering of shipboard systems and machinery.
  • A ship's engineering department, an organisational unit that is responsible for running the vessel's propulsion systems and support systems for crew, passengers and cargo; this field career track within marine engineering is, more specifically, referred to as seagoing engineering.
  • In limited and specific ship-related context, the engineering of structures to support vessels.
  • Oceanographic engineering, also called marine electronics engineering, is concerned with the design of electronic devices for use in the marine environment, such as the remote sensing systems used by oceanographers.

Not all marine engineering is concerned with moving vessels. Offshore construction, also called offshore engineering, ocean engineering or maritime engineering, is concerned with the technical design of fixed and floating marine structures, such as oil platforms and offshore wind farms.

The UK marine industry employs 60,000 people in the design, building, testing and repair of all types of marine vehicles and structures including, boats, ships, submarines, offshore platforms and drilling equipment.

Home to a number of world-class marine equipment manufacturers, the UK industry relies on the development and implementation of some of the most progressive technologies available, making it one of the key leading-edge sectors in engineering. In fact one of the fastest growing areas of the marine sector is in the leisure industry which is currently seeing a real boom in the production of luxury yachts and jet skis.

Incorporating a mix of cutting-edge, progressive technology with traditional craftsmanship skills in naval construction, the variety of structures marine engineers build or work on ranges from jet skis, yachts and cruise ships to underwater remote vehicles (ROVs) and off shore oil and gas platforms.

Marine engineers can be based in a range of different environments, from ship building workshops, repair yards, and merchant or navy depots to oil or gas rigs, making it a very exciting and diverse area of engineering and manufacturing to be involved in.

Key facts:

  • The British marine sector is currently worth £1.9 billion.
  • Powerboat builders export more than 90% of production within the UK.
  • 62% of equipment produced for large vessel is exported.
  • An estimated 56,000 people are directly employed within the marine industry.

Types of Work

The marine engineering industry uses a mix of highly technical, progressive approaches and traditional techniques that have been in use for hundreds of years, but although the technology integrated throughout a ship may change, the overall method of designing and constructing it changes little.

Typically those working in the marine industry could be involved in:

  • designing, developing and constructing ships, boats, machinery and submarines
  • designing, building and maintaining offshore platforms, oil rigs and pipelines
  • performing marine surveying as part of research and development of new offshore structures
  • maintaining and repairing engines, systems and operating instruments.

Skills Required

The skills and attributes employers will look for will largely depend on the area of industry they operate in. But as a general rule there are a number of things most look for when taking on new employees: 

  • an understanding and interest in the engineering industry 
  • good academic background with GCSEs in English and Maths at grades A*-C 
  • willing to travel and work at sea/away from home for extended periods of time 
  • ability to manage own time 
  • good communication skills 
  • ability to work quickly and efficiently 
  • technically minded and logical in approach 
  • able to work alone or in a team 
  • good problem solving ability 
  • attention to detail 
  • ability to comply to health and safety legislations 


With the expansion of the worldwide marine leisure industry there are increasing opportunities for those wanting to pursue a career in marine engineering.

If you are studying or have completed an Apprenticeship in marine engineering you may be eligible to become a member of The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology or the

Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE). You may also be able to continue your studies into higher education by doing a HNC, HND or full degree.

  • Date published: 08th November 2015