Marine engineers design, build, test and repair boats, ships, underwater craft (remotely operated vehicles – ROVs), offshore platforms and drilling equipment.
In this job you should have excellent maths and IT skills. You should have good design skills. You should also have a range of management skills, such as negotiating, prioritising and supervising.
To get into this job you would usually need a degree or BTEC HNC/HND in an engineering subject, such as marine engineering or marine technology. An alternative route is to train as an engineering officer with the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy, and move into commercial engineering later.
To work as a marine engineer, you need a detailed technical knowledge of naval construction, and mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering systems. Depending on the industry you work in, your duties could include:
- shipbuilding, boat-building and repair – working on the design, development, construction and maintenance of ships, boats and machinery
- working in the leisure boat industry, which is strong in the UK, manufacturing, maintaining or repairing a range of craft from canal barges to super yachts
- offshore oil and gas – designing, building and operating offshore platforms, rigs, pipelines and equipment
- marine surveying – examining ships and offshore installations, looking at their seaworthiness, safety and maintenance needs
Merchant or Royal Navy – making sure engines, instruments and systems work safely and efficiently (in the Royal Navy you can specialise in surface shipping, submarines or weapons systems).
You would normally be responsible for managing a team of marine technicians and craftspeople.
You would be expected to work flexible hours, which may include shiftwork and weekends.
If you work in ship design or construction, your job would be shore based. You could also be away from home for long periods, working on ships, submarines or offshore installations. Outdoor work could sometimes be physically demanding.
Graduates can earn around £23,000 a year.
Experienced marine engineers can earn between £28,000 and £55,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You normally need a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in an engineering subject to get into this career. Relevant subjects include:
- marine engineering
- marine technology
- naval architecture
- offshore engineering
- general engineering.
Alternatively, you could train as an engineering officer with the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy. After completing your service with them, you could move into the commercial marine engineering industry. Visit the Merchant Navy Training Board and Royal Navy websites for more information.
You may also be able to get into this career starting off as a marine engineering technician apprentice with a manufacturer or engineering company and then continuing after your Apprenticeship on to higher education qualifications.
To get on to an Apprenticeship, you are likely to need four or five GCSEs (A-C), including maths, English and a science subject.
Training and development
You would usually receive training from your employer. With a degree, you may be offered a place on a graduate apprenticeship scheme. Opportunities are usually advertised in the local and national press.
You would be expected to continually update your knowledge and skills throughout your career. You could help your career prospects by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your relevant industry body, for example IMarEST, then apply to the Engineering Council. You can find out more by visiting the Engineering Council website.
As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.
The IMarEST offers a programme of continuing professional development (CPD) for its members. To find out more, see the IMarEST website.
Skills and knowledge
To be a marine engineer you should have:
- strong problem-solving skills
- excellent maths and IT skills
- good communication and negotiating skills
- excellent technical knowledge
- computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) skills
- the ability to prioritise workloads and plan effectively
- budget management skills
- a commitment to keeping up to date with new developments
- the ability to manage a team
- an awareness of health and safety procedures
- a willingness to travel and work at sea for extended periods.
You may need diving skills if your job involves underwater work.
You would find opportunities with offshore oil and gas installations, the Merchant Navy, the Royal Navy, shipping companies, and shipbuilding, boatbuilding and repair yards.
With experience, you could specialise in project management, research and development or consultancy. There are also opportunities overseas for experienced marine engineers.