Marine Engineer

Female marine engineer in black shirt and yellow safety vest taking notes in front of ship while standing on a beach near an industrial harbor

What you need to know


Marine engineers and naval architects design, build, and maintain ships, from aircraft carriers to submarines and from sailboats to tankers.

Marine engineers are responsible for the internal systems of a ship, such as the propulsion, electrical, refrigeration, and steering systems. Naval architects are responsible for the ship design, including the form, structure, and stability of hulls.

What does a marine engineer do?

Marine engineers and naval architects typically work in offices, where they have access to computer software and other tools necessary for analyzing projects and designing solutions. Sometimes, they must go to sea to test or maintain the ships that they have designed or built.

Some of the things marine engineers might do:

  • Prepare system layouts and detailed drawings and schematics
  • Inspect marine equipment and machinery, and draw up work requests and job specifications
  • Conduct environmental, operational, or performance tests on marine machinery and equipment
  • Design and oversee the testing, installation, and repair of marine equipment
  • Investigate and test machinery and equipment to ensure compliance with standards
  • Coordinate activities with regulatory bodies to ensure that repairs and alterations are done safely and at minimal cost
  • Prepare technical reports for use by engineers, managers, or sales personnel
  • Prepare cost estimates, contract specifications, and design and construction schedules
  • Maintain contact with contractors to make sure that the work is being done correctly, on schedule, and within budget
    Some of the things naval architects might do:
  • Study design proposals and specifications to establish basic characteristics of a ship, such as its size, weight, and speed
  • Develop sectional and waterline curves of the ship’s hull to establish the center of gravity, the ideal hull form, and data on buoyancy and stability
  • Design entire ship hulls and superstructures, following safety and regulatory standards
  • Design the complete layout of ships’ interiors, including spaces for machinery and auxiliary equipment, passenger compartments, cargo space, ladder wells, and elevators
  • Confer with marine engineers to design the layout of boiler room equipment, heating and ventilation systems, refrigeration equipment, electrical distribution systems, safety systems, steering systems, and propulsion machinery
  • Lead teams from a variety of specialties to oversee building and testing prototypes
  • Evaluate how ships perform during trials, both in the dock and at sea, and change designs as needed to make sure that national and international standards are met
What skills are needed?
  • Communication skills. Marine engineers and naval architects must give clear instructions and explain complex concepts when leading projects.
  • Ingenuity. Marine engineers and naval architects must use operations analysis to create a design to perform the ship’s functions. They then employ critical-thinking skills to anticipate and correct any deficiencies before the ship is built or set to sea.
  • Interpersonal skills. Marine engineers and naval architects meet with clients to analyze their needs for ship systems. Engineers must discuss progress with clients to keep redesign options open before the project is too far along.
  • Math skills. Marine engineers and naval architects use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
  • Problem-solving skills. Marine engineers must design several systems that work well together in ships. Naval architects and marine engineers are expected to solve problems for their clients. They must draw on their knowledge and experience to make effective decisions.
What is the pay?

The average pay for marine engineers and naval architects in the United States was $93,370 in May 2021 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Specific pay for marine engineers and naval architects depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

About 400 new job openings for marine engineers and naval architects are projected each year, on average, over the next 10 years in the United States.

Overall employment of marine engineers and naval architects is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is about as fast as the average growth rate for all occupations.

Many jobs for these workers are in the ship and boat building industry, which supplies new ship orders for the military.

Technological developments have made offshore wind energy projects more feasible. As a result, more marine engineers and naval architects are expected to be needed to help plan and implement these projects.

What education is required to become a marine engineer?

Marine engineers and naval architects typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering and naval architecture, respectively, or a related degree, such as a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. Some marine engineering and naval architecture programs are offered at state maritime academies.

Students interested in preparing for this occupation benefit from taking high school courses in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and science, such as chemistry and physics. For aspiring naval architects, drafting courses are helpful.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.