Subsea engineers develop, design and test and install long lasting, cost effective equipment and structures that are used below the surface of the sea, such as pipelines and wellheads.
You could be:
- designing, costing and testing components and fittings using computer-aided design (CAD) software and 3D modelling
- building a small scale model of a component, simulating the conditions it will have to withstand, observing its performance and analysing the result
- planning appropriate improvements to the design of the component, applying them and testing it all over again
- carrying out full scale testing of the finished component, ensuring it meets all operating and health and safety requirements
- managing the installation of pipelines and wellheads and connecting them to the rig or platform
- providing technical and engineering support to offshore teams
- producing budgets and plans for projects
- writing evaluations of project progress, success and any issues
- spending some time offshore to liaise with suppliers, manufacturers and other engineers.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Salary for a subsea engineer may start around £28,000 to £40,000 per year. Salary increases with the amount of time spent offshore. Senior or principal engineers can earn in excess of £60,000 a year. There may be additional benefits such as free private healthcare and a pension.
- You spend most of your time sitting at a computer in a clean, comfortable office onshore.
- You go offshore for a few days at a time, travelling by helicopter, to oil and gas platforms or oil rigs. It can be cold, wet and stormy in these environments.
- You may do a lot of travelling all over the world, as you have to go where the project is.
- Companies often operate at a global level.
- Onshore, you work regular hours Monday to Friday. Offshore you may have to work irregular hours, including weekends.
- When offshore you would wear protective clothing and safety equipment such as gloves, boots and a hard hat. You would also share accommodation with other colleagues.
Workforce Employment Status
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- A Higher National Diploma (HND) or degree in engineering is usually required.
- Entry to an HND is usually 1-2 Highers.
- Robert Gordon University has a BEng Hons/MEng degree in Mechanical and Offshore Engineering. Entry requirements for the BEng are 4 Highers at ABBB including Maths and Physics or a technological subject. For the MEng you need 4 Highers at AABB including Maths and Physics, Engineering Science or a technological subject (one at A). For both courses you need English at National 5 (if not held at Higher).
- Other relevant degrees include naval architecture and marine engineering, naval architecture with ocean engineering, maths or physics. Entry requirements are usually 4-5 Highers including Maths and Physics, but check with individual institutions.
- You may also get in with a Higher National Diploma (HND) in an engineering discipline plus relevant work experience.
- To work offshore you must pass a medical examination every 2 years.
- You must also pass an offshore survival course such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET). Contact Cogent for more details.
- You may also have to undertake the Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST) course.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
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Job Outlook Scotland and UK
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What Does it Take?
You need to have:
- excellent communication skills
- an aptitude for maths, science and IT
- good problem solving skills
- an accurate and analytical approach
- initiative, assertiveness and self-reliance.
You need to be able to:
- visualise practical workings from abstract design
- understand and produce technical drawings
- interpret graphs, tables and diagrams
- keep within a project budget.
- Most training is usually on the job and involves spending periods on offshore installations and observing people carrying out different related jobs.
- You could study for a relevant postgraduate qualification while you work. The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University offer qualifications in Subsea Engineering, and the University of Strathclyde offers Subsea and Pipeline Engineering.
- With further training and practical experience you can register with the Engineering Council as a professional engineer – either Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer(CEng).
- For IEng you need to have a recognised Bachelor degree or a recognised HNC or HND plus further study to Bachelor’s degree.
- For CEng you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree with Honours plus a recognised Masters degree (or equivalent), or a recognised Integrated Master of Engineering degree.
- If you do not have any of the above qualifications you may still be able to achieve IEng or CEng by other approved routes.
- You must update your skills and knowledge throughout your career.
- After a number of years’ experience you can become a senior engineer, principal engineer or a consultant.
- You could move on to be the manager of a section or a department.
The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK.
The Tomorrow’s Engineers website has more information on careers in engineering.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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