Marine engineers are involved in designing, building and maintaining the engines, systems and equipment used in ships, yachts, remote operated vehicles and subsea and offshore installations. They need a wide knowledge and understanding of mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical and electronic systems, but would usually specialise in a particular area.
Seagoing marine engineers are responsible for all engines, equipment and machinery while the vessels are at sea.
You could be:
working with naval architects to decide on the type of power and control systems that vessels need
designing, constructing and maintaining engines, pumps and other machinery and equipment
designing, constructing and maintaining navigation and communication equipment and other electrical and electronic systems
ensuring that equipment meets international standards on health and safety, the environment and pollution
carrying out testing and analysis on processes and systems to identify possible failures and their effect
preparing emergency plans in case of the failure or breakdown of vessels’ machinery
ensuring that safety precautions for the crew, passengers and cargo are effective
managing projects and liaising with clients and suppliers.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
The starting salary for marine engineers at graduate entry is usually around £25,000 to £30,000 a year. With experience this can rise to between £30,000 and £40,000 a year. Senior engineers can up to £60,000 a year or more.
Working conditions vary greatly, depending on whether you work in an office, a design laboratory, a workshop, a construction yard or at sea.
If you are in a workshop or construction yard, or at sea, conditions can be noisy and dirty.
You may have to wear overalls or a uniform, together with protective headgear, footwear and glasses.
You may have to work shifts or to be on call for emergencies.
If you are a seagoing marine engineer, you may be away from home for long periods of time. You would live on board with other crew members.
At sea, you would have to work in all kinds of conditions – rough seas and very hot, cold or wet weather.
Most employers will expect you to have a degree (SCQF Level 9-10) in marine or mechanical engineering. Other subjects such as offshore engineering, ocean engineering or naval architecture may also be acceptable.
Qualifications in other engineering subjects such as electrical, electronic or systems and control engineering, followed by a relevant postgraduate course, may also give entry.
The University of Strathclyde offers a BEng and MEng (SCQF Level 11) in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and an MSc (SCQF Level 10) in Marine Engineering. See the institution's website for specific entry requirements.
The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) website has details of various scholarships that are available as well as a full range of accredited courses.
For entry to a degree course you need 4-5 Highers including Maths and Physics or a technological subject.
Studying for a Foundation Apprenticeship (SCQF Level 6) while in fifth and sixth year at school could help you gain entry to a degree in a relevant engineering discipline. Entry requirements vary between colleges, but you usually require 3 subjects at National 5 including English and Maths. You would be expected to have Higher Maths by the end of sixth year.
You should be fit, as the work can be physically demanding. To work at sea you may have to pass fitness and medical tests.
If you work offshore you would undergo specific training, such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET).
Marine engineers are employed by a variety of organisations, including shipbuilding and repairing companies, ship owning companies, offshore oil and gas companies, marine equipment manufacturers, defence contractors, the Ministry of Defence, the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy. Jobs are advertised on the internet and through specialist journals.
What Does it Take?
You need to have:
an interest and ability in science and technology
a willingness to work at sea for some jobs
good written and verbal communication skills
a creative approach to solving problems
good maths, IT and computer-aided design (CAD) skills
a strong sense of responsibility and health and safety awareness
leadership and management skills.
You need to be able to:
handle complex information
plan and organise programmes of work
work to timetables, deadlines and within budgets
work on your own and also as part of a team
react quickly to emergencies and remain calm under pressure.
After gaining your degree and some further training with an employer, 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’s degree or a recognised HNC (SCQF Level 7) or HND (SCQF Level 8) plus further study to Bachelor’s degree level.
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 (MEng) degree (SCQF Level 11).
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 can check these alternative routes with the Engineering Council or with the appropriate professional engineering institution.
You must be willing to keep up to date with new technology and commit to continued professional development (CPD) all through your career.
Marine engineers who first qualify as IEng can progress to CEng after further training and experience. This can open up a wider range of opportunities.
You might specialise in project management or research and development.
You may move into general management, or into teaching and academic research in colleges and universities.
You might become a marine surveyor, surveying and valuing vessels for insurance purposes.
Some highly qualified engineers become consultants offering specialist engineering services.
There can be opportunities to work abroad.
The Engineering Council sets and maintains the standards of the engineering profession in the UK. It does so through 50 professional engineering institutions which are Licensed Members of the Engineering Council.