Marine engineer: job description

Last updated: 16 Feb 2024, 10:02

Marine engineers design and maintain the systems and components that power ships and boats. They also work on oil rigs and marine energy sites such as off-shore wind farms.

A ship with shipping containers at a dock

Jump to: What does a marine engineer do? | Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Finding a job | Key skills

What does a marine engineer do?

Marine engineers work on ships and smaller craft, as well as on offshore sites such as oil rigs and wind farms. They’re employed across a range of industries, including commercial and leisure shipping, defence and renewable energy. They’re responsible for designing and maintaining the systems and parts that keep these operations running safely and efficiently.

Depending on the industry, typical duties include:

  • inspecting and maintaining engines, pumps and other essential equipment
  • diagnosing and repairing problems
  • designing and operating systems to prevent corrosion and damage from sea creatures
  • installing and maintaining electrical, heating and plumbing systems
  • assessing and repairing damage caused by wind and waves
  • advising on cargo storage to keep vessels stable in the water
  • keeping records of repairs, maintenance schedules and safety issues.

The job title covers a range of very different roles. For example, as a marine engineering officer in the Royal Navy, you will manage a team of technicians who will carry out maintenance tasks. If you work for a commercial shipping operator or a boatyard, your role will be more hands on. If you join a graduate scheme you’re likely to try out a range of roles and areas of work, including some in an office.

The nature of marine engineering means that you could have to stay away from home for long periods or be on call. You could also work in dangerous, noisy or uncomfortable environments. On the flipside, you could work on a cruise ship or yacht. These kinds of role are likely to involve shifts and working outside ordinary 9–5 hours.

What are the salaries of graduate marine engineers?

These vary depending on the sector in which you’re working. As a marine engineer officer in the Royal Navy, you could earn a starting salary of around £31,000, while you could earn up to £35,000 as an engineer for a port. Your salary is likely to be lower if you work for a smaller organisation such as a boatyard – you could start on around £26,000 but work your way up as you gain experience, according to salary survey sites.

Find out more engineering salaries in our article exploring the best-paying graduate jobs .

Who are the main employers in marine engineering?

  • The Royal Navy
  • The Merchant Navy
  • Cruise and ferry operators
  • Harbours and port authorities
  • Boatyards and boat builders
  • Engineering firms
  • Energy companies, including those offering renewable sources of power.

Where do I find marine engineering jobs?

Graduate jobs with energy companies and engineering firms are advertised on targetjobs: search for engineering jobs here . You can also find jobs advertised by your careers service, specialist recruitment agencies, and sector- and industry-specific sites and publications (such as those focusing on cruise ships and boatbuilding). Individual employers will also advertise roles directly – small organisations may use social media, local publications and word of mouth.

Which are the best engineering companies to work for?

What qualifications and training do marine engineers need?

You don’t need a degree to become a marine engineer but you do need specialist skills that you’ll need to keep up to date throughout your career. This makes qualifications and ongoing professional development essential in this line of work.

You can build skills and knowledge on the job – for example, you can work your way up from an engineering technician role and gain work-based qualifications along the way. Alternatively, you could take an apprenticeship, in which you’ll study alongside working. You’ll need a level 2 qualification to get onto an apprenticeship.

If you’re an engineering graduate, you can aim for officer-level roles in the Royal Navy, for graduate schemes in engineering firms and shipping operators, or for individual entry-level roles with smaller organisations, depending on your strengths, interests and career plans. Small and less formal employers such as boatyards may have roles suitable for graduates from a wider range of disciplines with the right combination of experience, skills and motivation.

As with many engineering jobs, work experience will help you find the right area of specialism for you.

Search for engineering internships and placements on targetjobs.

Whichever direction you choose, ongoing learning and development will be feature of your working life. For example, you’ll need to keep up to date with health and safety requirements, environmental legislation and technical skills. You can continue to build your skills via chartership and incorporated status. Both involve learning and demonstrating particular competences on the job, and both lead to higher-paying jobs.

Discover more about becoming a chartered or incorporated engineer after starting a graduate job .

Key skills

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Close attention to detail
  • Hands-on technical skills
  • Design skills
  • Numeracy
  • The ability to learn continuously and willingness to do so
  • Teamworking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Graduate roles may ask for experience using design software.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

People reading this also searched for roles in these areas:

Related careers advice

undefined background image

We've got you

Get the latest jobs, internships, careers advice, courses and graduate events based on what's important to you. Start connecting directly with top employers today.