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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Subject focus: Why study marine engineering?

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Interested in an engineering course? Why not consider marine engineering? We tell you more about the field here.


Do you love tinkering with the gadgets around your home? Taking them apart and putting them together just to see what the different parts do? Fascinated with ships?


If so, marine engineering might just be the perfect choice for you. Let us tell you more about this riveting field of study here.


What is marine engineering?

Engineering as a discipline has developed and branched out in many specialised areas that continue to progress by leaps and bounds today. Most of these new fields are aligned to some of the basic engineering subjects such as mechanical, electronics, civil and computers. One of these unique branches is marine engineering.


So what exactly does it entail? Marine engineering is the study of the design, development, innovation, production and maintenance of the different types of equipments used at sea (e.g rigs and other floating structures) and on board sea vessels such as boats and ships. Marine engineers focus on the development and production of internal systems of seagoing vessels. As such, it combines other engineering disciplines like electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering design and control technology (these different disciplines help make a sea-vessel an independent power plant. The field is vast and has even spawned related subjects such as naval architecture, oceanographic engineering and nautical science.


What do marine engineers do?


man on ship looking at sea


Aspiring marine engineers find out how to design the systems that allow the ships to move, such as mechanical systems, propulsion engines, underwater submersibles or offshore platforms. You will be engaged in designing propulsion systems, auxiliary power machinery and operation equipment. Your technical responsibilities will also involve working on-board to maintain these complex systems.


Why is marine engineering important?

Quite a large percentage of the world’s commerce relies on ships- from transporting oil, or other valuable cargo. Today’s seas are dotted with oil and cargo ships that are magnificently huge and complex. Most, if not all countries with strong economies have bustling ports with containers lined up neatly like Lego blocks. Thus, it’s imperative that these ships work effectively and without a hitch. Any technical glitch or problem can cause a delay in shipment arrival dates and have an adverse effect on a business’s profit margins. 


The job of a marine engineer does not simply consist of ensuring the safety of the crews and passengers, it also involves bringing these technological marvels to life from the drawing board. The important role that marine engineers play ensures that they will always be in demand globally. You can even travel the world by sea, how cool is that?


Marine engineer skills

As with most engineering courses, a strong foundation in science (especially physics and chemistry) and math is important. You should have a strong interest in maritime and technology in addition to gaining the traits needed for a successful career in marine engineering. IT skills are also important as many of your modules will include the use of computer-aided design softwares such as AutoCAD.


Search for all marine engineering courses abroad.


What will you study?

When taking the course, you will learn how to apply the principles of engineering to systems that help seafaring vessels, docks and other oceanic entities function. Some of the major areas of study would include- designing and evaluating propulsion, fluid dynamics, fuel cells, superconductivity, discrete math, different aspects of vessel engineering (such as electrical and control engineering), ship structures and power supply systems to assist communication and navigational devices, engines, foul-weather gear and many other types of marine tools.


As with any engineering programme, this intensive course requires time, patience, dedication and commitment to your studies. You can study for an undegraduate in marine engineering, masters or PhD in marine engineering, all of which will prepare you to design and evaluate seafaring vessels (e.g cruise ships, submarines, navy vessels, commercial ships, passenger lines, yachts) and other equipment while on land and at sea. 


A bulk of your undergraduate degree will have several math and science subjects so that students have a better understanding of how a ship’s structure functions and the way the ocean affects it.


Basic modules include:


·         Engineering analysis principles

·         Naval architecture

·         Wave mechanics

·         Fluid mechanics

·         Marine structures

·         Propulsion systems

·         Ship dynamics

·         Moored and diving systems

·         Coastal and offshore structures


A four-year bachelor of science degree is sufficient to cover the basic concepts of marine engineering. Those interested in learning more about a specific facet of the profession can opt to pursue a masters in marine engineering (one to two more years), and possibly even a PhD (the time taken to complete this varies widely). A master’s programme will cover more advanced topics such as materials science, hydrostatics, thermal system design, managing engineering projects and electrical power systems.


Here's a list of universities offering undergraduate marine engineering courses abroad. 


Certain colleges offer combined masters to PhD programs that help students earn their post-graduate education degrees faster. If you’re keen on attaining executive or a management position shipping, naval architecture and off-shore oil exploration, earning your Master in Business Administration (MBA) can help tremendously. Other graduates in marine engineering choose to capitalise on their education and the experience that they’ve gained in the field to earn a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.), concentrating on maritime and engineering law.


It is worth mentioning that after finishing a bachelor’s degree, marine engineers might need to take licensing exams by the country’s naval governing body. For instance, in the U.S, marine engineers will typically take several U.S. Coast Guard licensing exams. After successfully passing the Third Assistant License Exam, they obtain more experience before taking the Second Assistant license and so on.


offshore construction platform at sea


Skills gained

Below is a list of some of the important skills that you will develop during the course:

  • Complex problem solving skills
  • Writing and communication skills
  • Teamwork and leadership skills
  • Strong numeracy skills
  • Practical and technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Time management
  • Analytical skills


Qualifications needed

While every college or university has slightly different requirements, in general, undergraduate applicants should have completed high school or secondary school with excellent advanced science and math course grades. High ACT or SAT test scores are also helpful when applying for a program in marine engineering.


Types of specialisations

You will be given the opportunity to specialise in certain areas such as naval operations, resources and aquaculture, technology management and design and logistics. All graduates in marine engineering would come away from the course with a strong knowledge of hydraulics, mechanics, specialised computer softwares and materials science.


Placement opportunities

Many universities today have specific programmes in place to help their students gain as much hands-on experience as they can. For instance, The University of Michigan has strong connections to large multinational corporations such as ExxonMobil and Chevron- that their students can apply to for internships. These partner companies visit the campus every year to conduct interviews for interns. Furthermore, research institutes such as the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology and government agencies are also on the lookout for interns each year. 


To learn more about the kinds of internships and work placement opportunities that a certain university or college has, we highly suggest that students write to them directly. It is also essential that you check the kinds of facilities that the university or college has so that you get the most out of your study abroad experience. It is always best to have at least one internship under your belt before you graduate to better your chances of being hired when you enter the job market.


Career paths

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), employment prospects for marine engineers and naval architects are expected to increase by nine percent between 2014-2024, which was faster than average. This means that the demand for marine engineers is higher than ever and now’s the best time to take a course in marine engineering. 


Some of the potential jobs that you could have include:


·         Naval combat engineer

·         Marine systems engineering

·         Structural engineer

·         Submarine engineer

·         Shipyard project engineer

·         Marine operations manager

·         Propulsion engineer

·         Hydrographic surveryor

·         Marine equipment specialist

·         Hydrographic engineer

·         Ship engineer

·         Travelling service engineer

·         Sales engineer

·         Port engineer

·         Consultant in maritime accidents, casualties and claims

·         Marine engineering professor

·         Maritime researcher


Still not sure what career you want to pursue? Find out your personality type to discover which degree and career path might suit you best.


Some of the typical employers include:


You can opt to go into either the government, academia or the private sector. For the government and academia, graduates typically need either a master’s or a doctorate degree. Graduates in marine engineering can work in lots of different settings and industries. You can join marine engineering firms, the naval forces or choose to plunge headfirst into the offshore oil and gas industries, mineral extraction companies, architectural and boat-building firms, transportation companies, shipyards, ports, scientific services, marine consultancy and survey agencies.


Some careers that follow an engineering degree might seem unexpected or surprising but the tranferrable skills are relevant and beneficial for other industries. Want to find out more?


How much do marine engineers earn?

Based on a report conducted by the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics in 2019, the median annual wage for marine engineers is USD 92,560. The mean annual salary is slightly higher at USD 98,970.


Most popular places to study Marine Engineering: 


University College London

University of Dundee

University of Southampton

Cornwall’s College of the Ocean

Liverpool John Moores University



University of Michigan- Ann Arbor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The University of New Orleans

Texas A&M- University of Galveston

Stevens Institute of Technology



The University of British Columbia

Vancouver Island University

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Georgian College



Hamburg University of Technology

Berlin International College


Other countries with great marine engineering courses include Japan, Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

Want to check which program suits you the best?
Find out with our new "Course Matcher" tool!

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