Marine Electrician

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Marine Electrician


Electricity is found everywhere on land, from baseball stadiums to family kitchens. However, it is also present on ships -- all boats, both large and small, are wired for electricity, thanks to the marine electricians. Marine electricians are responsible for the operation and distribution of electrical power throughout a ship. They are involved in installing electrical systems, maintaining them, and repairing them when necessary. They check the equipment onboard and within the ship to ensure it is working properly.

Marine electricians generally follow a set of blueprints and wiring diagrams when both installing wiring and fixing problems. They also strip insulation from wire ends, connect power supply circuits to radios and also deal with radar, sonar and other electronic equipment. As well, they must respond to breakdowns and blown fuses, all the while protecting themselves from dangerous gasses, heat, noise, and the possibility of electrical shock.

Marine electricians use specific hand tools, soldering irons, voltmeters, ohmmeters and phase rotation and power drills to complete all of the tasks assigned.

Ships must be careful to preserve power, therefore, the marine electrician also advises the ship's crew on most suitable use of electrical power. In order to make such judgment calls, they must determine the ship's electrical capacity, and then supervise the adapting and connecting of new or extra equipment to shipboard power. This means the electricians must ensure that the new equipment will work with the old -- hence, a wiring plan must be established. Modern ships could not function without the careful, dedicated electricians who supply the power that gets things done.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a marine electrician? These individuals must be good at math, and have good communication and reading skills. They require good mechanical abilities, as well as strength, stamina, and manual dexterity. Good eyesight, as well as normal color vision are important. Marine electricians should be comfortable with water or small, confined spaces. They must have a logical, analytical mind and be methodical as well as precise.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Troubleshoot electrical problems
  • May draw wiring diagrams
  • Study and interpret electrical code specifications and wiring diagrams to determine wiring layouts
  • Estimate costs
  • Install and maintain electrical wiring and equipment (motors, controllers, heating units, boat davits, anchor windlasses, mooring capstan, and small boat electrical/electronic systems)
  • Supervise assistants
  • Repair or replace faulty electrical equipment
  • Test electrical work for safety
  • Keep records of the problems found and fixed
  • Maintain switchgears, transformers, switchboard meters, regulators and reactors
  • Maintain electrical motors, generators, industrial storage batteries and hydraulic and pneumatic electrical control systems
  • Look into any other electrical mishaps on site
  • Marine electricians work alongside assistant electricians and other marine crew to look after the electrical needs of a ship. Some work is quick and easy, but some days could be spent on difficult or complicated task.They may work outdoors, but most of the work is done indoors on board ships. Marine electricians work standard hours, unless there is an emergency situation that requires them to work longer hours. If the shipyard or boat crew that employs them is in operation for 24 hours a day, then the electrician may work overnight shifts.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Marine electricians work with electrical contractors or with the maintenance departments on board transitory and docked ships, barges, sea platforms, and small boats within a shipyard facility. Some marine electricians find work with the military, working as non-commisioned officers in the Navy.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Marine electricians may branch out into general electrician work and open up their own business, or find a permanent place on staff with another industry or a construction company. They can stay with the industry they started with and advance to positions such as foreperson or superintendent. Marine electricians may also choose to work as safety code or by-law inspectors.

  Educational Paths  
Marine electricians receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a marine electrician, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the marine electrician a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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