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Marine Engineer


Description

Have you ever stopped to consider the importance of ferries and cargo ships that transport goods and people? For instance, island dwellers depend on ferry systems to transport them to various ports on the mainland. Marine engineers design and develop marine vessels, floating structures, marine power plants and related systems and equipment and oversee the building, maintenance and repair of vessels and marine systems.

At sea, a marine engineer's primary task is to operate and maintain the ship's main propulsion machinery. They are also responsible for the electrical systems and for the high-tech electronic equipment used on board, such as heating and refrigeration, especially on large import/export cargo ships. Without marine engineers, our world would have no large functioning marine vessels.

Marine engineers design and oversee the installation and repair of marine powerplants, propulsion systems, heating and ventilating systems, and other mechanical and electrical equipment in ships, docks, and marine facilities. They study and create blueprints and perform complex calculations to build and maintain marine crafts. They generally evaluate the operation of equipment during acceptance testing and shakedown cruises and may specialize in design of equipment, such as boilers, steam-driven reciprocating engines, heat exchangers, fire control and communication systems, electric power systems, or piping and related fittings and valves.

The marine engineering field is expanding due to new technological advances that have allowed us to better understand the sea and its functions. New work areas have developed such as devising new ways of exploring previously inaccessible areas with vessels that can withstand harsh marine conditions. New environmental issues have created a marine environmental engineering field where engineers devise methods of controlling toxic dumping and oil spills.

Marine engineers meet with manufacturers, lawyers and ship captains to make sure that design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that marine engineers must contend with or else they could be sinking with their designs faster than they can swim. They create innovative marine engineering plans on computers which test and predict possible errors and problems with a mechanism and in this, they generate workable solutions. Although most initial work takes place on the computer, many marine engineers at sea must control a ship and make sure it is functioning safely and according to laws. Many are employed by the Coast Guard or Navy.

Marine engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as machine malfunction and ship breakdowns. CAD models are eliminating the need for hand drawn models. Marine engineers research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
 
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Transforming Engineers into Leaders

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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$38,640
 
Median Salary:
$61,410
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$91,510

  Interests and Skills  
Marine engineers should have a natural affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be able to spot potential problems before they happen or make quick decisions in emergency situations. Their jobs are extremely technical therefore they should be organized and methodical in their working habits. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems and design work.

They must also have strong communication skills. Marine engineers constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas and give orders in a clear, concise fashion. Marine engineers must be in good shape, strong and quite healthy as heavy lifting may be required. Finally, they should hold a love of the marine environment, a respect for the way the ocean works and a sense of curiosity.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Repair and maintain marine engines and machinery for on-shore marine engineering companies
  • Repair engines on board ships
  • Order spare parts and equipment for ships
  • Control the mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment in a ship's engine room and elsewhere on the ship
  • Keep the ship traveling at the required speed by operating propulsion engines according to orders from the captain or computers on the bridge
  • Service electrical power, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, water and sewage systems
  • Check, test and maintain automatic controls and alarm systems
  • Diagnose engine and machinery problems and carry out maintenance and repairs
  • Contract assistance from shore-based engineers if necessary
  • Liaise with the ship's captain and shore personnel to ensure schedules and budgets are maintained and that the ship is operated safely and efficiently
  • Ensure the ship meets international regulations and standards regarding life saving equipment and pollution preventatives
  • Marine engineers may work on-shore in an office or at sea on long voyages. Those working on ships work in all weather conditions, which can sometimes be hot, noisy, dirty and dangerous. There is a lot of traveling involved for the at-sea engineers, usually to international destinations such as the Pacific Rim, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and any other coastal areas. It is common for some engineers to match days on work with days off. For example, if an engineer works on a ship for two months, they will usually have two months off when the voyage is over.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Marine engineers work in ships' machine or engine rooms and on other parts of passenger and cargo ships and ferries. Some work on shore in offices and get called onto docked boats for repairs. When doing these repairs, marine engineers must adhere to a very tight sailing schedule, because it costs ships a great deal of money to stay in port. They work for both the public and private sectors on passenger lines and ferries, cargo ships, offshore oil and gas suppliers, warships and submarines. They may work through a union or get directly hired by shipping companies that need an engineer on staff.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced marine engineers may advance to various administrative and management positions. Those with master's degrees or PhDs may teach at the postsecondary level or become an industry research specialist. Other more specialized opportunities include designing robots and other underwater machines that are used for mapping ancient shipwrecks and underwater imaging.
 

  Educational Paths  
The minimum education requirement for marine engineers is a bachelor's degree in marine, mechanical or design engineering. Engineers must apply for a licence once they have a degree and pass a written exam. They will make some exceptions for those without a degree with over three years of marine (sea) experience and a passing grade on the examination. It is also recommended that engineers continue their studies and go for a master's degree to help make them more knowledgeable and specialized.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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