The Life of a Marine Engineer


A marine engineer's career involves diverse projects, travel to coastal areas and working with highly technical machines. It combines an engineering skill set with an interest in boats, ships and the open ocean. Marine engineers perform a variety of tasks related to the design and operation of everything from submarines to sailboats.

Job Description

  • A marine engineer works in the design and development of marine vessels, their operational systems and the equipment related to their operation. A marine engineer may be responsible for selecting the equipment used in a vessel, like the engines, reactors and electrical systems. Marine engineers also evaluate existing machinery and supervise its operation.


  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average hourly wage for a marine engineer is $37.46, as of May 2008, and the average annual salary is $77,920. The salary range for marine engineers is from about $43,000 to more than $118,630 a year.


  • Most marine engineers are employed in architecture and engineering industries, while the next two closest-ranking industries are ship-building and the federal executive branch of the government. The highest-paying industry for a marine engineer is the federal government. Other major employers of marine engineers include other scientific services industries and deep-sea and coastal transportation.

Geographic Area

  • The top employing state for marine engineers is Virginia, with the greater Virginia Beach area having the highest concentration of employed marine engineers, followed by the Washington, D.C., area. Other states in which a marine engineer might live, based on the prevalence of employment for marine engineers, are Mississippi, Maryland, Hawaii and Louisiana. A marine engineer does not have to reside in a coastal location, however, since most employers will pay transport for the engineer to the job site for the duration of a project, which usually lasts two to three months. Marine engineers should expect to spend several months on a job site or even at sea, though they also have flexibility to pursue other areas of engineering when not on a project.

Employment Outlook and Areas of Growth

  • The employment rate for a marine engineer is nearly 100 percent, according to Marine engineers are needed to confront the challenges of building larger cargo vessels and to develop port security systems in coastal areas. Another area in which marine engineers are in high demand is offshore drilling, which has moved to deeper waters that present more complex problems for engineers and require more complicated rig structures.

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  • Photo Credit submarine image by Charles Kaye from
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