Marine Engineers and Naval Architects

Marine engineers and naval architects work with ships, from their design to their construction and maintenance. They work with all kinds of ships, such as sailboats, submarines, aircraft carriers, and tankers. Mechanical engineers deal with the ship's mechanical systems, like steering and propulsion. Naval architects deal with the general design, ensuring that the form of the vessel is sufficiently stable and durable.

The duties of a marine engineer include:

  • Preparing layouts, technical drawings and schematics of ship systems
  • Inspecting and evaluating marine machinery and equipment
  • Testing marine machinery and equipment in the areas of performance, operation, and environmental impact
  • Ensuring that all machinery tests are in compliance with regulations
  • Working with various regulatory groups to make sure that any repair work is done as safely and as inexpensively as possible
  • Preparing technical reports, which can be used by managers, sales personnel, or other engineers
  • Estimating project costs and timetables, and drawing up contracts accordingly
  • Communicating with contractors and ensuring that deadlines and budgets are kept

The marine engineers described in this profile are different from the individuals who actually operate the machinery on the ship. Those individuals are known as marine engineers also, but they are more frequently called ship engineers. To learn more about ship engineers, refer to the profile on water transportation occupations.

Marine engineers are tending to focus more effort on the issue of power generation. An increasing number of companies have shifted their focus toward producing electricity and even selling it back to the power company, through the use of tidal power generators, offshore wind turbines, and more. Marine engineers also work in the gas and oil industry, particularly with offshore drilling technology.

The duties of a naval architect include:

  • Deciding the basic properties of a ship (like weight, size, and speed) by studying design specifications and proposals
  • Establishing the ideal hull form, the center of gravity, and proper stability and buoyancy by shaping the waterline and sectional curves of the hull
  • Designing the exterior hull and superstructures of a ship, and ensuring those designs adhere to safety standards
  • Designing the interior layout of a ship, including cargo space, elevators, passenger compartments, and ladder wells
  • Collaborating with marine engineers regarding the layout of the ship's technical systems, such as propulsion machinery, boiler room equipment, refrigeration equipment, and heating and ventilation systems
  • Directing teams with a diverse professional background in the building and testing of prototypes

Work Environment
Marine engineers and naval architects hold over 5,000 jobs. Most of their time is spent in offices, designing projects and solving problems with the help of special computer software. They occasionally need to go out on the open ocean in the ships they design, in order to maintain or test them.

Engineers working in the field of power generation work on the coastline, either on land or offshore. For example, they may work with offshore wind turbines or oil rigs, designing, repairing and maintaining various systems.

The following table shows the industries which employ the most marine engineers and naval architects:

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – 47%
  • Federal government, excluding postal service – 17%
  • Ship and boat building – 10%
  • Other professional, scientific, and technical services – 6%
  • Deep sea, coastal, and great lakes water transportation – 4%

How to Become a Marine Engineer or Naval Architect
A bachelor's degree in marine engineering, naval architecture, or marine systems engineering is required for marine engineers and naval architects. Applicants with practical experience are more attractive to employers, which is why cooperative engineering programs (which combine classroom learning with on-the-job training) are so beneficial.


To start out as a marine engineer or naval architect, a bachelor's degree is required. High school students who want to prepare for these professions should study science (like physics and chemistry) and mathematics (like trigonometry, algebra, and calculus). Courses in drafting are particularly helpful to students aspiring to become a naval architect.

Undergraduate students of marine engineering, naval architecture, and marine systems engineering programs can expect to study physics, computer-aided design, and calculus, as well as ship hull strength, fluid mechanics, and mechanics of materials.

These programs should be evaluated by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

The median salary of marine engineers and naval architects is more than $79,000 a year. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $44,000 a year, and the highest 10% earn more than $144,000 a year.

The following table shows the industries which employ the most marine engineers and naval architects, as well as the median salary of engineers and architects in those industries:

  • Federal government, excluding postal service – $100,750
  • Deep sea, coastal, and great lakes water transportation – $88,930
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – $77,670
  • Other professional, scientific, and technical services – $68,460
  • Ship and boat building – $65,860

Job Outlook
It's estimated that job prospects for marine engineers and naval architects will grow by 17% in the next decade. This rate of growth is about average. There is an increasing need for ships and systems which can transport energy products (like liquefied natural gas) all around the planet, which will require more marine engineers and naval architects. In addition, many existing ships need to be modified and repaired in order to comply with new pollution and emissions regulations.

Many companies are searching and drilling for fossil fuel reserves at the bottom of the ocean, a process that will require the expertise of marine engineers.

The shift toward alternative energy systems, like tidal power generators and offshore wind turbines, will raise demand for marine engineers. Also, many marine engineers will be needed to work onboard ships transporting liquefied gas to foreign countries.

The federal government now requires ships which transport oil and gas to be double-hulled. Many fleets will need to be updated to conform to these regulations, a task which will require many naval architects. Additionally, many oil companies are trying to drill for oil under the ocean in climates which are quite inhospitable. Naval architects will be useful in designing and constructing off-shore rigs which can function in these climates.

Countries all over the world recognize the urgent need for ships which generate less pollution. Advances in technology are making this possible, and many governments are allocating more resources toward reducing pollution. These factors will create more demand for marine engineers and naval architects for years to come.

Company Information
Privacy Policy
Contact Us
Submit a Resource