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Become a Subsea Engineer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a subsea engineer. Research the job description as well as education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in subsea engineering.

Do I Want to Be a Subsea Engineer?

Subsea engineers design, implement and maintain the structures, tools and equipment used in the underwater components of offshore gas and oil production. Work may be quite solitary, and the maintenance phase might require travel to remote locations.

Job Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming subsea engineers will need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, although a graduate degree is preferred. A degree in subsea, ocean or mechanical engineering may be sought by employers. Experience in offshore drilling is also preferred. The following are some core requirements to become a subsea engineer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*; master's degree preferred**
Degree Field Subsea engineering**, mechanical engineering**, ocean engineering**
Licensure and/or Certification Professional engineer (PE) license may be required by employer**
Experience 4-10 years of experience in an engineering field
Key Skills Strong organizational skills**, ability to prioritize assignments**, good judgment and problem-solving skills**
Computer Skills Microsoft Office**
Technical Skills Computer-assisted drafting (CAD) software**
Additional Requirements Creativity to design unique pieces of equipment; strong math and mechanical skills*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **job postings (November 2012).

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Individuals interested in becoming a subsea engineer must have a bachelor's degree in an engineering major such as mechanical engineering, petroleum or ocean engineering. These programs teach students how to apply science, math and engineering knowledge to modern technology, including aerospace, power generation and biomechanics. Some engineering schools may offer pre-engineering programs, while others offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree program.

Students should ensure their degree program is accredited by ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is required for a professional engineering license and may be required by some employers.

Success Tip

  • Seek an internship. Internships and co-op programs can improve mechanical engineering students' knowledge and training, as well as introduce them to the various engineering careers available in this industry.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Individuals with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering may find jobs related to subsea engineering within the offshore oil industry. According to job postings for subsea engineers in November 2012, employers sought individuals to design and implement new products, develop engineering plans and procedures and oversee contract requirements with vendors. Employers also sought individuals who can prioritize assignments, organize projects and assist clients. Gaining work experience is also essential to earning the professional engineer (PE) license, which may be required by employers.

Step 3: Obtain a Graduate Degree

Individuals may want to pursue a graduate degree in subsea engineering for continuing education and advancement opportunities. As of November 2012, there was just one subsea engineering graduate degree program in the U.S. This program focuses on the practices and basic sciences involved in underwater engineering. Courses include convection pipeline and riser design, heat transfer, applied mathematics and flow assurance. Other topics include subsea materials, corrosion, systems and control. Students must also complete a major design project.

Another graduate option is a master's degree in ocean engineering. This program teaches students how to solve engineering problems associated with an ocean environment. This work includes offshore structures, oil rigs and underwater robots. Students also learn how to develop ways that materials can withstand wave forces and prevent corrosion.

Step 4: Earn Professional Credentials

Experienced subsea engineers may want to earn a professional credential to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, a national nonprofit organization, offers a professional license for engineers and surveyors. This PE credential allows engineers to stamp and seal designs, offer consulting services, perform public services, bid for government contracts and be a principal partner in a firm.

Candidates must earn a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, have at least four years of acceptable work experience and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineer exam to complete the licensing process.

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