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Ocean Engineer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an ocean engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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Ocean engineers work closely with oceanographers or marine biologists to design equipment needed for marine research. To gain the required skills, they typically earn a bachelor's degree in engineering, and may also pursue graduate studies. This is a good field to consider if you have a strong math and science background, and interest in collaborative research.

Essential Information

Ocean engineers use their knowledge and skills to design equipment that helps advance the study of oceanography, marine biology and life-saving technology. Ocean engineers need a bachelor's degree and experience in basic engineering. They must understand the many related natural resources found within the ocean, such as oil, natural gas and oxygen. Their jobs may require travel and work in uncomfortable, or even dangerous, conditions.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in ocean engineering or another engineering discipline
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% for all civil engineers, including ocean engineers*
Median Salary (2016) $60,252 **

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale.com

Job Description of Ocean Engineers

Ocean engineers use a combination of electrical, civil, mechanical and general engineering principles to work with oceanographers, marine biologists, geologists and geophysicists in creating tools and devices to help with research projects. These devices may be used to sense underwater objects and seafloor formations, measure underwater earthquake activity or study tides. Ocean engineers work as part of a research or design team, but also can work independently, developing new research and exploration tools. They must be able to work on ships or in submersibles, often in harsh and dangerous conditions. Jobs are often found in the government, military, oil, conservation or navigation industries, as well as with private companies. According to January 2016 data from PayScale.com, the median salary of ocean engineers was $60,252.

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Duties of Ocean Engineers

An ocean engineer is responsible for the design, plan and development of devices used by oceanographers and marine biologists. Using both engineering principles and a knowledge of the ocean environment, they must create instruments that can stand up to being submerged in salt water, withstand storms and stay at sea for long periods of time. They may also need to fix and maintain the equipment.

Requirements to Become an Ocean Engineer

There are several education paths available to prospective ocean engineers, most often beginning with earning a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline. Bachelor's degree programs in ocean engineering include an overview of the ocean environment and teach them methods of research such as analysis, construction and operation of marine systems. Students learn about geomechanics, energy generation and ocean structures, with courses in coastal engineering, ocean environment engineering, robotic design and underwater acoustics. Many courses require students to train in the field or a laboratory as part of a research or design team.

Post-graduate studies in ocean engineering are also available. They typically cover a number of engineering studies, such as ocean structure dynamics, buoyancy, wave mechanics, coastal engineering and mineral resources. There are also capstone design projects for offshore studies and ocean resources, and a thesis on specific subject matter may also be required.

To recap, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to become an ocean engineer. These professionals apply engineering knowledge to designing, constructing, and maintaining equipment used in marine environments. This job may involve working with many types of people, and may be physically demanding.

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