Marine Engineering Degree Programs Overview
Read detailed information about undergraduate and graduate degree programs in marine engineering. Find out about admissions requirements and types of courses taken in each program. Learn what options graduates have relating to career choices and continuing education, and get details about employment outlook and salaries in this field.
Marine engineers are mainly responsible for designing and building various types of ships and other seaworthy structures. Many colleges offer graduate programs, and a few offer undergraduate programs, in the field of marine engineering. Schools without specific marine engineering departments may offer, as part of a civil or environmental engineering degree, a concentration in one or more aspects of marine science. Marine engineering programs can be referred to as coastal or offshore engineering, ocean or oceanographic engineering, naval architecture, naval construction or naval engineering.
While a bachelor's degree program will expose students to basic topics in marine engineering through class instruction and internships, programs at the master's and doctoral levels explore more advanced subjects, such as marine thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and wave theory. Graduate programs also place a stronger emphasis on research. Prior completion of a master's program may be required for admission to a doctoral program. Licensing requirements apply to some types of positions within the field of marine engineering.
Bachelor's in Marine Engineering
Marine engineering applies basic engineering principles to systems designed to operate in predominately aquatic environments. This includes not only all types of seafaring vessels, docks, harbors, freight-handling facilities, oil platforms, wind turbines and shipbuilding facilities, but also engines, motors, navigational and communications devices, rigging, tools, foul-weather gear and safety equipment.
Applicants should be high school graduates with good grades in advanced science and math courses, or high scores in ACT or SAT tests. Specific requirements will vary among engineering schools.
Marine engineering employs techniques from many engineering disciplines. A 4-year program may be sufficient to acquaint the student with the breadth of subject areas pertinent to marine engineers, but is unlikely to offer much depth in any single discipline. Basic courses include the following:
- Engineering analysis principles
- Fluid mechanics
- Marine structures
- Wave mechanics
- Naval architecture
- Ship dynamics
- Propulsion systems
- Offshore and coastal structures
- Diving and moored systems
Popular Career Options
Most companies hiring entry-level marine engineers will provide on-the-job training that builds upon the largely theoretical college coursework. Undergraduate students who participate in internships or work-study jobs in marine engineering fields will not only gain valuable experience but improve their employment prospects after graduation. Jobs available for graduates of 4-year programs include the following:
- Marine equipment specialist
- Ship's engineer
- Hydrographic surveyor
- Ship design engineer
- Marine structural engineer
- Marine systems engineer
- Propulsion engineer
- Naval combat engineer
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Private architectural and engineering firms accounted for nearly half of the 5,900 positions for marine engineers and naval architects in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Shipbuilders and government agencies accounted for almost a third. The median annual wage for marine engineers and naval architects was $88,100 in May 2012, and the industry was projected to grow by 17% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Continuing Education Information
Engineers who offer their services to the public are required to pass licensure examinations, and several professional organizations provide review courses to prepare for these exams. Practical experience in the field is as valuable as further study in order to maintain an upward career trajectory, but obtaining an advanced degree may facilitate a faster career advance or a shift into a different branch of marine engineering.
Master's in Marine Engineering
A master's program gives the student a year or two to study a specialty subject in greater depth, and build a foundation for marine engineering research. Some master's programs require each candidate to complete a master's thesis in lieu of more course hours.
Applicants are typically expected to hold bachelor's degrees in engineering disciplines, and those with sparse undergraduate marine engineering credits may be required to take some foundational courses before acceptance into the program.
The master's curriculum would typically include advanced hydrodynamics and mathematics, along with higher-level coursework in the student's selected specialty, which could include the following:
- Numerical simulation techniques
- Differential equations
- Dynamics of ocean systems
- Applied marine thermodynamics
- Marine dredging and mining
- Ship auxiliary systems design
- Underwater and moored systems
Popular Career Options
Academia and government agencies are two prime work environments for graduates of advanced marine engineering degree programs. Many will also work for private architectural firms, design firms and engineering firms that service various marine industries. Some common job titles include the following:
- Engineering professor
- Naval architect
- Marine operations manager
- Marine construction inspector
- Shipyard project engineer
- Submarine engineer
- Oil rig construction supervisor
Ph.D. in Marine Engineering
Ph.D. candidates are expected to master the differential equations required to simulate complex interrelated systems, along with the advanced fluid dynamics and wave mechanics common to all branches of marine engineering. Programs may require maintaining a minimum grade point average for coursework. Written or oral examinations to assess proficiency and presentation of a formal dissertation are generally important components of such a program.
Doctoral candidates are expected to have master's degrees in disciplines closely related to marine engineering. Some colleges offer combined master's-to-Ph.D. degree programs which are open to 4-year engineering graduates who have strong backgrounds in marine engineering subject areas.
The bulk of a doctoral candidate's course hours will be devoted to conducting independent research and writing a dissertation. Many candidates hold teaching positions as a part of their studies. Upper-level courses may include the following:
- Computational fluid dynamics
- Ports and harbors
- Estuary hydrodynamics
- Nonlinear wave theory
- Sediment transport
- Underwater acoustics
- Littoral processes
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