Boat Engineer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

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Boat engineers typically must possess the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration and the Merchant Mariner's Credential (MMC) from the U.S. Coast Guard. In some cases, boat engineers hold a bachelor's degree from a merchant marine academy.

Essential Information

Boat engineers oversee the operation and maintenance of a marine vessel's mechanical and electrical systems, including the engines, boilers and generators. Engineers are required to receive the Merchant Mariner's Credential, which certifies their ability to perform all duties aboard a ship. Prospective boat engineers may complete bachelor's programs.

Required Education Bachelor's degree from merchant marine academy
Other Requirements Must earn credentials from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for all ship engineers
Median Salary (2015)* $72,870 for all ship engineers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Boat Engineers

Boat engineers operate, repair and maintain the various systems aboard a ship. The boat engineer's primary responsibility is to maintain the mechanical propulsion systems of a marine vessel, including the engines, pumps, boilers and generators. Additional responsibilities include maintaining electrical, refrigeration, ventilation, heating and cooling systems. Merchant marine ships usually include a chief engineer and up to three assistant engineers.

Duties of Boat Engineers

Boat engineers operate a vessel's propulsion systems according to the directions of the ship's commanding officer. This includes refueling, starting the engines and regulating engine speed and power in accordance with directions. Boat engineers record information for engineering logs, such as speed and direction change orders and gauge readings. Engineers perform routine propulsion maintenance, isolate malfunctions observed during operation and perform repairs. They also perform general maintenance and repair work for other systems and maintain a vessel's inventory of mechanical parts and supplies.

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Requirements to Become a Boat Engineer

Work on a marine vessel requires physical fitness and dexterity. Boat engineers must receive two U.S. Department of Homeland Security credentials:

  • The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration
  • The Merchant Mariner's Credential (MMC) from the U.S. Coast Guard

Boat engineers must be U.S. citizens and not convicted of certain crimes to receive the TWIC. To be eligible to take the written examination for the MMC, aspiring boat engineers must have from six months-three years of qualifying service experience or must be graduates of a merchant marine academy. Different examinations are offered for different engineer ratings, from assistant up to chief engineer.

Subjects covered by the MMC examination include steam and motor plants, electronics, engineering safety and environmental protection. Engineers also need to be familiar with the International Maritime Organization's standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers. They must also be familiar with federal regulations, which vary depending on the size of vessels.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, ship engineers earned an annual median salary of $72,870. The BLS also predicted 7% employment growth for ship engineers from 2014-2024, which is about average compared to all occupations.

Boat engineers are responsible for the mechanical and electrical systems on marine vessels. They maintain these systems and repair them as necessary to keep the ship's systems operational.

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