Deck Engineer: Duties, Outlook and Salary

Sep 25, 2019

Deck engineers require specialized formal education. Learn about the training requirements, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Deck engineers navigate a ship, stand watch, inspect equipment and supervise crew members. They usually hold a college degree and must earn a Merchant Mariner Credential from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Essential Information

A deck engineer, also called a mate, helps navigate a ship and might be called upon to take command if the captain of a vessel becomes incapacitated. He or she also stands watch during various periods when a ship is at sea. Other duties might include inspecting equipment used for handling cargo, signaling other vessels, or fishing, as well as supervising crew members who repair and/or replace such equipment. Deck engineers also might oversee ship cleaning crews and crew members who load and unload cargo. Deck engineers typically complete an undergraduate degree to get the experience needed for a credential from the Coast Guard.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Merchant Mariner Credential from Coast Guard
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) -3% for ship engineers*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $71,130 for ship engineers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensure Requirements

To work as a deck engineer, an individual must have a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) issued by the U.S. Coast Guard ( To obtain the MMC, an individual must have experience on a marine vessel and be a U.S. citizen of at least 16 years of age. He or she also must pass a criminal background check and a physical ability test. Additionally, prospective deck engineers need a Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that individuals can gain the experience needed for the MMC through an undergraduate degree program offered by one of the seven maritime academies approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation ( These programs include study of marine navigation, maritime communication, small craft operation, and marine survival.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicted a decline in employment opportunities for ship engineers, between 2018 and 2028. This potential growth was attributed to anticipated increases in tourism and international trade, as well as more offshore production of oil and gas. The BLS also noted that there could be numerous job openings due to retirement of water transportation workers, especially officers.

Salary Information

In 2018, there were 9,000 men and women employed as ship engineers in the U.S., according to BLS figures. In May 2018, the BLS reported that workers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $123,670 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $40,330 or less per year. Those who are employed in deep sea, coastal, and great lakes water transportation earned $78,050, in May 2018.

Deck engineers need thorough knowledge of aquatic vessels, maintenance skills and leadership qualities. Completing an undergraduate program at a maritime academy can give them the experience needed to qualify for the U.S. Coast Guard's Merchant Mariner Credential, which is required. Jobs in this field are expected decline through 2028, and salaries vary, depending on the industry of employment.

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