Ocean Engineering Education and Training Program Information

Ocean engineers design marine vehicles and technical equipment that can perform well in the open seas. Explore the undergraduate and graduate degree options, coursework and employment outlook.

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Essential Information

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has accredited just nine ocean engineering programs at universities in the United States as of 2014. Both undergraduate and graduate programs in ocean engineering are available through these schools. The coursework at all program levels is heavy on math and physics, and programs may draw from related engineering disciplines, like civil engineering. Professional engineers may need to obtain licensure, depending on the type of work they perform.

A high school diploma or GED is required for students pursuing a bachelor's degree. Applicants to a master's degree program need an undergraduate degree in engineering, and for those pursuing a Ph.D. a master's degree is required. Bachelor's programs take about 4 years to complete, while it may take 2 to 5 years for a master's degree. Graduate programs typically expect completion of a thesis or dissertation.

Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering

A bachelor's degree program in ocean engineering teaches students how to harness the academic disciplines of oceanography, marine biology, chemistry, geology and geophysics to create equipment and instruments that can be used in the ocean. Ocean engineers learn how to create various devices, such as satellite-linked buoys, ocean seismometers and underwater video equipment. Bachelor's degree programs in the field focus primarily on the mechanical engineering aspects of ocean engineering and teach students about the basics of oceans systems, design, structural mechanics and dynamics.

The courses found within a bachelor's degree program in ocean engineering are drawn from several different academic disciplines, ranging from engineering to physical science. Specific examples of common courses might include:

  • Introduction to ocean engineering
  • Physics
  • Calculus
  • Applied mechanics
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Wave water laboratory

Master of Science in Ocean Engineering

Master's degree programs in ocean engineering are broad, interdisciplinary programs that draw from the fields of civil engineering, marine electronics and naval architecture. Students are also required to study oceanography and learn about how underwater acoustics and how water waves can affect the engineering and design of oceanic structures. Many such programs also include advanced courses in mathematics and physics principles that can be applied to engineering projects.

Ocean engineering degree programs are comprised primarily of seminar courses and independent research hours. Examples of courses include:

  • Ocean engineering
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Ocean wave mechanics
  • Oceanography
  • Higher math for engineers
  • Offshore structures

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Doctor of Philosophy in Ocean Engineering

A Ph.D. in ocean engineering is ideal for any graduate student or working professional who is interested in investigating a particular scientific issue in the field. Students learn how to perform advanced scientific studies and carry out experiments while pursuing engineering research. Dissertation topics may include coastal engineering, naval architecture, ocean systems or corrosion.

Students enrolled in a Ph.D. in ocean engineering may develop their own course of study. However, they may draw on electives from the following categories:

  • Advanced computer science
  • Instrumentation
  • Advanced mathematics
  • Engineering
  • Dissertation research

Popular Career Options

A program may offer specialization in hydrographic engineering, structures and materials, underwater technology, ocean systems and naval architecture, ocean instrumentation and coastal engineering and processes. Specializations allow a student to direct their studies towards areas that most interest them. Possible careers may include:

  • Ocean engineer
  • Naval architect
  • Water resources engineer
  • Offshore structures and arctic engineering manager
  • Marine drilling system engineer

A Ph.D. in ocean engineering, much like most Ph.D. programs, can prepare graduates for careers in the fields of academia and research. Likely positions might include:

  • Professor of ocean engineering
  • Ocean engineering researcher
  • Director of ocean engineering research center
  • Maritime technology director

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places ocean engineers into the same broad category as civil engineers, who are responsible for designing a variety of structures, such as roads, harbors and water sewage systems. Professionals in the field can expect an increase of job growth of 8% from 2014 to 2024, and they made a median annual salary of about $82,220 according to 2015 data. They worked primarily for engineering services companies and government agencies.

Continuing Education Information

Engineers who work directly for the public are required to obtain licensure. They must earn a degree from an institution accredited by ABET and complete four years of work experience before qualifying for licensure. They then complete a state examination to earn the designation of Professional Engineer (PE).

Ocean engineering programs are rare, but can be found at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels to prepare students for careers as ocean engineers, researchers and managers. Graduating engineers must obtain the proper licensure to work with the public.

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