Ship Technician: Job Outlook & Career Info

Apr 10, 2019

Ship technicians maintain equipment and systems used aboard marine vessels, such as electrical, plumbing, fire control, computers, radar and navigation aids. Explore the required training, salary and employment outlook to see if this career is the right one for you. Also, explore similar occupations that might interest you.

Career Definition of a Ship Technician

Ship technicians maintain and repair systems used on ocean freighters, tankers, cruise ships, submarines and other marine vessels. While many technicians take care of the ship itself, some perform specialized duties related to onboard tasks, such as maintenance of equipment used for scientific research. They may repair electrical and plumbing systems or ship parts, maintain computer and sonar equipment and keep refrigeration and fire control systems in working order. Some ship technicians also specialize in maintaining certain types of ships, such as those powered by nuclear reactors, while others specialize in a particular area, such as computer hardware technology. Ship technicians may work as full-time employees in shipbuilding yards or as seasonal crewmembers aboard ships. They may also be known as ship's mechanics or marine services technicians.

Education Diploma, GED or associate's degree; apprenticeship or military training; bachelor's degree for more specialized positions
Job Skills Problem solver, specialized technical knowledge, good interpersonal skills, able to live on ship for a long time, flexibility as team member or independent worker
Median Annual Salary (2017)* $55,590 (all water transportation occupations)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 8% job growth (all water transportation occupations)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Ship technology jobs often require a high school diploma, GED, or associate degree in electronics; however, some employers may prefer a bachelor's degree for technicians working with highly specialized equipment. Many employers may also accept completion of an apprenticeship program or military training in place of a degree. Some shipbuilding companies provide training through their own institutions, such as The Apprentice School, which is affiliated with Northrop Grumman ( Professional certification in a specialized area, such as that offered by the Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) may also enhance job prospects (

Skills Needed

In addition to mechanical aptitude and technical knowledge, ship technicians must have strong troubleshooting and problem-solving abilities. They may also need specialized knowledge in a particular area, such as computer repair or navigation equipment maintenance. Ship technicians must have good communication and personal interaction skills, and the ability to live and work at sea for extended periods of time. They must be able to work independently and as team-members.

Economic Forecast and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, predicts 8% job growth in water transportation occupations, such as ship technology, throughout the 2016-2026 period. Qualified individuals will be needed in this profession as iron ore, petroleum and other bulk commodities will be transported by ships. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for all water transportation workers was $55,590 in 2017. Ship engineers made the most at $73,110, while motorboat operators made $44,600.

Alternate Career Options

If you are interested in working around machines, or just generally interested in the transportation industry, you might look into becoming a material moving machine operator or a railroad conductor or yardmaster.

Material Moving Machine Operator

Sometimes requiring a high school diploma and previous experience, material moving machine operator jobs involve using machinery like forklifts and conveyor belts to move objects in locations such as building sites, mines, ships and warehouses. Employment growth of 6% was predicted by the BLS from 2016-2026, for this occupation that paid a median salary of $34,830 per year in 2017.

Railroad Conductor and Yardmaster

Those interested in careers connected to transportation might want to explore this occupation where conductors work on trains and yardmasters work in rail yards, both coordinating the activities of the train crews. A 2% decline was predicted by the BLS from 2016-2026 for all railroad occupations. The median annual wage for railroad conductors and yardmasters was $62,930 in 2018.

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