How to become a Marine Engineer

Marine engineers control the installation, operation and maintenance of machinery and equipment on ships and vessels. Marine engineers work in the engine departments of cargo ships, dredges, offshore supply and drill vessels, floating production storage and offtake facilities, oil tankers, passenger ships and tugs. They need to be familiar with various types of diesel engines, steam plant and gas turbines.

Personal requirements of a Marine Engineer

  • Enjoy technical and engineering activities
  • Enjoy machinery operation
  • Able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • Prepared to accept responsibility
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Prepared to work for long periods at sea

Education & Training for a Marine Engineer

There are a number of pathways to become a marine engineer. The two main ways are through an Engineer Traineeship or Engineering Cadetship. To become a Trainee Engineer, you must complete an engineering trade approved by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. A Trainee Engineer can then become a marine engineer by completing a Certificate of Safety Training followed by at least 36 weeks of qualifying sea service on board an appropriate vessel. An approved Training Record Book must be completed during the sea service. A Trainee Engineer must also complete an approved VET qualification in maritime operations (engineer watchkeeper). On completion of the course, having met sea service and legislative requirements, the trainee will be examined by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for an Engineer Watchkeeper Certificate of Competency. The trainee may then undertake more advanced VET qualifications in marine engineering and gain further seagoing marine engineer qualifications. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. To become an Engineer Cadet you must complete Year 12 and an Engineer Cadetship approved by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. This requires the same initial training as an Engineer Trainee, plus completion of a VET qualification in maritime operations, specialising in marine engineering class 2, and a minimum of 36 weeks of approved workshop trade training. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information.

Additional Information

Applicants must meet the medical health standard required for a seagoing career and pass the eyesight and colour vision tests required by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Duties & Tasks of a Marine Engineer

Marine engineers:

  • ensure that the main engines and associated machinery, electrics, refrigeration, air conditioning and cargo-handling equipment on ships are operating efficiently
  • monitor automatic data-recording equipment, or record readings manually on ships without such equipment
  • analyse the readings for trends and make adjustments to machinery operation as required
  • carry out regular maintenance of the main engine and repair defective auxiliary equipment
  • act as officer in charge of the engineering watch at sea and in port
  • ensure that vessel operations do not create pollution
  • maintain engine room stores and record usage of parts and equipment
  • supervise staff and carry out major maintenance work while the ship is in port
  • be involved with the operation of small craft such as patrol boats, tugs, river ferries and port authority vessels.

Working conditions for a Marine Engineer

Marine engineers may work onshore or at sea, or both. Those who work at sea may be away from home for long periods. They may work long shifts and be on call to work in emergencies. Engine rooms can be very noisy, hot and dirty. Physical exertion is required when repairing machinery.

Employment Opportunities for a Marine Engineer

Marine engineers are employed by shipping companies, including general cargo, container, bulk carrier and tanker companies. Opportunities also exist in the offshore industry, such as on tugs and supply vessels, drilling platforms and government agencies operating dredges and other port maintenance craft. Fully qualified marine engineers may be able to secure a range of shore-based positions, such as engineering superintendent or marine surveyor. The Australian Defence Force employs Navy Marine Engineers on and off-shore to develop, monitor and manage the structure and mechanical operations of Navy fleets. With further sea service, training and examinations, a marine engineer watchkeeper may advance to first engineer and chief engineer. Australian Certificates of Competency may be internationally recognised.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 0.7%

NSW 23%

QLD 31.6%

SA 6.9%

TAS 4.8%

VIC 9.9%

WA 20%

NT 3%

Hours worked:



Average unemployment

Gender split:

Male 95%

Female 5%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 7.9%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 30.2%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 33.2%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 15%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 4.5%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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