This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Marine engineers operate, maintain, service and repair engines, as well as mechanical and electronic equipment on ships, boats and yachts.
Marine engineers starting out usually earn
$60K-$80K per year
Marine engineers with more than five years' experience usually earn
$80K-$180K per year
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Pay for marine engineers varies depending on their experience, qualifications, and the size and type of vessel they work on.
- Marine engineers starting out usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.
- Marine engineers with more than five years' experience usually earn between $80,000 and $180,000.
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Marine engineers may do some or all of the following:
- diagnose engine and machinery problems, and carry out maintenance and repairs
- order and receive fuel and lubricating oils and spare parts
- perform specialised fabrication, maintenance and diagnostics or electrical-fitting tasks
- check, test and maintain automatic controls and alarm systems.
Marine engineers at sea may also:
- have charge of engines and mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment on board the ship
- keep ships moving at required speeds according to orders from the captain or computers on the bridge
- maintain services to electrical power, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, water and sewerage systems
- supervise other engineers and crew members, and be responsible for training them in routine and emergency duties.
Skills and knowledge
Marine engineers need to have knowledge of:
- mechanical engineering
- pneumatic and hydraulic machinery (operated with pressure caused by air or liquids)
- how to operate and fix electronic and electrical equipment
- safety regulations and procedures
- firefighting, first aid and survival skills
- home and foreign port regulations.
- usually work shifts and can be on call
- work on ships – often in engine rooms – in dry docks or at sea
- work in all weather conditions, and in conditions that can be hot and noisy
- may travel within New Zealand waters or to overseas ports.
What's the job really like?
Ollie Muller - Marine Engineer
What’s a typical working day like for you?
"I work nights so I start work at midnight then work through till midday. There’s me and a third engineer on duty, and we basically keep the ship going. We keep the propellers turning, lights burning, toilets flushing – very important."
What are some of the challenges?
"Dealing with people, complaints, things like that. We have to sort all that out.
"Problem-solving is probably one of the biggest challenges and one of the most enjoyable."
What do you think makes a good marine engineer?
"You’ve got to be pretty logical in your thinking.
"You also need to be good at maths. I was never very good at maths but I worked pretty hard at it and managed to get through. So if I can do it anyone can."
What’s the best part of the job?
"I like the varied nature of the work – sometimes you’re working on an engine, pulling pistons apart, other times you’re working in passenger areas.
"The scenery is fantastic. the Marlborough Sounds and Wellington Harbour entrance is a great part of the world.
"I also enjoy the lifestyle – I work two weeks on, two weeks off. I mean, who else gets a two-week weekend? That’s fantastic."
Entry requirements for marine engineers vary.
According to Maritime New Zealand regulations, marine engineers must qualify for different levels of Marine Engineer Class Certificate, depending on the size and type of vessel they plan to work on. Certificates start at Class 6 and go through to Class 1 (the most senior). For each class, a period of sea service as well as specific engineering training is required.
Marine Engineer Class Certificate courses that are approved by Maritime New Zealand are available at various tertiary institutes.
- the Diploma in Marine Engineering at the New Zealand Maritime School qualifies students to achieve Class 3 as part of the course
- the National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Level 4) or equivalent reduces some of the qualifying time required to become a Maritime Engineer Class 3, 4 or 5.
The Royal New Zealand Navy also offers marine engineering cadet training.
- Maritime New Zealand website - list of approved training providers
- Maritime New Zealand website - information about maritime engineering qualifications
- Defence Careers website - information on marine engineer officer training
At least three years of secondary education is required. Useful subjects include English, maths and physics.
Marine engineers need to be:
- practical, methodical and adaptable
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- excellent problem-solvers
- confident decision-makers who remain calm in emergencies
- good communicators
- good at maths and physics.
A lot of this job is managing your overhauls so things don’t break down, and doing checks so you catch things before they break down.
John Mapp - Marine Engineer
Useful experience for marine engineers includes:
- other engineering work
- experience with pneumatic or hydraulic machinery (operated with pressure caused by air or liquids)
- electrical or electronics work
- experience working on ships.
Marine engineers need to be reasonably fit and healthy because they may have to work at heights, in confined spaces, and lift heavy objects. They should also have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and normal colour vision.
Find out more about training
- Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA)
- (09) 358 0050 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.amea.co.nz
- Maritime New Zealand
- (04) 473 0111 - email@example.com - www.maritimenz.govt.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
Marine engineers in shortage
Despite increasing numbers of people in the role, demand for marine engineers still exceeds supply. As a result, ship's engineer (marine engineer) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled marine engineers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
Employers of marine engineers include:
- shore-based marine engineering companies
- fishing companies
- coastal shipping companies
- oil and gas industry companies
- cruise ship companies
- superyacht owners.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed August 2015, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Transport, 'Transport and Trade – June 2015', June 2015, (www.transport.govt.nz).
- Muller, O, second engineer, Bluebridge, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2015.
- Walker, K, manager, International Maritime Institute of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Marine engineers can advance to work on larger and more complex vessels, move into engineering work in other industries, or progress to roles such as ship's surveyor.
Marine engineers may specialise in the following roles:
- Fishing Industry Marine Engineer
- Fishing industry marine engineers work on vessels ranging from small inshore fishing boats to large factory trawlers.
- Marine Electro-technical Officer
- Marine electro-technical officers are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all electrical and electronic equipment, systems, installations and machinery, including all communications and electronic navigation aids.
- Merchant Navy Marine Engineer
- Merchant navy marine engineers work on merchant ships in coastal waters and overseas, including cruise liners and superyachts.
- Restricted-limit Vessel Marine Engineer
- Restricted-limit vessel marine engineers work on vessels in restricted waters, such as harbour tugs and ferries, charter launches or small cargo ships.
- Shore-based Marine Engineer
- Shore-based marine engineers work on vessels when they are in dry dock.
Last updated 16 June 2016