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How Do I Become a Ship Engineer?

A ship's engineer may oversee its overhaul when it is drydocked.
Engineering officers in a nation's navy have usually received command and technical training at a naval academy or in an equivalent ROTC program.
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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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Ship engineers make sure all mechanical and safety aspects of a ship are functioning correctly. The job will typically entail overseeing function of electrical, refrigeration, sanitation, fuel, and engine systems on a ship. Also, the job may involve supervising a team of junior engineers or helping ship officers identify the right tools or parts needed in case of an emergency at sea. If you want to become a ship engineer, you will generally need a college degree or work experience.

Attainment of the bachelor's degree specializing in marine engineering or perhaps ocean engineering can be helpful if you hope to become a ship engineer. Engineering coursework is rigorous and engineering is a competitive major. Thus, it is useful if you happen to have excellent academic ability. Also, due to the nature of the work, marine engineers need to have characteristics such as creativity, extreme attention to detail, excellent analytical ability, good speaking skills, and good writing skills.

This career can be challenging, so in addition to needing solid engineering knowledge, it is necessary to keep abreast of all new developments in ship engineering, as there are updates every year. Awareness of marine regulations and the ability to be approved for security clearance is also necessary. For instance, having awareness of sea-related laws and rules relevant to the particular international countries in which the ship is operating is necessary. Having had failure analysis training is also advantageous for aspiring ship engineers.

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Possessing adequate vision and color perception, passing physical fitness exams, and passing written engineering exams are also required if you want to become a ship engineer. Keep in mind that each country typically has its own rules and regulations pertaining to the preparation and licensure of ship engineers. This means you should always check the rules for the particular locality where you want to serve if you hope to become a ship engineer.

Of note, in the United States, the Coast Guard determines education and training requirements. If you hope to become a ship engineer, you must earn licensure. One way to do this is to graduate the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or any of the six state marine study academies to get the bachelor's degree. Individuals who do not have formal training could join a local union that could provide training and then work for several years before passing a written exam.

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