Becoming a Boat Mechanic: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a boat mechanic? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a boat mechanic is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Boat Mechanic Career

If you enjoy repair and restoration work and the satisfaction involved in solving mechanical problems, this might be a suitable career for you. Read on to learn more about pros and cons associated with being a boat mechanic.

PROS of Being a Boat Mechanic
Excellent job prospects for individuals with formal training*
On-the-job training opportunities*
Hands-on work experiences*
Opportunities to learn new skills throughout your career*

CONS of Being a Boat Mechanic
Possibility of only seasonal employment*
Potentially working in bad weather conditions*
Slower than average job growth, at just five percent*
Work may be physically strenuous*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Motorboat and marine equipment mechanics service inboard and outboard boat engines. They diagnose, repair and maintain the mechanical and electrical equipment used in these engines. You'll inspect engines for problems, take boats for test drives and replace defective parts. Mechanics may work on smaller, removable outboard engines in repair shops. When conducting maintenance and repair operations on larger engines, such as those used to power commercial vessels, mechanics perform on-site repairs at marinas and aboard ships. You could also work on a variety of boat equipment, including propellers, bilge pumps, throttle controls and steering mechanisms.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic equipment used to troubleshoot problems with small engines is becoming costly for employers since many are self-employed businesses. A decline in the employment of self-employed small engine mechanics is contributing to an overall decline in job growth. This decline includes motorboat mechanics and service technicians who are only projected to see slower-than-average job growth of 5% from 2012-2022. Fortunately, individuals who have some degree of formal training entertain excellent job prospects. The BLS reported that, as of May 2014, median wages of motorboat mechanics were $17 an hour (www.bls.gov).

Education and Training Requirements

While there are no mandatory education requirements, individuals who specialize in the repair and maintenance of boats typically have a foundational knowledge of motors, mechanical devices and electrical systems. Many mechanics acquire these skills while employed; trainees learn from experienced mechanics and advance from performing routine services to more complex tasks, such as engine overhauls. Your employer could ask you to attend special courses provided by motorboat and equipment manufacturers; these courses might last as long as two weeks and are designed to augment your skills and acquaintance with new boat models. In general, the following skills are needed in this field:

  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Competency in using a variety of tools
  • Knowledge of inboard and outboard motors
  • The ability to learn new skills and adapt to new technologies
  • The ability to adapt to a variety of work environments

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers highly value prior work experience and often seek mechanics who know how to service a variety of engines. Certifications are often required by employers as a means of evaluating skills and assessing professionalism. Supervisory jobs and employment positions that involve customer service might require strong communication skills and other relevant work experience. See the following examples of job postings open during March 2012:

  • A marina in California was looking for a full-time boat repair supervisor who could repair and maintain a variety of boats that have outboard, inboard and jet pump engines. The ideal candidate would be able to supervise and direct daily management operations, communicate with customers, prepare reports and keep records. This job required 3-4 years of experience as a marine engine mechanic, three years of supervisory experience and a marine mechanic certification.
  • A boat dealership in Ohio was looking for a Mercury-certified boat mechanic with at least three years of experience.
  • A boat dealership located in Virginia was seeking an experienced marine mechanic for a full-time position.
  • A New Jersey marina wanted a full-time lead mechanic to fill a year-round position. To apply, a candidate needed six years of experience and had to be certified to work on Mercury boat engines.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Motorboat technology is complex, and applicants who want to beat the competition might consider pursuing formal training. Aspiring mechanics can earn certificates and associate's degrees by attending community colleges and trade schools that offer specialized programs in marine technology.

Get Certified

Some employers prefer to hire certified mechanics; certifications are available through organizations such as the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC). To become certified through ABYC, you'll need to take exams in such areas as marine electrical systems, diesel engines and refrigeration. You can also seek vendor-specific certifications to showcase your skills with specific boat engine brands. With a combination of formal training, work experience and certification credentials, you can stand out among mechanics and advance to more senior positions.

Alternative Career Paths

Small Engine Mechanic

If you don't like the idea of living in coastal areas or working in poor weather conditions, you might wish to find a related career. Many of the skills involved in boat repair are similar to those needed to repair motorcycles, snowmobiles, tractors, lawn mowers, portable generators and snow blowers. As a mechanic who specializes in these alternative fields, you might find a more sedentary work environment and wages that are comparable to those earned by boat mechanics. However, you still might be exposed to similar occupational hazards, such as injury and physical strain. You could also work as a boat mechanic during warmer months when your skills will be in higher demand and find alternative employment during the winter.

Automotive Mechanic

If you'd like to find steady year-round work, you could pursue a career as an automotive mechanic. These professionals generally work 40 hours per week repairing vehicles at repair shops, dealerships or car rental companies. Employers usually seek applicants who have acquired formal training. You can also become certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. The BLS reports that job prospects are good if you have formal training, but overall employment was expected to grow by only five percent from 2008-2018.

Marine Architect

If you're interested in designing boats, as opposed to repairing them, you could pursue a career as a marine architect. This position generally requires a bachelor's degree; a number of universities and maritime academies offer bachelor's and graduate degree programs in naval architecture or marine engineering. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for marine engineers and naval architects was $80,000 as of May 2010.

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