Pros and Cons of a Career as a Ship Mechanic
Ship mechanics assist in the maintenance and repair of maritime vessels. Here are a few things to consider when determining whether a career as a ship mechanic is right for you.
|Pros of Being a Ship Mechanic|
|Minimal education requirements*|
|Above-average income potential for water transportation ($44,120, mean annual salary as of 2014)*|
|Slightly above-average job growth for heavy equipment mechanics (5% between 2014 and 2024)*|
|Possibility of union membership*|
|Cons of Being a Ship Mechanic|
|High frequency of hazardous conditions**|
|Work may be seasonal or entail overtime or weekend hours*|
|Decline in U.S. deep sea shipping*|
|High level of strength and dexterity involved**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Occupational Information Network.
Job Description and Duties
As a ship mechanic, you can expect to work with your hands. You will use operating manuals to inspect, diagnose and repair components of a ship's engine. You will also need to monitor and adjust engine equipment, valves, gauges, tachometers and voltometers. Additionally, you will maintain the proper working order of pumps, circulators and condensers.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports data for heavy equipment mechanics and mobile equipment service technicians, 26% of whom are employed in the durable goods wholesale industry. The heavy vehicle equipment mechanics field, based on BLS projections, should see a 5% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.
Average salaries for ship mechanics may vary based on responsibility and experience. While BLS 2014 data reports a mean salary of about $48,720 for heavy equipment mechanics, while motorboat mechanics and service technicians in the ship and boat building industry made an average salary of $37,350 in 2014.
What Are the Requirements?
Education Requirements and Top Skills
For a career as a ship mechanic, your minimum education requirement may include only a high school diploma. However, many of these professionals receive on-the-job training. You may wish to prepare for your career by completing a certificate or associate's degree program at a technical or vocational college.
A high level of manual dexterity may be required to disassemble and reassemble large machinery. Your work may also include fabricating engine replacement parts using metalworking machinery. Excellent vision in order to read blueprints and gauges as well as spot and repair malfunctioning parts will also prove beneficial.
Real Job Listings for Ship Mechanics
While completing a college or vocational program may prove beneficial, many jobs require professional experience and other certifications or credentials, including the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) issued by the Department of Homeland Security, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications, such as the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) credential. Some technicians who work aboard large vessels are required to obtain the Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) from the U.S. Coast Guard. Here are a few examples of real job listings from April, 2012:
- A U.S. Naval contractor seeks a deck machinery mechanic to perform assessments and assist in repairs and troubleshooting system components, as well as report to the chief engineer. A high school diploma is required, plus SECRET security clearance. Other qualifications include ten years of naval mechanic experience.
- An Oregon transportation agency seeks an apprentice deck mechanic. U.S. Coast Guard apprentice experience is preferred. The applicant must possess TWIC and MMC, along with basic mechanical skills and two years of experience.
- A Seattle company seeks a marine diesel mechanic. Five years of marine diesel experience or ten years of other diesel engine experience are required. The applicant must be able to diagnose, repair and perform routine maintenance on engines.
- A San Francisco tourism cruise ship business seeks a marine diesel mechanic to consult with the lead engineer for direction and support. HAZWOPER certification plus basic diesel mechanic experience and the TWIC credential are required.
How to Stand Out in Your Field
Associate Degree and Certificate Programs
While there are no minimum education requirements for a career as a ship mechanic, many vocational schools offer training programs leading to certificates, diplomas and associate's degrees. Available degree programs include an Associate of Applied Science in Marine Engine Technology and degree-completion programs in areas like marine engineering management and marine service technology. Courses may cover topics such as propulsion systems, outboard engines, power transmissions and marine electronics.
Training Certifications and Credentials
Some professional organizations offer training and certification for ship mechanics. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) issues the Marine Technician and Master Technician certifications through the completion of a training course and/or examination in specific areas of boat repair and marine technology, including electrical, diesel engine, corrosion and marine systems. The National Marine Electronics Association issues the Certified Marine Electronics Technician credential for professionals who design, install and repair a boat's electrical systems.
Other certification programs include the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association's (ABBRA) Basic Diesel Engine Technician certification and the Advanced Diesel Technician training program. Although the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) currently does not offer marine technician certification, the Association of Marine Technicians (AM-TECH) was trying to assist in the development of an ASE certification program as of April 2012.
Alternative Careers in Shipping and Service Technology
Careers as a Diesel Truck Mechanic
As with many ships, freight trucks are powered by diesel engines. Diesel truck mechanics perform routine maintenance, inspections and repairs for fleets of over-the-road diesel trucks. In this job, you may use heavy equipment, such as hydraulic joists. Modern diesel truck engines feature electronic components that may require special training to repair. As a truck mechanic, you may encounter hazardous working conditions, and your work will require strict adherence to safety procedures.
Many jobs for diesel service technicians require ASE certification through the completion of an approved vocational program and the successful completion of examinations in areas such as electronic diesel diagnosis, truck equipment or medium-heavy truck repair. The BLS projects a 15% increase in employment for diesel service technicians by 2020, with employment slowed somewhat by the durability of newer trucks and advancements in repair technology that allow work to be completed by fewer mechanics. Based on BLS 2011 data, these professionals earned a mean salary of about $43,000.
Careers as a Rail Car Mechanic
If your main interest lies in repair service technology, you may wish to pursue a career as a rail car mechanic for public transportation agencies or private railroad shipping companies. Your tasks will include the repair and replacement of pistons, gears and other equipment. You will most likely use power tools and welding equipment. Performing scheduled maintenance and equipment testing will also be a major part of your duties.
Based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 84% of rail car mechanics earned a high school diploma as their highest level of education. With average employment growth expected between 2010 and 2020, rail car mechanics earned a 2011 median salary of about $47,000, according to O*NET.