Marine Surveyor Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a marine surveyor? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a marine surveyor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Marine Surveyor Career

Marine surveyors inspect marine cargo and may also inspect other parts of ships in order to determine the status or condition of a ship's structure, machinery and equipment. Please continue reading in order to learn more about the pros and cons associated with becoming a marine surveyor.

Pros of Being a Marine Surveyor
Median annual wages of more $69,170 (as of 2014)*
Perform an important duty for the transportation industry**
Help keep ships and crews safe**
A number of educational options available**

Cons of Being a Marine Surveyor
Average employment growth (11% between 2012 and 2022)*
This job may involve a lot of pressure and responsibility**
May require a lot of formal education**
May require extremely accurate work and attention to detail**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Occupational Information Network.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Marine surveyors inspect and record the conditions of marine structures, machinery, equipment and cargo. They do this in order to determine if ships and cargo loads meet all regulations and if they have been damaged in any way; this information is used to inform shipping schedules, insurance claims and to ensure safety and security for crew members and other workers. When focusing on cargo, marine surveyors determine if freight is securely braced, advise crew members in proper stowing techniques and observe freight loading operations to ensure that crews comply with regulations and standard procedures. They record their findings and submit reports after freight shipments have been completed.

When focusing on ship structures and equipment, they carefully record and report any damage that has been done to the ship through daily operations and all forms of marine disasters. The information that they gather may be used by law enforcement personnel or insurance companies. While performing their daily work, marine surveyors may utilize a number of tools and technological mediums, such as calculators, measures, water samples, document managing software and word processing applications.

Job Growth and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual wage for transportation inspectors, including marine surveyors, in 2014 was around $69,000. Between 2012 and 2022, employment is expected to rise 11%, average among all occupations, according the BLS. In 2012, this field had around 26,000 employees and, with the expected growth and retirement of current surveyors, nearly 3,000 jobs will be created by 2022 (

Education and Training Requirements

Education requirements will vary in accordance with specific jobs. In 2010, O*Net Online indicated that 10% of marine surveyors held master's degrees, 43% held bachelor's degrees and 40% had some college but no degree. Some maritime academies and colleges offer programs in marine surveying where students can take specialized courses in hull and cargo surveying. They may offer continuing education options in marine surveying and award certificates to individuals who already hold degrees in related areas. In addition to some degree of formal education, the following skills are helpful for working in this field:

  • An understanding of marine structures
  • Knowledge of proper cargo handling and stowing procedures
  • The ability to record and coordinate data
  • Knowledge of the safety regulations
  • Good communication

Certification Requirements

Different jobs can require different types of licenses and certifications. Some educational programs prepare students to take exams offered through The National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS), the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS). In general, certifications earned through these organizations will validate a worker's competency in marine surveying.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers value workers with relevant experience, proper licenses and certifications. They also value employees with the ability to write reports and communicate with team members. Some employers are willing to substitute education in place of work experience requirements. The following job listings were posted during April 2012:

  • A company in Texas was seeking a marine surveyor for full-time work. Job duties involved conducting reviews, preparing reports and working within professional guidelines and forms. This job required either three years of experience, a university degree or merchant marine experience. This employer preferred candidates with five years of experience, NAMS certification or equivalent and computer skills.
  • A company in New Jersey was seeking a recreational marine claims manager. This job involves investigating and assessing physical damage to recreational boats and yachts. This employer is seeking a candidate with at least seven years of relevant work experience, knowledge of maritime law and the latest industry standards.
  • A company in Louisiana is seeking a marine surveyor to perform classification and statutory surveys. Job duties include making reports, communicating with the United States Coast Guard and working together with other team members. This job requires previous experience either as a class surveyor, PSC officer, Chief Engineer or equivalent. Candidates with previous experience working with tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers and passenger ships are preferred.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because this field covers many different types of jobs and responsibilities, you can stand out in a variety of ways. If you are seeking surveying jobs that are related to safety and security, knowledge of maritime law may be viewed as favorable by employers. While jobs differ in their licensure and certification requirements, workers who hold one or many certifications from NAMS, SAMS, ABYC or IIMS will have more credentials and may appeal to a wider range of employers. You may also consider earning a graduate degree in a field related to the maritime industry. While many workers in this field hold bachelor's degrees, few have master's degrees.

Alternative Career Paths

Motorboat Mechanic

If you enjoy working around boats or in the maritime industry but do not want to specialize in inspecting cargo and marine structures, then you may consider becoming a motorboat mechanic. Motorboat mechanics inspect and service the constitutive parts of boats, such as inboard and outboard motors. Most motorboat mechanics have some college but no degree and many learn their trades through a combination of formal education and on-the-job training. In 2011, O*Net Online reported that the median annual wage for a motorboat mechanic was more than $35,000. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in this field is expected to grow between 20% and 28%, faster than average for all occupations.

Marine Architect

If you want to design ship exteriors and other components, you may consider becoming a marine architect. Marine architects typically hold at least a bachelor's degree, and many have graduate degrees in marine engineering or a related field. These professionals design ship hulls and superstructures according to test data and specifications, while ensuring that they conform to standards of efficiency, economy and safety. They also design the layout of ship interiors, including cargo space, ladder wells, elevators and passenger compartments. While marine architects typically have more formal education than marine surveyors, they also make higher wages. O*Net Online reports that in 2011, the median annual wage of a marine architect was almost $85,000. Employment in this field is expected to grow between 10% and 20% from 2010-2020.

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