Merchant Navy engineering officer

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Merchant Navy engineering officers maintain the mechanical and electrical machinery and instruments on board a ship.

Salary range: £8,000 to £70,000

How to become a Merchant Navy engineering officer

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You can do a maritime mechanic intermediate apprenticeship. You will cover both electrical and mechanical engineering work.

You would take further training to qualify as an officer after completing your apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship

More information

Direct application

You can apply to sponsoring shipping or engineering companies to train as an engineering officer.

You will do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in marine or mechanical engineering. Your training will also include the Certificate of Competency, which you need to work at sea.

You’ll normally need:

  • GCSE grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including English, maths, and a science, preferably physics
  • 2 or 3 A levels or equivalent qualifications

If you’ve worked as a mechanical engineer elsewhere, for example in the fishing industry or the Royal Navy, you may be exempt from some of the training to become an engineer. You’ll still need to find a company to sponsor you.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a Merchant Navy engineering officer from Careers At Sea and Merchant Navy Training Board.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • business management skills
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

  • pass a medical check

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your work will depend on which level of engineer you are:

  • As chief engineer you’ll be planning engineering tasks and allocating staff
  • As second engineer you’ll be supervising the day-to-day duties of staff and engine crew
  • As third engineer you’ll be helping the second officer and looking after electrical systems and machinery
  • As junior/fourth engineer you’ll be carrying out general machinery maintenance, often the first posting for an officer trainee

Your role could also include:

  • running maintenance checks on machinery and systems
  • responding to equipment failure alerts and repairing faults
  • maintaining fuel levels and stocks of spare parts
  • updating record management systems
  • mentoring and supporting trainees

Working environment

You could work on a ship.

Your working environment may be cramped, at height, outdoors in all weathers and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could become captain or chief engineer. You could also work towards chartered status with the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST).

If you decide to work onshore, you could move into management, ship surveying, lecturing or research.

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