Recreational boats and commercial vessels all rely on marine mechanics to ensure that they remain safe and sea-ready at all times.
The vital role of marine mechanics also makes it possible for shipping vessels to transport goods from port to port safely. The field offers exciting work in repair shops or aboard marine vessels at sea.
Job duties of these highly trained experts include installation and repair of inboard and outboard motors. Marine mechanics may specialize in boat electronics, boat HVAC and refrigeration systems, or bodywork. Most mechanics begin their careers as apprentices gaining valuable on-the-job experience. With an impressive salary and stable job growth, marine mechanics enjoy a rewarding career that offers them new challenges each day.
Sometimes referred to as motorboat mechanics, marine mechanics install, repair and maintain inboard, outboard and diesel motors for both small and large vessels. Their work also includes maintenance and repair of the propeller system, electrical components and the steering mechanism. The work of a marine mechanic ensures the safe operation of marine vessels, not only for recreational boats but also for those used in trade.
Companies that import and export goods must rely heavily on marine mechanics to ensure their ships make it from port to port safely to deliver products like food, electronics or vehicles. Each day consists of a variety of tasks, such as performing oil changes, performing tune-ups and replacing motors.
Marine mechanics use troubleshooting skills to analyze problems to diagnose the issue and then perform a repair to resolve the problem. Often, they must use specialized equipment and metalworking tools to create custom parts. Additionally, they perform thorough testing of each vessel in the water to ensure their repair meets exacting standards.
Marine mechanics work in a variety of environments across various industries. Some work in repair shops for parts companies, boat manufacturers or boat sales retailers. Some may even work aboard commercial sea vessels as part of a crew of other mechanics and trades workers. Many times, marine mechanics must come to the aid of a boat stranded on a lake or at sea. In such cases, they must use their boating skills to navigate waters to reach the ship and make a repair to get the boat running again.
Marine mechanics have many options for specializing in the field. Boat riggers, sometimes called shipfitters, work in the shipbuilding industry to outfit a ship with its operating system, installing batteries, ignition switches and fuel tanks.
Gelcoat and fiberglass technicians specialize in repairing damage to the boat’s outer facade. The damage may include dents, cracks or scratches that affect the structural integrity of the boat. Another specialty is that of the marine electrician. Similar to residential electricians, these specialized mechanics deal primarily with the electrical components of a vessel, such as the navigation system, batteries or satellite systems. Finally, marine refrigeration technicians or marine HVAC technicians maintain the air conditioning and refrigeration equipment aboard a sea vessel.
Most marine mechanics start their career as apprentices. Through an apprenticeship program, aspiring mechanics learn under the guidance of an expert mechanic. Apprenticeships offer paid on-the-job training programs that consists of classwork in addition to the practical application of jobs skills.
Apprentices must undergo several hours of classroom work and hands-on work to complete the program. Though not required, many marine mechanics opt for additional education through either an associate’s degree program or a certificate program at a trade school. College programs typically take up to two years to complete. However, certificate programs, take just a few weeks or months to complete.
Certificate programs provide a basic level of skills for aspiring mechanics to obtain their first job or to achieve entry into an apprenticeship program. Some boat manufacturers offer specialized training and certification in the equipment used by their company. Many mechanics choose to obtain these certifications to demonstrate their advanced knowledge of marine technology. Marine mechanics holding these certifications tend to see better job prospects, as employers view the certifications as the mechanic’s commitment to excellence in her or his job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average median salary for motorboat mechanics is $38,960, with an average job growth of 5 percent between 2016 and 2026. Due to advancements in boat technology, computer skills have become increasingly important. Therefore, those mechanics with training and experience using this sophisticated equipment will see more demand for their work. While apprenticeships are the standard training requirements for the job, those with post-secondary education will have the most job prospects.
Outside of technical skills, marine mechanics must possess a set of skills that allow them to excel in their careers. The ability to troubleshoot and solve problems is one of the most critical skills of a marine mechanic. Due to the complexity of marine vessels, the problems vary from day to day. Therefore, mechanics must have the ability to analyze the situation to determine the exact nature of the problem.
Additionally, they must have the patience to work on a problem consistently while trying different alternatives to make their diagnosis. Often, they must read blueprints or boat schematics, repair manuals and work orders. Marine mechanics must be able to extract useful information from these sources to successfully perform their job. Marine mechanics often work as a part of a crew and thus must exhibit teamwork and the ability to get along with others.
The safety of both recreation and commercial boats depends heavily on marine mechanics. As experts in their field, marine mechanics perform installation, repair and maintenance of all boating equipment. Marine mechanics work in a variety of environments such as repair shops and aboard marine vessels to perform their vital work. The field offers not only a rewarding career but an impressive salary with steady job growth year after year.