Ocean Engineering Career Outlook

You are just in time to pursue an ocean engineering career! Listen to Dr. Wood's perspective on the demand for ocean engineering.

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Ocean Engineering Careers

Design Marine Vehicles, Underwater Technology and Deep-Water Ports

In addition to creating remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater and surface vehicles, ocean engineering careers involve developing underwater structures, oil rigs, wave buoys for data collection, as well as developing ways to capture the energy of waves and turn it into electricity. 

Ocean engineers also develop transportation systems, plan new uses for waterways, design deep-water ports, and integrate land and water transportation systems and methods. They are concerned with discovering, producing, and transporting offshore petroleum, as well as developing new ways to protect marine wildlife and beaches against the unwanted consequences of offshore oil production and storm erosion.

On the job, ocean engineers would likely work with a team of different types of engineers to find solutions for ocean infrastructure, research and utilization. Integrating a variety of disciplines in ocean science is common and could include a team of professional trained in oceanography, materials science, mechanical, civil, computer, software, marine, chemical, and electrical engineering. 

Career Outlook

Many ocean engineers engage with Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to explore the ocean floor, take pictures, collect samples or perform repairs on an underwater structure such as an oil platform. Every instrument, device, and process in an ocean environment is the responsibility of ocean engineers. Ocean engineering careers are often organized among five specialties: 

  • Coastal Engineering
  • Hydrographic Engineering
  • Marine Vehicles (Naval architecture)
  • Marine Materials and Corrosion
  • Underwater Technology 

Information about ocean engineering jobs can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The handbook provides information about specific jobs including median annual pay, working conditions and job outlook, among other things.

According to the Department of Labor, employment of ocean engineers and naval architects is expected to grow 10 percent through 2022. One factor stimulating growth is the need to design ships that can transport goods and energy across the globe. Due to the corrosive environment of the ocean and new pollution regulations on cargo shipping, demand for ocean engineers to repair and modify existing ships and their systems will drive employment. Additionally, ocean engineering careers will be found in pharmaceuticals and medicine, agriculture and environmental protection. 

Check the handbook for ocean engineering jobs and other related careers.

Career Options

Ocean engineering careers are numerous and offer a wide range of positions that include:   

  • Ocean Engineer
  • Naval Architect
  • Structural Engineer
  • Marine Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Subsea Pipeline Engineer
  • Marine Operations Director
  • Project Manager – Offshore Vessels
  • Underwater Mining Engineer
  • Marine Quality Assurance Engineer 

Entry-Level Salary Expectations

Because ocean engineering jobs are very specialized, salary expectations can range depending on the industry, region of the world and specific position.

  • PayScale.com – an online salary information company – helps graduates obtain accurate real-time information on job market compensation. While ocean engineering careers are not specifically outlined, the website does provide information on similar careers and can give you some insight on what you might expect. A mechanical engineer has an entry-level salary range of $60,100 – $91,900, while an environmental engineer has a salary range of $47,900 – $89,700. Check PayScale.com to search for detailed information on ocean engineering careers.
  • Employment site Simply Hired reports ocean engineering careers to pay entry-level salaries of $67,000.
  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports median annual wages for marine engineers to be highest in the federal government, followed by architectural and engineering firms. The median wage in Mary 2012 was $88,100 with potential to grow to $150,560.

Potential Employers

Ocean engineering careers can be found with such organizations as:

  • Rockwell Aviation
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Boeing
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Science Foundation
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Architectural and engineering firms
  • Water transportation, ship and boat building