Marine Engineering Master’s Degree

By Emmet Kyle McMahan

The field of marine engineering offers fascinating professional opportunities related to the design, construction, and maintenance of ships. With a master’s degree in marine engineering, you can help support maritime industries and protect aquatic environments. 

Overview for an Online Master’s Degree in Marine Engineering

An online master’s degree in marine engineering gives you advanced knowledge and practical experience in your field. With engineering master’s degree programs, you can focus on a specific area in marine engineering and earn a high salary. For example, you could focus on water resources, offshore engineering, or coastal and marine systems.

Through classroom lessons and hands-on experience, you’ll have a strong grasp of marine engineering. You’ll learn about marine vessel operations such as propulsion mechanics, fuel systems, lighting, air conditioning, and electricity and power generation systems.

Technical aspects of a degree include learning industry-applicable software and hardware. Record-keeping, maintenance planning, official paperwork, legal aspects and reporting are essential aspects of an online master’s degree in marine engineering.

Master’s Degree in Marine Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses

Students start with basic coursework in general education, focusing on math and science before progressing to more degree-specific classes.

  • Technical writing. Report writing is a common skill requirement in the maritime, port and offshore industrial sectors. These courses cover practical, proven techniques in technical writing such as project delivery documents.
  • Foreign languages. Marine engineers often interact with other professionals whose native language isn’t English. Common languages to study in these degree programs include Spanish, French and Japanese.
  • History. Courses on the history of marine engineering often focus on technological developments, from the earliest reciprocating engines, to modern diesel and turbine engines. Other common topics of study include flue boilers and forced circulation boilers.
  • Chemistry. Graduate-level chemistry courses for marine engineers focus on boiler operations such as treating feed water. They also cover water hardness analysis and nanochemistry.
  • Physics. Physics courses for marine engineers typically study aerodynamic, hydrodynamic and hydrostatic forces. They often include laboratory exercises in sailing for traveling efficiently through water.
  • Computer science. These courses often provide instruction in the use of computers to perform data analysis techniques like Fast Fourier transformations. They also include investigations into fluid concepts, hydro-elasticity and wave mechanics.
  • Computational fluid dynamic and solid mechanics. Marine engineers need a thorough knowledge of fluid dynamics for designing hull shapes. They also need to know the fundamentals of solid mechanics, including the analysis of deformable structures and materials.
  • Marine and computer-aided design. A laboratory-based course in designing marine systems is usually a core requirement for marine engineers. These projects typically involve designing a ship, submersible or offshore system.
  • Marine hydrodynamics. Courses in hydrodynamics teach students how to mathematically predict the behavior of water bodies. Common topics include numerical uncertainty analysis, turbulence modeling for ship flows and interface-capturing methods.
  • Ocean and thermodynamics. Fundamental studies in thermodynamics for marine engineers include the analysis of system and control volume, heat transfer, energy and entropy. Practical applications include the analysis of power-producing cycles in refrigerators.
  • Propulsion systems. Courses on propulsion systems explore the design of engines, including diesel, steam turbines and gas turbines. They also cover mechanical power transmission, propeller selection and the matching of components.
  • Shipbuilding. These courses examine the process of designing ships and offshore projects, including the development of strategies, policies and team building. They also teach skills such as the optimization of design based on multiple criteria.
  • Naval architecture. This engineering discipline encompasses other types of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, and electronic, as they apply to the design, construction and maintenance of ships. It includes calculations and other techniques for evaluating the soundness of a design.

Students who plan to go into maritime management roles will take classes in:

  • Maritime business and supply chain management
  • Global transportation systems
  • Business supply chain management
  • Business strategy and innovation
  • Operations and logistics
  • Project management
  • Organizational leadership

These classes qualify students for roles in leading multidisciplinary teams and managing complicated projects such as shipbuilding design and procurement programs.

Marine engineering also includes technical skills specific to working in maritime industries. Some necessary skills include:

  • Advanced naval architecture
  • Boundary layer theory
  • Dynamics and control, including advanced ship dynamics and advanced dynamics of high-speed craft
  • Fluid mechanics including advanced aero hydrodynamics and hydroacoustics
  • Naval and marine engineering system design
  • Principles of naval engineering
  • Structures and materials, including vehicle structures and advanced ship structural analysis
  • Submarine design

Renewable energy is just one focus for maritime education. Students can develop professional relationships with the renewable energy industry by learning how to design and support energy-conserving vessels.

A green industry focus is useful for students in expanding their ability to be hired by businesses implementing environmentally-friendly policies. These classes might focus on technical foundations in energy systems design and modeling, including the integrated design, construction and maintenance of green-energy systems.

Students interested in a master’s degree in marine engineering must have a solid background in graduate-level mathematics, such as numerical methods and statistics. Computer science is an essential part of a master’s degree in marine engineering because it’s a required skill in many industries, including maritime industries. They also need to communicate effectively, so coursework in English and other languages, technical writing, and interpersonal skills are essential.

Accreditation for Master’s Programs in Marine Engineering

Accreditation in higher education is the process of reviewing the quality of an institution and its programs. It’s the primary means of ensuring students receive an education that meets minimum standards. State and federal governments use accreditation as a criterion for granting loans, and prospective employers routinely require an institution to be accredited before providing tuition assistance. Accreditation may also be a qualification to taking examinations for some professions.

Educational accreditation includes institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation applies to the institution itself, including the facility, resources and admission requirements. Programmatic accreditation applies to the specific degree programs, including coursework, faculty and degree requirements.


The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the primary accrediting body in the U.S. for programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) topics. It accredits programs at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Many of the criteria that ABET uses are the same for all engineering programs, but it also has criteria specific to each discipline. For example, the curriculum for marine engineering programs must include courses on hydrostatics, structural mechanics, materials properties and energy/propulsion systems. They must also include the study of instrumentation appropriate to naval architecture.

Online Master’s Degree Programs in Marine Engineering

Many educational institutions offer master’s degrees in marine engineering that students can earn entirely or almost entirely online. The following programs also have institutional and programmatic accreditation.

United States Merchant Marine Academy – Master of Science in Marine Engineering

The United States Merchant Marine Academy Master of Science program goals are to help students become proficient in essential marine engineering topics, such as computational fluid dynamics and marine industry challenges. They also study technical, political and social dynamics in marine engineering.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a Federal Academy accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Students have classwork in diesel prime-movers and diesel propulsion systems, and gas turbine prime-movers and propulsion systems. Classwork involves learning about steam turbine prime-movers and propulsion systems, as well as nuclear energy and electrical energy converters and propulsion systems.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy – Master of Science in Maritime Business Management (MSMB)

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy has accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). The Academy offers a Master of Science in Maritime Business Management (MSMB) for students to learn skills and acquire knowledge for senior business, management, and leadership positions.

The program’s curriculum is a 17-month program with nine three-credit courses and one four-credit capstone course, for a total of 31 credits. The program emphasizes maritime business and supply chain management knowledge and experience in global transportation systems with maritime business and supply chain management. Through their Maritime Center for Responsible Energy (MCRE), students can develop professional relationships with the renewable energy industry and other renewable energy stakeholders to help with energy and environmental issues.

University of British Columbia – Master of Engineering Leadership in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

The British Columbia Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is a hybrid course in engineering and business. Partnered with UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, the courses give students technical knowledge of ship design, maintenance and operation, while giving students the business experience to lead multidisciplinary teams and manage complicated projects.

Students learn business strategy and innovation, operations and logistics, project management, and organizational leadership. For technical skills, UBC students will earn an integrated technical foundation in energy systems design and modeling, with integrated design, construction, and maintenance of green building energy systems courses.

Job opportunities after receiving a MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from UBC include ship surveyor and design engineer. With a MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, students will also have skills to work as managers for shipbuilding design and procurement programs. They will become qualified in ship project management, while sharpening their technical and analytical skills in classwork and working with industry leaders in the shipping industry.

Virginia Tech Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering – Master of Science in Ocean Engineering

The Virginia Tech Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Master of Science in Ocean Engineering requires all thesis students to take at least one course each in the three disciplinary areas the degree offers. The disciplinary areas are fluid mechanics, dynamics and control, and structures and materials.

For fluid mechanics, the offered courses include advanced aero and hydrodynamics, aero and hydroacoustics, advanced naval architecture, and boundary layer theory. In dynamics and control, students can choose from advanced ship dynamics and advanced dynamics of high-speed craft. In structures and materials, students have the choice between vehicle structures and advanced ship structural analysis.

Non-thesis students must take at least two courses from a list of seven required classes. The class list covers advanced ship structural analysis, submarine design, advanced naval architecture, and principles of naval engineering. Naval and marine engineering system design, advanced ship dynamics, and advanced dynamics of high-speed craft complete the required list for non-thesis students.

All students in the Master of Science in Ocean Engineering degree course must take at least one math class of three credits or more and focus on graduate-level mathematics, numerical methods or statistics. The coursework prepares students for careers in marine design, architecture and engineering.

What can I do with a master’s degree in marine engineering?

The specific jobs you can do with a master’s degree in marine engineering include the following:

  • Consultant in maritime accidents, casualties, and claims. These consultants do specialized casualty investigation services to supply insight and information about maritime accidents.
  • Hydrographic engineer. These engineers plan, design and oversee maritime construction and maintenance of building structures and facilities.
  • Hydrographic surveyor. Hydrographic surveyors map the geography of a body of water such as the area depth, tide measurements, obstacles on shorelines and physical characteristics of the aquatic body’s floor. They determine the geography of a body of water, including the depth, tide measurements, shoreline obstacles and physical features of the body’s floor.
  • Marine engineering professor. A marine engineering professor instructs engineering students
  • Marine equipment specialists. These specialists supply technical ability to build, design, and repair equipment.
  • Marine operations manager. A marine operations manager oversees the overall operation of a vessel.
  • Marine systems engineer. Marine systems engineers specialize in the design and advising about maritime installations, machines and parts.
  • Maritime researcher. These marine engineers investigate and help implement new and better solutions to maritime problems.
  • Naval combat engineer. The job of a naval combat engineer is to plan and manage cost-effective ship design, construction and repair.
  • Port engineer. A port engineer works with port operations and infrastructure to oversee ship maintenance and repair.
  • Propulsion engineer. Propulsion engineers oversee maritime propulsion component design.
  • Sales engineer. A sales engineer understands the technical aspects of maritime-related parts and services as needed to sell them.
  • Ship engineer. Ship engineers oversee supervising and coordinating crew activities involved in the maintenance of ship components of boilers, deck machinery, electrical, engines, refrigeration, and sanitary equipment aboard the ship.
  • Shipyard project engineer. A shipyard project engineer oversees entire shipyard projects.
  • Structural engineer. A structural engineer analyzes and designs maritime structural support systems.
  • Submarine engineer. A submarine engineer designs, builds and operates submarines.
  • Traveling service engineer. A traveling engineer supplies on-site support for systems in the maritime industries, going from one project site to another.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an employment growth for marine engineers of four percent from 2021 to 2031, which is about the same as the average growth expected across all occupations for that period. The employment of 7,600 in 2021 will increase to 7,900 by 2031, for a total increase of 300 positions. About 400 positions in marine engineering will become available each year during that period, most of which will be due to workers transferring to other occupations or leaving the workforce entirely.

Driving factors for job growth in marine engineering include the need to design ships and related facilities that meet the increasingly strict standards of international shipping. In addition, more marine engineers will be needed for the construction of offshore wind energy platforms.

Marine Engineer

Marine engineers, also known as marine design engineers and marine mechanical engineers, are responsible for a ship’s internal systems, including electrical, propulsion, refrigeration, and steering systems. The median annual salary for marine engineers in the U.S. is $96,910 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $66,360 to more than $150,260 per year, but most marine engineers earn annual salaries between $81,320 and $119,550.

Naval Architect

Naval architects are marine engineers who specialize in ship design, including the structure and stability of hulls. The median annual salary for naval architects in the U.S. is $96,910 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $66,360 to more than $150,260 per year, but most naval architects earn annual salaries between $81,320 and $119,550.

Offshore Engineer

Offshore engineers develop economical and environmentally safe ways of extracting oil and gas from under the seabed. They also design offshore installations and oversee drilling operations for the purpose of maximizing production. The average annual salary for an offshore engineer in the U.S. is $96,777 as of April 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from $24,000 to more than $183,500 per year, but most offshore engineers earn annual salaries between $59,500 and $122,000.

Marine Combat Engineer

Marine combat engineers conduct engineering reconnaissance during marine operations, including the emplacement of mines, clearing of mines, demolitions and bridge assaults. The average annual salary for a marine combat engineer in the U.S. is $60,469 as of April 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from $19,000 to more than $129,000 per year, but most marine combat engineers earn annual salaries between $25,000 and $87,500.

Shipyard Engineer

Shipyard engineers conduct repairs, refits and conversions for ships, in addition to building new vessels from scratch. The average annual salary for a shipyard engineer in the U.S. is $76,899 as of April 2023, according to ZipRecruiter. The full salary range for this occupation is from $24,000 to $156,000 per year, but most shipyard engineers earn annual salaries between $43,000 and $101,000.

How much do marine engineers make?

Starting Salary for Marine Engineers reports that the average starting salary for a marine engineer in 2021 ranged from $62,610 to $76,750 per year, equivalent to an hourly wage between $30 and $37 per hour. The bottom end of this range was the salary for the bottom 10 percent of marine engineers, while the top end was the salary for the bottom 25 percent. These figures assume the marine engineer has little to no professional experience in that occupation.

Average Salary for a Master’s Degree in Marine Engineering reports that the average annual salary for a marine engineer with a master’s degree is about $99,000. In comparison, marine engineers with a bachelor’s degree have an average salary of $82,762.

What’s the most a marine engineer makes?

The BLS reports that the highest-paid marine engineers in the U.S. made more than $151,880 per year in May 2021, as compared to the median annual wage of $93,370 for this occupation. These figures are for all marine engineers, but the specific employer significantly affects their pay. For example, the federal government offers the highest average pay for marine engineers at $104,920 per year. Companies that provide water transportation have the next highest pay at an average annual salary of $96,250, and those that provide professional, scientific and technical services pay marine engineers an average of $95,130 per year.

Tips for Increasing Salary Potential

Spending your time at sea is one of the most effective ways of increasing your salary as a marine engineer. These positions tend to offer more pay because many people don’t want to work on a ship full time, and you also get the opportunity to specialize in high-paying skills. In addition, you may not need to pay taxes if you’re in international waters for most of the year, depending on your country. Furthermore, you don’t have to pay for basic living expenses on a ship, allowing you to save more money.

Continuing Education after a Master’s Degree in Marine Engineering

Marine engineers may continue their formal education beyond a master’s degree. Paths for continuing education in this field include advanced certifications and doctorate degrees.

Advanced Certificates

The level of skill and responsibility in marine engineering means there are many types of certifications that you may need to qualify for a particular position. For example, working on a ship in the U.S. often requires marine engineers to have American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Marine Engineer Certification. This certification demonstrates the holder is generally qualified to safely operate, maintain and repair a seagoing vessel.

An engineer must complete at least three years of sea service to qualify for ABS certification. This experience requires the engineer to serve as an officer on a merchant marine vessel and must include at least one year in a position that’s responsible for operating, maintaining or repairing machinery. Once engineers meet this qualification, they must earn a passing grade on a written exam.

Doctorate in Marine Engineering

Getting a doctorate degree in marine engineering involves training as an engineering scientist rather than a pure engineer. The knowledge and skill set is quite distinct, as positions requiring a doctorate degree require hypothesis-driven experiments to resolve a particular problem. Marine engineers may serve as a technical lead for an engineering organization, where they provide scientific leadership. Often, their job is to optimize a specific operation by developing a scientific understanding of the variables involved.

Financial Aid Information

Including the time needed to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree requires about six years of full-time study at the post-secondary level. Students will typically require some type of assistance in paying for tuition, even if they work while attending school. Financial aid may take many specific forms, but they may be categorized according to whether they require students to repay the funding they receive.


A marine engineering student’s financial status is the most important factor in determining the probability that they’ll receive a loan. Lenders may consider the discipline when assessing the student’s ability to repay the loan on time, but the credit rating and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio are usually more important for a graduate degree. In these cases, the student has often been in the workplace long enough to establish a credit history. Even when the student receives a loan offer, lenders will increase the interest rate for students they deem to be of greater risk. The minimum rate for student loans is typically around five percent, but it’s often more for students with less-than-perfect credit.


Scholarships come from a variety of sources, including individuals, educational institutions and industry interest groups. For example, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) awards scholarships to both graduate and undergraduate scholarships that are worth up to $2,000 per year. Qualifying degree programs include marine engineering, naval architecture, ocean engineering or other fields related to the marine industry. Students must also pursue their degree at qualifying schools, including California Maritime Academy, Florida Institute of Technology, Maine Maritime Academy and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


Internships in marine engineering often consist of an assignment aboard a naval vessel. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy offers internships to marine engineering students in the engineering department of a Coast Guard cutter. This assignment lasts for six weeks and provides students with a realistic onboard experience, followed by a shoreside naval engineering assignment. Cadets may also work in a shipyard building cutters, providing exposure to new acquisitions. They will also learn about building various hulls, and the role the government plays in this process.

FAQ section

How much does a master’s degree in marine engineering cost?

Costs for graduate programs in marine engineering vary depending on the educational institution. Expenses include tuition, supplies and other fees. According to Data USA, the average cost is $8,395 with an in-state public tuition. The average cost for out-of-state tuition is $53,828. Online classes are usually less expensive than onsite classes because online classes don’t require students to pay extra fees such as university lodging or student activity fees.

Is a master’s degree in marine engineering worth it?

Obtaining the maximum benefit from a master’s degree in marine engineering typically involves concentrating in a particular specialty. Ideally, you should consider emerging technologies that will be in high demand by the time you complete your master’s degree. This is especially true if you’re interested in positions requiring applied research, where a master’s degree is likely to have more value. In addition, a graduate degree that provides an education on the business aspects of marine education is also a good strategy for ensuring your degree will pay for itself.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in marine engineering?

Earning a master’s degree in marine engineering takes dedicated effort. It requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field, which typically takes four years. From that point, a master’s degree in marine engineering takes another one to two years. In addition, career paths usually require additional certifications to advance. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard has a separate licensing exam for each role, including Third Assistant, Second Assistant, First Assistant and Chief Assistant.

Is a master’s degree required to advance as a marine engineer?

Entry-level positions generally don’t require a master’s degree, since most roles that require a master’s degree also require relevant work experience. This often occurs aboard ships, where advancement is more likely to follow a rigid hierarchy. In these cases, a master’s degree can help distinguish you from other crew members competing for the same position. Academic roles in marine engineering also require advanced degrees.

Are marine engineers in demand?

Shipping companies have some of the fastest-growing demand for marine engineers at the present time, largely due to the global increase in sea traffic. In addition to serving on ships, more marine engineers are also needed to build ships, docks, oil platforms and other offshore structures. Marine engineers who hold the licenses needed to maintain a ship’s machinery are in particularly high demand, since relatively few of these engineers have such licenses.

What industries are hiring marine engineers with a master’s degree?

Academia has the highest concentration of marine engineers, where a doctorate degree is typically a requirement. Companies that build and operate ships are also likely to need marine engineers with master’s degrees, especially in senior technical positions like chief engineer. Additional roles that these companies often give preference to master’s degree include engineering managers, especially program managers.

Is an online master’s degree in marine engineering the same as an on-campus degree?

Colleges don’t typically distinguish between online and on-campus degrees on documents such as transcripts and diplomas. However, employers may ask about this issue to ensure you have the necessary practical experience they’re looking for.


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