Also known as naval engineering, marine engineering is centered around the design and construction of ships. Marine engineers are responsible for all of the internal systems in a ship, including steering, electrical, and propulsion components.
In their day-to-day work, marine engineers create system layouts and other schematics to design new naval vehicles. They also inspect marine equipment to ensure it is functioning as expected. Other professionals oversee the testing, installation, and repair of ships to comply with safety standards.
Marine engineers typically work for shipbuilding firms to design passenger ships, inflatable boats, rowboats, sailboats, and aircraft carriers.
Others work for the government to design boats for the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. Besides boats and ships, naval engineers can work on a variety of projects, from submarines to offshore oil rigs.
Designing safe and effective ships requires knowledge from a wide range of engineering fields. Marine engineers must earn a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering or a related field to learn the necessary background information and skills. While in classes, students will study calculus, physics, computer-aided design, fluid mechanics, material science, and many other subjects.
The best marine engineering programs will have dedicated resources and experiences for the field. Many include time onboard a ship so students can gain the appropriate hands-on abilities.
In order to be a successful marine engineer, undergraduates must develop communication, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills.
In May of 2020, the average annual wage for marine engineers was $95,000. There are nearly 10,000 marine engineers across the United States and this number is expected to increase.
For students interested in naval engineering, here are 10 of the best marine engineering schools in the nation.
Maine Maritime Academy (Castine, ME)
Maine Maritime Academy’s harbor location makes it well-suited to prepare students for a career in marine engineering. The math-focused program prepares graduates to pass their licensure exam. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities, with over 60 sail, motor, and training vessels for undergraduates.
Students interested in working for the US Coast Guard can participate in the 5-year track to earn the proper licensure. With nearly 200 days of sea training through laboratories, simulation, and cruises, marine engineering students will build confidence and leadership skills. In the fourth year, undergraduates are eligible to sit for the USCG 3rd Assistant Engineer license.
No matter which program they choose, Maine Maritime Academy students gain hands-on experience through industry co-op experiences. Engineering worksites across the United States allow marine engineering students to work with authentic ships.
United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, CT)
The US Coast Guard Academy draws from vast resources to provide a strong education in the design and analysis of ships. University faculty members use their extensive real-world experience to teach students best practices.
Despite the university’s large size, marine engineering students enjoy an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
In the classroom, students have access to state-of-the-art resources, such as a 50,000-gallon tank with wave maker, wind tunnel, MakerBot 2, Ultimaker 3D printers, and ShopBot 3-Axis CNC router.
Marine engineering undergraduates experiment with these professional resources in the material science lab or mechanical shop.
During their senior year, small design teams create a preliminary Coast Guard or commercial vessel design. This capstone experience requires formal design reports that build each student’s professional communication abilities.
Recent senior projects cover a variety of naval engineering functions, from an Arctic offshore support vessel to a mobile offshore base.
SUNY Maritime College (New York, NY)
At SUNY Maritime College, students learn to design and operate marine power plants. The course load focuses on thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, electrical engineering, and problem-solving. Along with comprehensive classroom education, students complete three summer sea terms.
For marine engineering students interested in leadership roles, SUNY Maritime has a unique fast-track program. This track allows students to pursue their undergraduate degree in marine engineering simultaneously as a master’s degree in Maritime and Naval Studies or International Transportation Management.
Outside of classes, the Structural Health and Sensing Laboratory provides plenty of research opportunities for students. Professors work on a variety of projects, from offshore vibration monitoring to the estimation of transit origin-destination delays.
This research is funded by reputable institutions, such as the American Bureau of Shipping and University Transport Research Center.
University of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)
In order to meet industry demand, the University of New Orleans Boysie Bollinger School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was established.
The program is the only one of its kind in the Gulf region where students can learn to build ships and other offshore structures. Students focus on systems engineering and other industry-relevant abilities.
At the University of New Orleans, students study in modern engineering labs dedicated to marine engineering. The UNO Structural Test System has hydraulic actuators for testing composite ship structural components.
Other facilities include large towing tanks, model shop, a design laboratory, and programs on ship safety.
As a result of the professional facilities and high-quality education, University of New Orleans students often find positions before they graduate. Marine engineering graduates work in a wide range of institutions, from yacht builders to engineering consultants.
Texas A&M University, Galveston (Galveston, TX)
Marine engineering students at Texas A&M learn from professors at the top of the field. In addition, the program uses cutting-edge technology to produce highly capable engineers. The interdisciplinary education covers marine propulsion, electrical systems, electronics, and applied maritime engineering.
At Texas A&M University, marine engineering students gain experience through the SeaAggie Field Trips. Enthusiastic undergraduates act as field guides for schools in the Galveston area. They have the opportunity to go aboard research vessel trips aboard the Milan and Trident ships.
Graduates from Texas A&M marine engineering go on to achieve impressive feats of marine engineering. Ilya Espino de Marotta, a marine engineering graduate from Texas A&M, recently directed the $5.2 billion Panama Canal Expansion Project.
US Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD)
The US Naval Academy is widely recognized for its strong marine engineering program and variety of concentrations. Typically admitting 25 – 30 students each year, classes have enough resources for design projects and laboratories. Along with a small class size, USNA boasts world-class facilities and equipment.
Throughout the program, marine engineering students work on design projects to explore their professional interests in-depth. The USNA SailBot team designs and operates autonomous sailboats, winning several international competitions for their work.
After graduation, USNA marine engineering students go on to pursue a wide variety of opportunities. Using their background in design and analysis, graduates lead government programs, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies across the naval industry. Others earn advanced degrees such as MS, MBA, PhD, JD, and MD.
Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ)
Located across the river from New York City, Stevens Institute of Technology is uniquely positioned in the epicenter of ship and harbor design operations. The university collaborates with government organizations and private companies to ensure students receive the necessary practical experiences.
At Stevens, all marine engineering students are encouraged to gain professional experience through experiential learning. Whether through externships, internships, or co-ops, students gain the necessary technical abilities to prepare them for their future careers.
Students in the marine engineering program have access to the renowned Davidson Laboratory, which is praised for its maritime design capabilities. With its state-of-the-art towing and wave tanks, collaborators visit Stevens from around the globe to perform research. The lab’s resilience projects work to solve real-world problems in infrastructure systems around New York Harbor.
Webb Institute (Glen Cove, NY)
Webb Institute is a unique university entirely dedicated to engineering and design education throughout the marine industry. Every student graduates with a dual BS degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. In addition, all enrolled students from the United States are granted a full-tuition scholarship.
At Webb, the marine engineering experience is student-centric, allowing each undergraduate to direct their own education. The 26-acre campus includes a private beach and many unique facilities available to students.
Marine engineering students at Webb graduate with plenty of career opportunities available to them. The university boasts an impressive 100% job placement rate upon graduation. Graduates go on to work at a variety of companies, including ExxonMobil, Rolls-Royce Marine, Delta Marine, and the American Bureau of Shipping.
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
The University of Michigan proudly houses the only naval architecture and marine engineering programs nationally that span undergraduate through PhD studies. The university sets a global standard for design and research in the field. In addition, UMich aims to be at the forefront of teaching innovation.
The marine engineering department at UMich has both the strength and depth to lead the field in groundbreaking research. Alongside faculty members, students research how to navigate rough seas, building more efficient submarines, and harnessing energy from waves. The Perceptual Robotics Laboratory is working to create autonomous cargo ships and remote underwater vehicles.
Students can also use their classroom knowledge on ship design in a variety of student organizations. The Michigan Solar Sea team designs, constructs, and races a solar-powered boat across other student teams.
On the other hand, the UMich Human Powered Sub team has four submarines and competes every other year to raise public awareness of underwater technology.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
Established in 1912, the Pratt School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering is at the forefront of ocean engineering. Students study fluid mechanics, offshore mechanics, marine robotics, ocean sensing, and naval ship design.
Students participate in research spanning many topics at MIT through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Autonomous sensors, underwater vehicles, and other devices are some of the key focuses of the program.
In addition, undergraduates can gain hands-on experience through the partner Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The department regularly hosts lectures by highly regarded professors and guest speakers. Marine engineering students have the opportunity to learn about underwater mapping, hydrodynamics of new vessels, bio-inspired propulsion, and underwater networks.