Merchant navy engineering officer


Career outlook for merchant navy engineering officer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would make sure the machinery and instruments on a commercial ship work properly so the crew and passengers are safe when the vessel goes to sea.

You would operate and repair the mechanical and electrical machines, instruments and support systems on the ship

These include:

  • Engines
  • Ventilation systems
  • Navigation and communications equipment
  • Deck fittings such as cranes, hoists and landing craft

There are different grades for this job depending on your experience and qualifications.

The Chief Engineer has overall authority for planning engineering tasks and allocating staff

The Second Engineer supervises the day-to-day duties of staff and engine crew.

The Third Engineer assists the second officer and looks after electrical systems and machinery.

The Junior/Fourth Engineer does general machinery maintenance. This is often the first posting for an officer trainee.

Whatever your engineering grade, you would:

  • Check machinery and systems regularly
  • Respond to alerts about equipment failures
  • Repair faults
  • Keep up fuel levels and store stocks of spare parts
  • Update records for the machinery and systems

You would also mentor and support trainees.

In the Merchant Navy, you could work on:

  • Passenger ferries
  • Cruise liners
  • Container ships
  • Bulk carriers
  • Tankers
  • Salvage and supply vessels

If you work for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – the civilian-crewed ships which support the Royal Navy - you could have responsibility for weapons maintenance.

Working conditions


You would work shifts, known as ‘watches’, which would vary according to the size of the ship. On a large vessel, you might work four hours on duty followed by eight hours off.


You would spend most of your shift in the engine control room and the engine room. You may also have to work in confined spaces in the vessel's hull or in refrigerated areas. If you are with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, you may be required to work in conflict zones.


The amount of time you would spend at sea could last from a few days or weeks to several months. Your shore leave between voyages would also vary in length.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Evaluating
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

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You would need a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7), Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) or degree (SCQF level 9/10) in marine engineering, technology or mechanical engineering.

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by many courses and employers)
  • Science subjects, in particular chemistry (required by many courses and employers)
  • English
  • Technologies subjects such as engineering science

You will also need

Shipping company sponsorship - initial applications should be made to a shipping company or training provider. Entry requires National 5 qualifications.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show engineering skills and leadership such as Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCQF level 4) or SQA Leadership Award (SCQF level 5/6).