Merchant Navy Engineering Officer

Job Description:

Merchant Navy engineering officers maintain the mechanical and electrical machinery and instruments on board a ship.

Job Category:
Government & Public Services

What you will do:

On a typical day you’ll:

  • work on engines, ventilation systems and communications equipment
  • service deck fittings like cranes, hoists and landing craft
  • monitor hydraulic and control equipment
  • run maintenance checks on machinery and systems
  • respond to equipment failure alerts and repair faults
  • maintain fuel levels and stocks of spare parts
  • update record management systems
  • inspect equipment
  • mentor and support trainees

As you move up through the ranks to senior engineer you’ll also supervise a team of engineers.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • analytical thinking skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • business management skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • the ability to use your initiative (ambition)
  • excellent verbal communication skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Merchant Navy Engineering Officer, you’ll need to complete specific academic and training requirements, which often include studying engineering and maritime-related subjects. While there are no specific GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) subjects required, certain subjects can help you prepare for the academic aspects of this career. Here are some GCSE subjects and skills that can be beneficial:

  1. Mathematics: Strong mathematical skills are essential for engineering and navigation tasks in the Merchant Navy.
  2. Science (Physics, Chemistry): A solid understanding of science is important for the engineering aspects of this career, as well as for understanding the principles of ship propulsion and navigation.
  3. English Language: Effective communication is crucial in the maritime industry, especially for safety and navigation.
  4. Design and Technology: This subject can provide practical knowledge related to machinery and equipment, which is essential for engineering officers.
  5. Geography: Geographic knowledge, particularly of the world’s oceans and navigation principles, can be advantageous.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You could enter the Merchant Navy as an engine room rating. You would do a maritime electrical and mechanical intermediate apprenticeship.

You can apply for funding to take further training to qualify as an officer after completing your apprenticeship.

Direct Application

You can apply to sponsoring shipping or engineering companies to train as an engineering officer.

You will do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in marine or mechanical engineering. Your training will also include the Certificate of Competency, which you need to work at sea.

Your teaching and living costs will be funded through a bursary and while you’re on placements at sea you’ll get paid.

If you’ve worked as a mechanical engineer elsewhere, for example in the fishing industry or the Navy, you may be exempt from some of the training to become an engineer. You’ll still need to find a company to sponsor you.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 52-54 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends/bank holidays away from home.

You could work on a ship. Your working environment may be cramped, at height, outdoors in all weathers and you may spend nights away from home. You may need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could work your way up to third, second and then senior engineer before taking on the role of chief engineer. You could also work towards chartered status.

If you decide to work onshore you could move into management, ship surveying, lecturing or research.