Becoming a marine or boat mechanic is an exciting journey that requires minimal education but a whole lot of passion. If your friends and family would define you as a water and maritime lover, then working in the marine industry may be a perfect fit.
With a median wage of $93,370, strong job outlook, and opportunities for growth and travel, it can be a very existing career choice.
This article will cover the important things you need to know to become a marine or boat mechanic.
What Is A Marine Mechanic?
Marine mechanics are responsible for keeping marine engines and other parts of a boat in working order. They will use a variety of tools to maintain or repair different systems like motors, propellors, inboard/outboard motors, and more.
Working as a certified marine mechanic offers you the opportunity to work on all types of boats. This might include:
- Commercial fishing boats
- Sport fishing boats
- Military marine vehicles
- Luxury yachts
- Cruise ships
What Does A Marine Mechanic Do?
The daily work a marine mechanic job may include can vary greatly depending on where you work. But most will do maintenance, troubleshooting or repair boat engines to keep the vessel in working order.
Some typical responsibilities found in a marine mechanic job description include:
- Electrical systems repair
- Steering device assembly
- Routine service and maintenance
- Fuel line clearing
- Propeller replacement
- Plumbing and intake repair
- Transmission disassembly
- System cleaning and flushing
- Hydraulics monitoring
- AC system maintenance
- Tweaking, testing, and certifying performance
Some mechanics even go further and work on improving and redesigning systems. Similar to auto mechanics, those that work in the marine field will have a variety of responsibilities in their day to day work.
How To Become A Marine Mechanic
Before you can consider becoming a boat mechanic, you will need to have your GED or high school diploma.
After receiving those it is recommended you attend a trade school or community college and apply for an apprenticeship. These two learning opportunities will offer you the best outcome for employment as a marine technician.
Common steps to become a marine or boat mechanic
High School Diploma or GED
A high school diploma or GED is required to become a marine mechanic.
Trade School or Community College
Receiving post-secondary education is highly recommended. This can be done through a trade school program or community college in under 2 years and can provide you the technical skills you need to excel in the field.
In some cases, you can go right into an apprenticeship without attending school to gain experience. But, the recommended path is to attend a school and do an apprenticeship as well.
After working as a marine mechanic, you can test for certification that is offered through the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).
STEP 1: Education
Getting a formal marine technology education will increase your earning potential and job opportunities so it is highly recommended.
You can attend a community college or trade school to learn about marine equipment repair and maintenance. Most programs can be completed in less than two years and at completion you may have a certification or associate’s degree.
Some of the types of things you can expect to learn include:
- Engine repair
- Marine systems
- Marine engine performance
- Diesel engines
- Electrical components
How deep the education is will depend on the school you attend. Getting an associate’s degree can take up to two years, which allows a much deeper dive into the content.
Other schools may have certificate programs that can be completed in less than one year, which will limit the depth of each topic that can be covered. These can include marine mechanical technician or marine electrical technician.
STEP 2: Apprenticeship
You can do an apprenticeship at any time. Whether you do it before you attend a school, during, or after, it will give you the hands-on real world experience employers are looking for.
Some schools will have apprenticeship opportunities for you, so definitely look into that!
Many schools partner with major manufacturers like Honda, Suzuki, Mercury, Volvo, and Yamaha. Manufacturers design these three-week courses, so they’re specific to engines each company makes.
The advantage of taking on this additional coursework is that you’ll be able to perform maintenance on engines and systems still under warranty.
You may then opt to further your studies for an additional year. By continuing your education, you will earn you an associate degree and training in the following areas:
- Advanced Electronics
- AC Refrigeration Systems
- Marine Technology
STEP 3: Getting Practical Experience
To gain practical experience, you should enquire about shadowing a senior technician. Ask at:
- Boatyards and Manufactures
- Repair and Service Outlets
They may agree to let you job shadow in exchange for no pay or a meager wage. It’s worth the sacrifice at this stage to get the necessary experience.
An additional benefit is that you’ll prove you have a good work ethic. The firm may decide to hire you full-time after you’ve qualified.
STEP 4: Certifications
The American Boat and Yacht Council provides many marine technician certifications that are highly recommended.
Below are some of the available certifications:
- Marine Systems
- Marine Corrosion
- Gasoline Engine and Support Systems
- Diesel Engine and Support Systems
- Air Conditioning
In addition to the basic certifications, it’s advisable to work toward manufacturer-specific qualifications. These courses keep you up to date on the latest technology and enable you to continue working as a certified technician.
Most certifications are valid for five years. Recertification is more straightforward as you may take the exams online. If you’re a certified technician through Mercury Marine, you’ll need to take at least two extra courses within the two years after you first certify.
Becoming a Master Technician
Once you’ve passed three certification courses, you can apply for the qualification of Master Technician from the American Boat and Yacht Council. You may also take the exam if you’ve maintained your Mercury Marine qualification for four years running.
Recommended Skills For Marine Mechanics
What skills and qualities should you have to be successful in this career?
Dealing with boat owners may be part of your job so developing written communication skills and having exceptional verbal skills will help tremendously.
If you love taking things apart to see how they work, you’re already part of the way there. It’s essential to have reasonably good mechanical skills to take apart engines and other moving parts.
You’ll work with many small moving parts, so good dexterity and hand-eye coordination are essential. Being clumsy is not an asset in this career path.
A problem in the electrical system or engine might be due to any number of causes. You have to be something of a detective to find the right solution and know what to check.
Pros & Cons Of Being A Marine Mechanic
- You may work onboard a ship or onshore
- It’s possible to qualify through an apprenticeship rather than formal training
- The work is varied and interesting
- You get to work on and drive a variety of vessels
- There is an excellent opportunity to start your own business
- Competitions is high for better paying opportunities
- Work may be seasonal
- Exposure to chemicals
- Job is very physically demanding
- Often you are required to buy your own tools
How Much Does A Boat or Marine Mechanic Make?
The median annual wage for marine mechanics or service technicians is $93,370 – but many who work in this field do make much more.
Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and North Dakota round out the states that have the highest wages for motorboat technicians.
Job Outlook For Marine Mechanics
The job outlook is for motorboat mechanics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is currently showing an estimated 8% growth through through 2031.
The number of opportunities for this career is highly dependent on where you live. Of course states with large bodies of water or coastlines are going to have more jobs than those in the midwest.
Where Can Marine mechanics work?
Boat mechanics typically work for boat dealerships, repair shops, marinas, or the government sector.
There is also the opportunity to open your own shop as well.
Another bonus is that learning this career can open the doors for other small engine mechanics jobs since there is a lot of technical overlap. So if you decide to become a motorcycle mechanic or want to work on power equipment, that is also an option for you.
Marine Technician Schools
There are many schools that offer programs in maritime, boat, or marine mechanics all over the United States.
When choosing a school be sure to consider the following:
- Financial aid options
- Job placement assistance
- Does the school offer certifications or associate’s degrees
- Will the school help you receive necessary certifications
- Is the program diverse and cover all facets of marine technology