What Is Ocean Engineering?
Ocean engineering is a field of study that can be vaguely defined as an advanced part of other marine technology studies like maritime engineering, offshore engineering, or marine electronic technology. If defined in detail, it would be mentioned as a branch of technological studies that deals with the design and operations of artificial systems in the ocean and other marine bodies for solving complex engineering problems.
However, it should not be confused with oceanography. This is because oceanography studies the natural aspects of the oceans and their dynamics, but not the artificial influence.
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What Can Students Expect if they take up Ocean Engineering?
There are different ocean engineering degrees for undergraduates and holders of bachelor’s degree-seeking higher studies and research projects. However, both are required to have a basic understanding of oceanography, effects of waves, ocean acoustics and the capabilities to apply engineering principles in consideration of public health, safety and welfare, and economic factors. They should be able to communicate with different audiences and use engineering design to revolutionise the field of social sciences.
If one decides to study ocean engineering, he must be ready to take up ethical and professional responsibilities and make informed judgments by understanding the impact of engineering solutions on the world. Students must be prepared for a lot of classroom work and participation in seminars. They must also gain practical experience, apply new knowledge in the real world and even work at remote locations for longer periods for experimentation and research.
Students can expect to do basic courses, including statics, the strength of materials, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and electrical engineering, along with marine-specific topics.
Who is an Ocean Engineer?
The ocean engineers get to know the details about the ocean policies, the areas of concern for modern navigators, and the technological requirements for further establishment of engineering wonders across the seas. Various new products and technologically advanced systems are developed under the guidance of ocean engineering departments in multiple countries across the globe. Underwater navigation, communication, and positioning have long been active research areas in this technology branch. In addition, developing and creating an unmanned underwater vehicle is on the priority list of companies and firms all over who deal in this engineering field.
As in any other field of study, ocean engineering has grown over the years and has a vast compilation of data and its representation. The introduction of advanced computers and other electronic systems made the task of research and analysis a lot easier. This was of the utmost value and importance for a younger engineering branch. This field also causes the best use of all the electromagnetic equipment. This is evident in the strong structures and designs of all offshore technical platforms, advanced sea vessels, and even submarines.
Many organizations that deal with this subject appoint engineers to study the ocean’s environment to understand its impact on marine structures. Also, the reverse effect needs to examine, and this is again a forte of this branch of research. The department of ocean engineering also looks into the significant impact of man’s activities on the natural environment of the oceans. This involves research on the sensors and the acoustic and non-acoustic sensor predictions concerning the environment. Ocean Engineering also deals with the energy resources available in the ocean and the means to tap them.
Over the years since its establishment as a separate branch of engineering, this field has seen a rapid increase in the number of students who have enrolled in the courses, so much so that the governments in many countries had to establish a different university that deals with the various details of this fascinating subject. And the interest has multiplied since then. Ocean engineering professionals are in huge demand, which augurs well for the industry and the world.
What Do Ocean Engineers Do?
Professionals who take education and training in ocean engineering are called ocean engineers. They have the technical expertise and skills to find solutions to ocean-related problems. Technically, ocean engineering is a combination of different types of engineering, such as mechanical, civil, chemical etc., about the oceans.
Ocean engineers work closely with marine biologists, oceanographers, geophysicists, etc., to find solutions and create tools to help in research. Some of these devices by ocean engineers are used to study underwater activities, oil and gas exploration, seismic research etc.
Ocean engineers are often required to work marine vehicles, ships, sailboats, tankers, rigs, autonomous underwater vehicles, submersibles, and aircraft carriers in harsh weather conditions like severe storms. They are mainly hired by the government, oil and gas companies, ocean research organisations etc. Their work especially involves designing, constructing and maintenance of equipment and systems ocean for marine environments.
For instance, coastal engineering is an increasingly important part of ocean engineering. Coastal engineers are needed to provide efficient solutions to the problem of coastal erosion, development of coastal structures, waste disposal in coastal cities, etc., through appropriate experimentation while suggesting the efficient use of the ocean’s resources.
Like the interests of oceanographers have given rise to design skills, the technical expertise of ocean engineers and innovative equipment design has revolutionized oceanography and opened many doors for future development in the field. Also, the invention of several instruments and devices has changed how ocean engineering students and oceanographers study the world’s coasts, coastlines, and ocean resources.
The inventions by ocean engineers have broadened the reach of the field of oceanography. It has also changed the way oceanographers work. They can go farther offshore and deeper into the seas and oceans for long periods. Due to their contribution, the development of ocean energy resources has been possible. Also, many new underwater discoveries of unique geological formations and marine species have been made.
Types of Ocean Engineering Jobs
There are plenty of career options when you decide to pursue ocean engineering. Most jobs would have you working in the vast ocean or underwater. Ocean engineers can expect to work in dangerous conditions. Passion is just as important as knowing when to become an ocean engineer. The work done by these people has saved lives, so there is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
Ocean engineers will be knowledgeable of ocean policies and information that pertains to ocean navigators. They also continue to learn about innovative means and technologies to establish other technology across the seas. Ocean engineers across the globe are overseeing several projects where new products and pieces of equipment are being developed. Their innovation can help ocean navigation, ocean studies, and environmental safety.
Underwater navigation, communication, and positioning are actively researched technologies where ocean engineers have made great progress. Many companies are devoting their resources to research on the design and development of unmanned underwater vehicles.
The field plays a huge role in other fields like oceanography, transport, oil and gas, international trade, underwater exploration and even national defence. Ocean engineer can also use their expertise to work as mechanical engineers and environmental engineers. They have many possibilities when it comes to career choices.
If you pursue ocean engineering, you have the option to become an:
- Ocean Engineer
- Naval Architect
- Marine Engineer
- Environmental Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Petroleum Engineer
Jobs like naval architects and marine engineers are related to the core subject of ocean engineering. The main and basic task of the engineer will be around the design and construction of ships, dams and other marine-related structures. However, other options like environmental, mechanical, and petroleum engineering are related to ocean engineering but are also influenced by other subjects. An environmental engineer will be tasked with researching and developing environmentally safe products and monitoring the environment concerning the ocean. Petroleum engineers will be tasked with the construction of oil rigs along with identifying and extracting oil.
There are plenty of organizations willing to hire ocean engineers. These companies oversee the research and development of many marine technologies, demanding the best workforce for their teams. The work as an ocean engineer can be of many sorts. They can either be directly involved as designers or construction supervisors. Or they can work as consultants in regulation, surveying and overseeing. Research and development teams are another great option for an ocean engineer that wishes to put their knowledge to make strides in the field. Experienced engineers can turn to education and training as well.
Ocean engineers can take up work with private industry or even work with the government. In practice, their work could be related to remote sensing, monitoring changes in the climate, protection of environmental bodies using engineering principles, and building marine transportation on the surface and underwater.
These are some of the popular organizations that hire ocean engineers
- Rockwell Aviation
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- National Science Foundation
- Northrop Grumman
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- S. Environmental Protection Agency
How much salary do ocean engineers get?
Websites like payscale.com cannot ascertain the entry-level salary for an ocean engineer because of their specialized nature. It mainly depends on the project you work on, the team you are working with, etc. However, the entry-level salaries of other similar engineering jobs can give you an idea of what you will be starting with.
Mechanical Engineer: $60,100 – $91,900
Environmental Engineer: $47,900 – $89,700
Petroleum Engineer- $55,347 – $124,611
In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of an average ocean engineer with sufficient experience was around $92,000 per year or more than $44 per hour. In 2016, they reported that the median salary of a marine engineer is approximately $93,350. In the lower income range, marine engineers and naval architects that got paid the least claim a yearly income of $72,600 which is among the 25th percentile salary.
Seventy-five per cent of engineers make more than that amount. The 75th percentile salary is $120,210 as of 2016. The 2016 report also shows that more than 8200 people were employed as marine engineers and naval architects in the United States. So while the median salary has not changed drastically, it is steadily rising. An ocean engineer can be expected to pay a hefty amount. The experience and roles they take within their companies can guarantee a much higher annual salary.
Ocean Engineering’s Colleges Around the World
We’ve comprised a list of the best colleges worldwide that can provide you with the skills required to succeed in the profession. These universities are among the most internationally known and nationally ranked in the quality of their course.
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy
- The United States Coast Guard Academy
- Texas A & M University
- Florida Atlantic University
- University of Rhode Island
- The University of Hawaii at Manoa
- California Maritime Academy
- Marine Engineering and Research Institute (MERI)
- Australian Maritime College
- Dalian Maritime University
Future Prospects of Ocean Engineering
A master’s degree after graduation is a great way to solidify your skills, learn further about the field and prepare yourself for the responsibilities your work will put you into. There are multiple master’s programs offered by the universities mentioned above that you can enrol in.
- Master in Hydrodynamics for Ocean Engineering
- Master’s degree of Engineering in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering
- Master of Engineering in Water Management
- Master of Science in Ocean Engineering (SMOE)
- Master of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (SMNAME)
- Master of Science in Oceanographic Engineering (SMOGE, joint MIT/WHOI degree)
- Naval Engineer’s (NE) degree
- Master in Offshore Engineering
A master’s degree will help you specialize in your field and give you the expertise required to excel at your work. They also open the doors for all the marine engineering-related jobs and senior roles within the company you work for.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the responsibility of ocean engineers?
Ocean engineers devise smart, effective solutions for building systems to monitor and control coastal environments. They learn about the technical functioning of offshore structures and marine vessels and work in harsh environments.
2. Is Ocean Engineering a good career option?
While pursuing this field of study might be difficult since it requires a lot of hard work and perseverance, it pays off well. Students have enormous options, and the demand for ocean engineers is increasing daily. One can also go for defence sector jobs that not only pay well but are also very prestigious.
3. Where do most ocean engineers work?
They primarily work on submersibles, ships, oil rigs and offshore platforms under harsh conditions. They are hired by private companies, the government, oil and gas companies, and even think and research tanks.
4. What do ocean engineers do daily?
They oversee the testing, design and proper functioning of various maritime equipment onboard the vessel they are working on. Others work in offices and use advanced computer software to develop innovative engineering solutions and designs for new projects.
5. What is the difference between oceanography and ocean engineering?
Ocean engineering is an engineering field and requires expertise in handling maritime machinery. It is much like chemical engineering and mechanical and electrical engineering. However, oceanography is earth science or a study of the oceans’ physical, chemical and biological features.
You may also like to read
- What does an ocean engineer do?
- The Ultimate Guide To Higher Studies For Mariners – Part 1
- The Ultimate Guide To Higher Studies For Mariners – Part 3
- The Ultimate Guide To Higher Studies For Mariners – Part 2
- How to find Maritime Jobs Using “Linkedin”?
Disclaimer: The author’s views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.