Marine engineering and naval architecture are among the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees, but just because a job has a high salary doesn’t mean it’s got a great job outlook. Before choosing a major, it’s worth looking at the demand for the degree you are considering. Fortunately, the job outlook for marine engineers and naval architects is promising. Thanks to factors like a focus on environmentally friendly design and green energy sources, engineers in these fields have plenty of job prospects in designing new ships and updating existing vessels for today’s needs.
A Faster Than Average Growth Rate
The average rate of expected job growth for all occupations across the United States for the period from 2018 to 2028 is just 5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For engineering occupations as a whole, job opportunities are expected to follow this trend.
The mediocre outlook for the engineering field as a whole makes it all the more remarkable that the BLS anticipates a 9 percent rate of job growth for marine engineers and naval architects specifically. The difference between the BLS’s prediction for this career path and for American job opportunities overall is statistically significant enough for the BLS to classify expected job growth for marine engineers and naval architects as “faster than the average for all occupations.” In fact, marine engineers and naval architects are seeing the highest rate of job growth among engineers in all disciplines.
Marine engineering and naval architecture is one of the smaller engineering career fields. While broader engineering disciplines like civil engineering employ hundreds of thousands of workers in America, the BLS reports only 11,700 marine engineers and naval architects as of its most recent count (in 2018). By 2028, the BLS expects the career path to add 1,000 new job opportunities, making the total size of the profession 12,700.
Most engineering occupations are considerably larger than marine engineering. The exceptions include mining and geological engineers, which consist of 5,900 American workers, and agricultural engineers, of which there are just 2,600 in the United States.
The Impact of Energy and Environmental Stability on the Field
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
What makes a background in marine engineering and naval architecture so sought after, especially as several engineering professions are experiencing little to no job growth or even job declines? A big part of the drive to hire more marine engineers and naval architects is the push for more environmentally friendly seafaring vessels, according to the BLS.
Due to the harm they cause the natural environment, matters involving pollution and emissions are under a great deal of scrutiny today. To reduce the carbon footprint of the ships used to transport goods and materials – and particularly energy resources such as liquefied natural gas – marine engineers and naval architects are designing new ships that operate in more eco-friendly ways, the BLS reported. These engineers also do the crucial work of upgrading existing vessels to function while producing less environmentally harmful waste and byproducts and using fewer resources.
One environmental area of particular interest to marine engineers is sustainable wind energy. Today’s marine engineers are finding work in the development, design and implementation of offshore wind turbines for clean energy production.
Wind turbines have become more efficient, cheaper to build and maintain and more reliable, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Besides not taking up physical space on land, offshore wind turbines tend to be more efficient than land-based turbines.
How Modern Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture Programs Emphasize Sustainability
The increased emphasis on environmentally responsible design of ships and systems and on the engineering of offshore wind farms makes it crucial that today’s marine engineering programs evolve to address these industry needs. Fortunately, sustainability has become an important focus of engineering schools in this and other disciplines of engineering.
In terms of student learning outcomes, developing knowledge of and concern for environmental factors and sustainability of systems and designs is now right up there with considering economics, health and safety and manufacturability factors. The marine engineering programs at some engineering schools are pursuing projects and research directly related to environmental sustainability. For example, students, faculty and alumni of marine engineering programs are working on predicting and intervening in coastal erosion, reducing water pollution and developing water-based systems of generating energy.
Students may choose elective courses specific to sustainability or pursue a concentration that focuses on environmental aspects of engineering, such as environmental impact analysis, HAZMAT spill response planning and environmental risk management.