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Career Guide for Marine Mechanics

marine mechanics career
Are you looking for some more information about marine mechanics? If so, then you have come to the right place. Our updated career guide for boat mechanics covers the topics you want to know about but cuts through the fluff to give you the straight information.

Learn more about the type of training you should expect to go through and our opinions on why formal training is important to get a head in this industry. You can read about what the official projections say about marine mechanics and what it looks like for the future. You will get the straight dope on what you should know and how to make it all possible if you want one of these rewarding and fantastic careers.

All of the information on marine mechanics found on this page was gathered from top experts around the country. We want you to have a full understanding about what this career is and what you can expect if you decide to become one. Marine mechanic careers may not be for everyone but for those that want it should know all they can about this career.

If you have any questions or suggestions on how to make this page better, please do not hesitate to email us directly. We want you and others to use this website as your go-to resource for career info on marine mechanics.

What Are Marine Mechanics?

In a simple answer, marine mechanics are in charge of working on, repairing of and maintaining inboard and outboard boat engines. Their work can involve something as simple as an oil change to jobs that are little more complicated like overhauling an engine. Marine mechanics are trained to fix almost any problem that your boat or ship may have.

Marine mechanics are basically trained as small engine mechanics except they choose to specialize in waterborne vehicles such as boats and jet skis. Most of them work on smaller craft such as fishing or speed boats you could find at your local dock. There are some marine mechanics you will find that work exclusively on larger craft like large commercial ships.

EducationPersonality TraitsJob DescriptionWork EnvironmentSalary and Outlook

Recommended Education for Outboard Motor Mechanics

As with other mechanic careers, those working in marine mechanics should undergo some formal training of some kind. This is mainly due to the increased use of technology such as computers and electronics. But also you may find that a growing number of employers are looking for marine mechanics with post-secondary education.  Here is a list of our recommendations for getting an education and why you should if you want a career in marine mechanics.

  • You can choose to enroll in an apprenticeship program to learn how to become a boat mechanic
  • Apprenticeships take at least 12 months to complete before you are qualified to work alone
  • Recent studies show that those attending post-secondary education have a better chance at being hired and getting a higher pay
  • Most marine mechanics training programs can be found at technical or vocational schools, community colleges and some career centers
  • Typically these training programs in coastal areas
  • Almost all of the boat mechanics training programs offer certificate programs while the community colleges also offer associate degrees
  • Certificate programs generally take 9 to 12 months to complete
  • Those who have graduated with a certificate have a slight advantage for finding jobs over those that finish apprenticeships on average
  • Associate degree programs can usually be completed in 20 to 24 months going full-time
  • The extra training you receive in an associate degree program includes advanced classes along with general education courses like math, business, computer science, etc.
  • Graduates with an associate degree typically have better job prospects and potentially higher pay
  • In some cases, those holding an associate degree may have an advantage when it comes to promotions or those thinking of opening their own marine mechanics shop
  • While industry certifications are voluntary, they can improve earning potential and employment opportunities
We do have a page on marine mechanic schools if you would like to read more on what to expect.

Traits and Skills of Boat Mechanics

Being mechanically inclined in one trait that can be very important for marine mechanics. Did you know there are other skills and traits that are also important? Below is a list of some of the skills and traits that marine mechanics should have if they really want to make it in the industry.

  • Muscle Steadiness: Being able to keep your hand or arm steady while moving other parts of your body
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: The ability to make precise and coordinated movements as well as being able to hold or grab small objects
  • Logical Reasoning: Having the ability to connect or combine pieces of information or data to form a conclusion including detecting a relationship between unrelated incidents
  • Sensitive Hearing: Being able to distinguish or detect sounds that may vary in pitch
  • Good Vision: The ability to see objects either far or away clearly including specific details
  • Depth Perception: Having the ability to judge distances or tell which objects are closer or farther away
  • Pattern Recognition: Being able to arrange objects or actions according to a pattern or specific order that follows a set of rules
  • Visualization: The ability to imagine what something will look like if it is moved, rearranged or parts are removed
  • Flexibility: Capable of twisting, moving, bending, reaching and stretching body, arms and legs
  • Mathematics: Being able to quickly and correctly add, subtract, multiple and divide
  • Stamina: The ability to stand or move for long periods of time without being winded or thoroughly exhausted
  • Low Light Vision: Capable of making out objects and seeing in dim lit areas
  • Glare Sensitivity: Capable of seeing in brightly lit environments
  • Peripheral Vision: Being able to see movement or objects on the side while eyes are faced forward
  • Core Strength: Having the power to move, carry, pull or pickup objects
  • Agility: The ability to keep your balance in an unstable position
  • Movement Control: Capable of timing movements or the movement of equipment in anticipation of changes
  • Multi-Tasking: Being able to shift between projects or activities quickly
  • Communication Skills: Capable of reading, writing and speaking with others also being able to listen and understand
  • Focus: Being able to block out distractions while working on a task for a long period of time
  • Active Learning: Continue learning and adapting to methods or technologies
  • Problem Solving: Having the ability to plan, detect, examine and fix problems in a timely manner
  • Time Management: The ability to manage your and other people’s time
  • Judgment and Critical Thinking: Capable of using logic to find solutions or conclusions while realizing the potential costs of such actions

Marine Mechanics Job Description

The blanket statement of what marine mechanics do is that they repair and maintain inboard and outboard motor powered watercraft. The list of responsibilities and duties of boat mechanics is much in-depth than that simple blanket statement. Below are some of the many tasks associated with marine mechanics on any given day.

  • Talk with customers to find out what issues they are having with their craft
  • Create an estimate of cost for the customer to look over
  • Inspect and examine parts for wear and tear
  • Perform routine maintenance such as oil changes to lengthen the life of the motor
  • Check and adjust generators
  • Replace faulty wiring
  • Disassemble engines and replace worn out or broken parts
  • Reassemble engines after repairs and remount on boats
  • Test drive boats or watercraft to either detect issues or ensure the repair fixed the problem
  • Start up the engines and monitor for any performance issues such as smoke, backfiring or excessive vibrations
  • Monitor the thermometers to check how the effect the cooling system is running
  • Inspect and replace or repair propellers or the propeller shafts
  • Replace gears, magneto points, spark plugs or piston rings if necessary
  • Perform adjustments on carburetor mix
  • Make adjustments to the electrical point settings
  • Repair steering and throttle controls
  • Examine and repair power tilts, power take-offs and bilge pumps
  • Take apart and reassemble transmission
  • Perform mechanical cleaning and flushing
  • Check fluid levels and refill where needed
  • Monitor hydraulics and check for leaks or cracks
  • Use diagnostic equipment to find faulty or defective parts or systems
  • Document all work performed, parts used and time it took to fix for final invoice

Where do Marine Mechanics Work?

Most marine mechanics work at marinas or dock areas. You will find some of the facilities to be well ventilated and well-lit while other facilities are mostly outdoors. More than likely, marine mechanics will have to work outside at some point so they will be at the mercy of the local weather.

A few of the top industries that employ marine mechanics can be found in the chart below.

Work Location % of Employed
Retail/Dealerships 38%
Recreation and Entertainment 21%
Other Services 20%
Self-Employed 11%
Other 10%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Marine Mechanic Salary and Job Outlook

Fast Facts: Marine Mechanics
2013 Median Pay (Yearly) $36,090
2013 Median Pay (Hourly) $17.35
2012 Number of Jobs 21,000
2012-22 Added New Jobs 5,500
2012-22 % Job Growth 7%

Source: O*Net OnLine

What Types of Certifications Should I Get as an Outboard Motor Mechanics?

As we previously discussed, industry certifications are voluntary but highly recommended for your career. There are only a few certifications that marine mechanics should consider getting. One is from the American Boat & Yacht Council. The other certifications is becoming factory trained.

American Boat & Yacht Council CertificationsManufacturer Certifications

American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) Marine Technician Certification

abyc certification for marine mechanicsThe ABYC offers 8 different certifications for mid-to-high level experience marine mechanics. Each certification can be earned after successfully completing the required class and exam. The ABYC certifications are valid for 5 years then you will need to re-test in order to remain certified.

The 8 certifications offered by ABYC are:

  • Marine Electrical
  • Marine Corrosion
  • Marine Systems
  • ABYC Standards
  • Diesel Engines
  • Gasoline Engines
  • Marine Composites
  • A/C-Refrigeration
After you have earned 3 of the 8 certifications, you will be given the title of Master Certified Technician (MCT).

Factory Trained

Most boat and engine manufacturers offer the chance for you to become factory trained on their products. This means that you will become an expert on specific brand or type for warranty purposes. This type of training is extremely advantageous for both you and your employer as it creates a sense of professionalism for your customers

Typically employers will send some of their marine mechanics to these seminars to become a certified factory trained mechanic. Most of those that go through factory training work for a dealership or are part of an authorized repair shop. Generally, factory trained certifications are good for one year and must be retested to keep it valid.

Some companies that may offer factory training for marine mechanics include:

Thoughts on the Boat Mechanics Career

Those who are looking for a career that is off the beaten path a bit, may like what those working as marine mechanics have. Each day has the potential to bring something different to job list and few days are ever the same. A career in marine mechanics may be exactly what you are looking for and if so, why are you waiting?

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