Marine engineering is a discipline that designs and builds ocean-going vessels and other structures that are used in the water. With the majority of the world’s trade goods traveling overseas in cargo or container ships, the job of a marine engineer is as important as ever. Marine engineers need to have a strong background in math, fluid and thermal dynamics and electrical engineering. They work on the mechanical systems of ships, like steering and propulsion, and ensure that ships are capable of operating in the extreme conditions they will encounter in the open ocean.

Degrees in Marine Engineering

Some universities offer a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering that is sometimes combined with a degree in naval architecture. These degrees generally take four years to complete and prepare graduates for careers in shipbuilding both in the U.S. and internationally, or in other offshore industries like drilling. All marine engineering degrees begin with foundational courses in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering, as well as introductions to the computer assisted design programs used by modern engineering professionals. Many programs then allow students the chance to take part in a practical design project as part of a senior thesis.

Computer Science

The majority of modern engineering problems are solved using advanced computer programs that allow marine engineers to design and test a ship design without having to build expensive physical models. Using computer-aided design programs requires a substantial amount of computer skill and high school students can prepare for this challenge by taking any classes that are available in computer science or other courses that involve extensive computer use. Some possible courses are introduction to computer science and advanced placement computer science, if they are available.


A large portion of a marine engineer’s job relates to solving problems involving the interaction of ships and ship systems with water, oil and heat. As a result, the physics subjects of thermal dynamics and fluid dynamics are very important parts of the marine engineering curriculum. High school students who are interested in careers in marine engineering can begin to prepare for these courses by taking introductory physics classes or advanced placement physics, if available, that introduce students to basic physics concepts and problems.

Mathematics and Statistics

Marine engineering, like other engineering and natural science disciplines, is primarily based upon mathematics. All marine engineering programs require students to take courses in calculus and differential equations, as well as in statistics. These classes are necessary for students to understand the higher-level engineering classes taken in the marine engineering program. In high school, students interested in marine engineering should take as many mathematics courses as available. Typical course options, in chronological order, are pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2, pre-calculus, calculus and statistics. Courses such as AP Calculus AB and BC, and AP Statistics are particularly useful because they prepare students for the rigor of college level mathematics.