Marine Mechanic

Job Spotlight - Marine Mechanic

If you have a passion for being on the water and like to work on engines, working as a Marine Mechanic might be your dream job. You may be able to make a good living using the skills and knowledge you have about boats, ships and other watercraft. The best part is, you do not have to get a college degree to make this dream a reality.

Quick Facts: Small Engine and Marine Mechanics
2015 Median Pay (Annual)$34,650
2015 Median Pay (Hourly)$16.66
Entry-Level EducationAt Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended EducationPost-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2014-2024 Projected Outlook4% growth (slower than average)
2014 Number of Jobs71,700
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains3,200

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Marine Mechanic FAQs

The information presented on this page is to help you find out how to get started as a Marine Mechanic and other information that can come in handy in this field. We have gathered the best questions that has been sent to us to give you a better understanding of what life as a boat mechanic is like. If you feel we missed a question or you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact us.

What is a Marine Mechanic?

Marine Mechanics, commonly called boat mechanics or marine technicians, work on engines and machinery of watercrafts including boats and ships. Typically working for a dealer or a repair shop, marine techs can be called to docks or marinas to work onsite on larger vessels. Besides the occasional overhaul of a boat’s motor, most boat mechanics spend a majority of their time providing maintenance and inspecting parts to help minimize the risk of malfunction.

A person who gets in to this field must have mechanical aptitude and a desire to learn as technology of maritime craft keeps advancing. Follow-up courses or advanced classes are highly recommended along with earning specialty certifications. Even though you do not need a formal education to work as a marine tech, it is advisable to consider going to school to improve your employment opportunities and possibly your wages.

Boat mechanics normally work for a repair shop or a watercraft dealer, but there are independent or self-employed opportunities for those with the passion to be their own boss. Most Marine Mechanic positions are found near bodies of water such as large lakes, rivers and oceans. Unlike a lot of other mechanic type positions, most states or localities do not require a license.

How to Get Started as a Marine Technician

Quick Info: 4 Steps to Get Started as a Marine Mechanic
High school
• Take shop classes
• Learn to work with tools
• Practice by working on small engines
• Pick an instruction program that best fits you and your abilities
• Choose from vocational schools, on-the-job learning, apprenticeships or joining the military
• Continue practicing on small engines
• Look for a job through networking, internet or local newspaper
• Be ready to prove you can do the work
• You might start out on a probationary period at first
• Plan for off-season employment if necessary
Consider earning voluntary certifications
• Certifications can help boost pay and job opportunities
• Become certified by one or more outboard motor manufacturers
• Test for any of the seven certifications from the American Boat and Yacht Council

Are you interested in a job outdoors with a lake or ocean view? Are you mechanically inclined and have a certain passion for working on boats, ships and other watercraft? If you have answered yes to either of these questions, you may have what it takes to become a marine technician. There are several different steps you can take to make your dream job come true.

Those interested in a future as a Marine Mechanic, also known as a marine technician or a boat mechanic will need to pick the type of instruction they want to learn from. The main choices are trade school, apprenticeship or the U.S. military. Each of these methods have positives and negatives, so we will break down each one to help give you a better understanding on which one is right for you.

Trade School

Quite a few technical schools and community colleges found near waterways offer courses for Marine Mechanics. You will have the opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of 2 and 4 cycle engines, welding, electrical and ignition systems as well as diagnostics and proper use of tools. Part of the course is directed at helping students understand the importance of using a methodical or analytical approach when dealing mechanical problems.

Most technical or trade schools and community college programs in boat mechanics will offer training in a dual environment. The classroom instruction is for the theoretical side of the field and a shop or lab to get some experience using the tools, overhauling and engine and generally learning the mechanics side of it. Some schools have internships lined up for students to get some real field experience.

Students will have the option to pursue a certificate or an associate’s degree while attending most of these programs. It will take between one and two years to finish formal courses. Some employers see formal education as a plus when looking at applicants for jobs. Plus, a person with a degree may have a better chance at promotions and raises.


  • Possible advantage on employment and advancement
  • Internships may be available
  • Potentially higher salary


  • Tuition cost
  • One to two years of school

If you are not a fan of school, there are always apprenticeship programs that may be offered by some of the watercraft manufacturers, labor union or a boating association. You may even find a few technical schools that offer an apprenticeship program. There is a chance you will have to do some searching to find an apprentice program as some of these programs may only allow a limited number of students.

Most apprenticeships are full-time positions with pay and chances at incremental raises. Most of these programs do include special classroom sessions which may be paid for by your sponsor. The coursework involved in apprentice programs is mostly on-the-job learning working beside experienced Marine Mechanics who teach you the ropes.

As apprentice you will have your hands dirty while working on inboard and outboard engines, hydraulic systems and fabricating needed parts, to name a few of the skills you will learn. Depending on where you do your apprenticeship at, you may gain some valuable customer service experience by talking with clients or preparing invoices. Most apprenticeships last between three and four years.


  • On-the-job instruction
  • Gain real experience
  • Get paid to learn


  • Three to four years in apprentice program
  • Possible disadvantage for jobs against those with formal education
  • May be let go if not advancing fast enough
U.S. Military

If you have a desire to give back to you country and still be able to study for a future as a Marine Mechanic, then the U.S. armed forces may be your calling. There are few things more honorable than serving your country and it will be something you can be proud of for your entire life. The U.S. military is the place to go if you want to have new experiences, travel to exotic places and at the same time learn your future trade.

Learning Marine Mechanics in the military is a wonderful opportunity. In a way it is very much like a combination of an apprenticeship and a formal education. You will get on-the-job instruction as well as a very structured classroom instruction on the theoretical side the trade. Advanced instruction is available for those that show initiative and talent.

Depending on the branch of service you choose, you will either be working on a ship or at one of the repair centers on bases around the world. Plus, you will get a generous paycheck, free room and board and opportunities that most non-military will never experience. Most enlistment periods are for four years.


  • Once in a lifetime experiences
  • Get paid to train and travel around the world
  • Serving your country is highly respected and honorable


  • Four year enlistment
  • Could be sent to hostile areas
  • On call 24 hours a day
Get a Job

Sounds fairly obvious but once you have completed your education or your enlistment, you will want to find a job. Some employers may have you start on a probationary period to see if you really do have the skills. Or you could choose to be self-employed by setting up your own shop. This of course requires more than just knowledge on overhauling boat engines. You will need to have some business classes and the ability work with the public.

Certification Options

After you have gained some work experience, you may opt for one of the certifications offered by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). Currently the ABYC has seven different certifications for you to qualify for that can be a boost in your job opportunities and pay. Contact the ABYC for more details on these certification and how they may help you be successful today.

Our Recommendation
We are big believers in education and so are a growing number of employers. By going through a trade school or community college you are showing a commitment to your craft as well as the desire to learn. If you don’t have the money or there isn’t a formal training program held near you, either the military or an apprenticeship are also great options.

Where Can I Find Boat Mechanic Schools?

Quick Info: Factors to Consider When Picking Out a Program
• Cost of instruction
• Reputation of instructors and school
• Graduation rate
• How long the program takes

Marine Mechanic courses can be found at a lot of the technical schools and community colleges that are near areas of water. There are a few different ways that you can locate a school or program. The most obvious way would be to do a search on the internet. This is helpful since you will also get more localized results so you can narrow your search down a bit.

You should keep a few things in mind when searching for a school or program. You will want to make sure that the school has been accredited by a national organization such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). This should provide you a bit of confidence that the program has met the academic qualities necessary to earn the accreditation status.

Another thing to keep in mind is to find a school the best fits you. You will be able to have a better learning experience if you feel comfortable in your surroundings. Plus, learning should not be something you dread doing, but rather you should look forward to it.

Besides being comfortable, the program should provide you the type of education you want. Let’s be honest, you are there to get an education in something you want to do so don’t waste your money if you can’t get all you want from it.


If you are looking for an apprenticeship, a good place to start would be the Association of Marine Technicians (AM-TECH). As one of the biggest marine technician associations in the country, the fine folks at AM-TECH may be able to help you find a qualified apprenticeship. Another great thing about AM-TECH is that they will gladly work with you on certifications and some of their crash courses they hold around the country.


A few of the U.S. military branches have courses for watercraft mechanics. The choice is really up to you which service would best fit you and your personality. The branches that offer Marine Mechanic instruction:

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Coast Guard

Are There Any Online Marine Engine Mechanic Courses?

As you may have guessed, most schools that offer Marine Mechanic programs can be found near areas with bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and oceans. If you happen to not live close enough to a large water source or your current schedule is too busy to take off for school, you may consider going to one of the online Marine Mechanic programs. Take note that are less online marine tech programs since a lot of the study is more hands-on than classroom based.

The type of courses and their curriculum may vary from school to school due to the broad scope of the term marine technology. More than likely you cover fuel compositions, engine and motor repair, metal corrosion, boat design and safety along with other similar courses. In other words, you should be able to complete a lot of the same subjects you would cover in a traditional program, minus the time working in the shop.

Online schools, also known as distance learning can be a lifesaver for a lot of people looking to change their line of work. This is especially true for those who currently hold a full-time job or have family obligations to attend to. Online education is becoming more popular each year and these cyber students are enjoying certain benefits that traditional students may not enjoy. Some of the benefits include:

  • Study from anywhere at any time of the day as long as you have a computer an internet connection
  • Able to study at your own pace
  • No relocation or commute to a campus which can save time and money
  • Ability to enroll in any school with an online program anywhere in the country

We recommend that if possible you should volunteer to spend some time working in a small engine shop or a boat mechanic shop while taking online Marine Mechanic courses. This way you will be able to get some hands-on experience while working towards your degree. Plus, you might be able to earn your way in to a job at the shop you are volunteering at.

How Long do Outboard Motor Mechanic Programs Take?

Marine Mechanic programs can take as short as six months for a certificate program to as long as four years for apprenticeships and military service. You should also be aware that it is highly unlikely you will ever stop learning and training. Between advancements in maritime technologies and maintaining your certifications, you will most likely continue to take classes and seminars for your entire working life. Don’t worry though, most of these continuing education courses and seminars are only a day or two long.

What is a Good Marine Tech Mechanic Description?

As you can probably guess, a basic job description of a Marine Mechanic would be maintenance and repair of engines, machinery and other related equipment of watercraft. While this description can give you a general idea on what the career entails, there are more specific duties involved. Some of these more specific duties include:

  • Sets up and maintains a schedule for preventative maintenance for maritime craft
  • Assembles and disassembles engines, motors and other marine equipment
  • Perform maintenance and repairs hydraulic equipment and valves
  • Fabricates and builds parts as necessary
  • Tests and provides a diagnosis of marine engines and machinery
  • Inspects marine equipment such as pumps, engines, condensers, circulators and other parts
  • Installation of parts, modifications, controls and other marine equipment and electronics
  • Records test data and gauge readings in to engineering log
  • Purchasing of tools, supplies and parts
  • Creates invoices and specs for repairs
  • Provides recommendations and service for customers

What is the Median Motorboat Mechanic Salary?

If you are wondering about what kind of salary a Marine Mechanic makes, you should see the latest from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the 2014-15 report from the BLS, the annual median salary for a motorboat mechanic is $34,650 a year or $16.66 an hour. Not a bad salary for doing something you love and not requiring a 4-year degree.

marine mechanic salary

This number is not a guarantee and your real-dollar salary might be slightly different due to a number of other factors. These factors include:

  • Location
  • Cost of living
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Company
Extra Cash

Those working as a Marine Mechanic can experience some down time through the winter months. During the colder months when most boats are put in to dry dock, you can create a new side business that is closely related to your career. Some boat mechanics make some extra cash by working on small engines such as snowmobiles, portable generators, snow blowers and even motorcycles. This way you will still have a revenue stream while the boating community is playing in the snow.

What is the Outlook for Marine Technicians?

The same report from the BLS has the projected growth of Marine Mechanics slightly slower than the average of all occupations. The estimated growth of new jobs is 4% through the year 2024. Even though this number isn’t overall exciting there is still a chance for growth and employment opportunities within the industry. This number may go up slightly as the economy improves and more people get in to maritime activities.

Marine Mechanic Projected Job Growth

Are There Any Boat Mechanic Certifications?

If you want to improve your career and possibly reach a higher salary, you should consider earning some of the certifications available for Marine Mechanics. These certifications are voluntary. However, they are highly recommended and will prove to clients and potential employers you have the expertise to work in these areas.


The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has eight different professional certifications for you to choose from. You will currently need to attend one of the conventions and seminars so you can sign up and pursue them. In the future ABYC promises to have online certification programs. The categories that you can earn certifications in are:

  • Electrical
  • Marine Corrosion
  • Marine Systems
  • ABYC Standards
  • Diesel Engine and Support Systems
  • Gasoline Engine and Support Systems
  • Composite Boat Building
  • Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

ABYC certifications are valid for five years and must be re-certified to avoid loss. Re-certification is completed via an online exam which can be completed two hours. This re-certification exam should not be a concern as long as you stay up to date with the changes in your area of expertise.

Manufacturer Certifications

Most manufacturers of watercraft have their own certifications to work on their equipment. Typically these certifications are for those marine technicians who work for a dealer or an authorized repair company. You can earn one of these manufacturer certifications after gaining some experience, completing the courses and passing the exams. Normally these courses are held both online and in person.

Some of the types of manufacturer certifications you can earn include:

Volvo Penta



Suzuki Outboard



Mercury Marine

Nissan Marine

Since manufacturer certifications can be so important for marine mechanics as far as job opportunities, advancement and possibly higher wages, re-certification takes place every year. Those who hold one of these certifications must complete a number of hours continuing education either online or in through in classroom courses. It is important to not let this certification expire since one would have to start the process all over again.

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