California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Ship Engineers in Ventura County

May also be called: Deck Engineers; Deck Officers; Engineering Officers; Marine Engineers; Operating Engineers

What Would I Do?

Ship Engineers make sure that cargo and passenger vessels are mechanically sound. To do this, they operate, maintain, and repair engines, boilers, generators, pumps, and other machinery. Four types of engineering officers are customarily found on merchant marine vessels: a Chief Engineer and a First, Second, and Third Assistant Engineer. Assistant Engineers stand assigned watches, overseeing the safe operation of engines and machinery.

Ship Engineers may work seven days a week especially on long voyages. They usually stand watch for 4 hours and are off for 8 hours. Workers on rivers, canals, and in harbors are likely to work year-round. Some work 8- or 12-hour shifts and go home every day. Others may work for a week or month and then have an extended period off. Their shifts are usually 6 or 12 hours, and then they are off for 6 or 12 hours.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Ship Engineer may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions and, to some extent, those who enjoy activities that involve leading people and making many decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The median wage in 2020 for Ship Engineers in California is $83,618 annually, or $40.20 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Because of widespread union membership, Ship Engineers enjoy a wide variey of benefits, including vacation leave pay; sick leave; pension plans; and medical, dental, and vision plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Good job opportunities are expected for Ship Engineers. Increasing international trade will augment hiring centered in major port cities. The demands of the vacation cruise industry may also be a factor in job growth.

How Do I Qualify?

Those considering the occupation must either build up thousands of hours of experience as a deckhand or graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or another maritime academy. In addition to the rigorous educational and training requirements of this occupation, many of the basic qualifications for this job are of a physical nature. Most positions demand muscular strength, physical endurance, good vision, and color perception.

Finding a Job

Ship Engineers usually gain employment through union hiring halls typically found in major seaports. Contact information for local union halls is found through national union Web sites. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

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