For those just starting out in their careers, or are looking to change jobs and shift careers, becoming a marine electrician may be a feasible option. Despite the unique challenges and dangers inherent in the job itself, being a marine electrician does offer certain perks such as relatively high pay and the excitement of traveling and being onboard a ship, meeting new people and visiting new places. So you might be wondering, how does one become a marine electrician? Do you have what it takes? How does one become qualified to serve as a marine electrician?
Different pathways that can lead a person to serve as a marine electrician on board a ship. Many undergo vocational degree programs at community colleges, specialized trade schools, or schools of seamanship, some undergo years of apprenticeships, while others enter specialized maritime academies that offer electrical training as part of degree programs such as marine engineering. Also, some colleges offer certification for marine electrical systems.
This is an especially tempting path for electricians working at more general electrician jobs to take. It requires a bit more specialization and additional certifications, but because they already have licenses as electricians, they already have a good and solid foundation to bring to the job. An added perk would be the higher salary grade, as well as the added perks of traveling to interesting places and destinations.
When training to become a marine electrician, students or trainees are expected to learn about electrical theory, system design and maintenance, how to read and work with blueprints, the different types of electronic equipment and how to troubleshoot and fix them, installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of different wiring systems, how to use measuring equipment such as ammeters and multimeters, and power supply and circuits as they work on board ships, boats, and other marine devices.
Upon successful completion of a marine electrician training program, students are expected to have acquired some advanced and specialized skills that they would not otherwise learn or even be familiar with in more general electrical training programs. They acquire familiarity with the use of certain tools such as ohmmeters, voltmeters, and soldering irons, and are expected to have had hands-on experience using these tools and equipment, and working within similar settings such as onboard ships.
The path of being a marine electrician may not necessarily be for everybody, and not all electricians have the penchant for the job of a marine electrician. Quite apart from the specialized knowledge and training, there is also the unique nature of working onboard a ship, working within small, dark, and confined spaces, or on the surface of a swaying ship while exposed to bad weather.
Like other electricians, licensing for marine electricians are often regulated at the state level. This means meeting the general requirements of required school hours and involvement in apprenticeship programs, to which they need to render a certain number of hours to qualify for a license. And while it is true that the nature of the work of marine electricians often takes them outside of a state’s jurisdiction, they will need such licenses whenever the ship is at the dock. After all, an electrician’s work doesn’t stop when the ship has landed. While in the dock, it is a marine electrician’s responsibility to purchase any needed equipment or to get additional help or render additional work to make sure that the ship’s electrical system is functioning well. This means that you will be practicing as an electrician within a state’s jurisdiction. Therefore an electrician’s license is still necessary. To discover the requirements for licensing in your state or the state in which the shipping company has offices, you would need to inquire at the local state’s legislative office to check for applicable laws or statutes.
Additional certifications may be required, depending on the kind of ship you will be working on. In the United States, it is also important for marine electricians to receive certification from the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC). This is touted as the nationwide standard for marine electrician certification, and most chip companies and builders do look specifically for potential candidates who have such a certification.
And finally, marine electricians, in addition to anybody who works or is employed aboard vessels at sea, are required to get two things from the Coast Guard: a TWIC or Transportation Workers Identification Card, and an STCW or Standard of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping. This is a crucial reminder that marine electricians are essentially employed in two highly regulated utility industry: the electrical industry, and transportation. Because of the public interest in these two industries, expect a moderate amount of paperwork to meet all the licensing and regulatory requirements you would need to be able to work as a duly licensed marine electrician.