Electricians wire the world, connecting homes, factories, businesses, construction sites and much more to the electrical grid. Marine electricians are responsible for the electrical wiring that powers the equipment and fixtures found on a ship or in a shipyard.
See more about this seafaring electrician career path below.
What Does a Marine Electrician Do?
Similar to general electricians, their work revolves around three primary electrician job functions:
Marine electricians install navigation and power management systems. They use hand tools to fasten conduits to bulkheads with screws and brackets and then thread wires through the conduits to the terminals for circuit breakers, switch panels, connection boxes and voltage regulators.
A marine electrician may also be responsible for connecting the power-supply circuits for important on-board equipment, for example the sonar, radio, fire control and radar systems.
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Repairing broken two-way radios, faulty fuses and switches and electrical shorts can be part of a marine electrician’s day. He or she may need to replace batteries and wiring.
Troubleshooting may be necessary to identify issues with electrical equipment. Common electrician tools, for example voltmeters and ohmmeters, can help with testing voltage and resistance when determining what the problem is and how to fix it.
Marine electricians are often tasked with maintaining all of the ship’s electrical systems, both those of onboard devices and of the vessel. It can be crucial to keep safety and emergency systems operating, so maintaining and repairing this equipment is often part of a marine electrician’s job.
These tradespeople maintain and repair circuit breakers, generators, electrical motors, alarm and lighting circuits, switchboards, distribution panels and controllers, as well.
Where Do Marine Electricians Work?
If you’re considering becoming a marine electrician, then you might find the most job opportunities in Florida, Texas and California.
- California employs the most marine electricians: 1,850 of them ply their trade in the Golden State.
- Texas had the second highest number of marine electricians: 870 workers.
- Florida was the third top employer, with 830 of these pros working in the Sunshine State.1*
What types of companies usually employ marine electricians? A range. The military, shipbuilders, government agencies and maintenance firms offering services to the owners of boats and ships.
How Much Do Marine Electricians Make?
In 2020, the average annual wage for all electricians in the United States was $61,550, or $29.59 an hour, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, electrician earnings varied, with those in the lowest 10th percentile earning $33,810 a year on average ($16.26 an hour) and those in the top 10th percentile taking home $98,730 annually ($47.46 an hour).2, **
It’s safe to assume, then, that marine electricians’ earnings would fall within the range of wages provided by the labor department for all electricians. And data from PayScale supports this: the site indicated that marine electricians earn $24.09 an hour.
Electricians in the 25th percentile of earners made $20.57 an hour, according to the BLS.2,**
How to Become a Marine Electrician
Writing generally about all electricians, the labor department suggests that many electricians learn the trade through a combination of technical training and on-the-job training, oftentimes an apprenticeship. Depending on which state the electrician works in, he or she may also need to have a license.
Similar requirements can be seen in the job market for electricians:
- High school education
- Trade school electrician training
- Technical or professional certification
- Marine electrician journeymen certification
Marine Safety and Security Training
Some employers of marine electricians also ask that job applicants hold special safety and security certifications. The certifications can cover subjects like basic personal safety and social responsibilities and maritime security awareness.
Why Become a Marine Electrician?
As you can see, marine electricians play an important part in maintaining the safety and navigational equipment on ships.
Some ships can carry especially complex equipment. Mercy Ships, for example, house state-of-the-art hospitals. And the doctors on these roving emergency rooms couldn’t do their jobs if it weren’t for marine electricians. They not only keep the lights on but also the equipment necessary to save lives.
Whether the prospect of traveling while getting to build and fix things appeals to you, or the thought of helping people in need of medical attention around the globe, there are some great reasons why becoming an electrician could be a good decision.
*According to BLS data Florida employed 41,900 Electricians (47-2111) through May 2020 http://data.bls.gov/oes.
**Jacksonville’s annual mean wage for Electricians (47-2111) is $44,460 and hourly mean wage is $21.37 as of May 2020. BLS website. Average starting salary for TWS Jacksonville Electrical Applications is $38,680 for graduates employed during the 12-month period of 7/1/20-6/30/21.