Licensed Engineers - State of the Job Market?

I’m a Maritime Academy grad and I’ve been working as a Mechanical Engineer at a desk job for the past few years. I am also a private pilot and working towards becoming a flight instructor and eventually an ATP. While it’s been fun, I can only see my spouse (who is in college in a different town) on the weekends and the pay isn’t the best.

I feel it makes sense for me to go out and sail. It would give me more time than my current job with my spouse and give me stretches of time to fly. Plus, the ME jobs where my spouse lives aren’t interesting to me and don’t pay any better.

I’ve spoken to a few friends in the industry. A couple of them say that its great and I should go for it, and one other who went shoreside said not to. I already have my documents renewed and ready to go, and I’m speaking with some companies with some offers on the table. In most cases the pay is 20% better than what it is in my current role.

What is the current situation in the shipping industry? I have heard whispers of A/E’s leaving for better-paying shoreside jobs and massive shortages in both non-union and union positions

Since I have short-term (≤3 years in the industry) goals, does it make sense to shoot for union or non-union jobs?

I see a lot of ads for engineers. I’d go non union…

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A 3rd assistant or better with all the stcw bells and whistles can damn near have their choice of jobs. An even time schedule on a tug or osv paying anywhere from 110k to 150k a year shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I believe crowley is still offering hiring bonuses for engineers in some of their fleets.

There have been some recent threads here about how deep sea shipping/unions are hurting for officers. There’s also been threads about shore based opportunities for engineers that ‘pay the same’ as working offshore but it seems that those leads that are mentioned here are more vague and cryptic in my opinion.

If you decide to sail union, i’d only do it if you feel you wanna stick it out for the long haul to ‘reap the benefits’ so to speak.


I believe with AMO you’re vested in the Defined Contribution plan and Money Purchase Benefit plan at 5 years, at which point they should be able to be rolled over into an IRA when you leave.

Probably because once you get used to the loads of money and time off you’ll never want to switch back to working a shitty 9-5 for less than half the pay.

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Sorry, I should rephrase. The one who went shoreside told me not to sail because of multiple reasons. He seems a tad jaded about sailing in general.

Well yeah. Most normal people want to be off holidays and not fly to have to go to work. Nor do most normal people want to be confined to a ship or boat stuck with the same assholes for weeks on end.


Sailing is good but also sucks. Money is pretty solid and the vacation is good if you’re on a longer rotation or live local to the port. Flying in for short hitches eats it up.

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I hate to say it, but damn near everyone is jaded on sailing. As @Ctony mentioned, it is not a profession occupied by “normal” people. I wish the office and industry types would remember that when they are wondering where all the sailors are to fill these billets. Not that it is a hard life, just not for everyone.


I resemble that remark. . . .

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Well said. For me, its all about the time off. Working with mostly good people is critical and of course decent equipment and a competent office softens the blow as well.


Feel free to apply at HORNBECK Offshore. You’ll get a sense of the job offers and opportunities to move up. Also the perks of working in the private sector.

Highly recommend MSC if you only want to sail for a few years. 3rd A/E’s get a $33,000 sign on bonus. Pay is good, they make $7,500-$10,000 every two weeks on ship I am on. Also opportunity to advance your license fast.

If you do Ctl+F and search “Engineer” on AMO’s job board, there are over 100 results, majority 3A/E, but all ranks available. I don’t know how many ships AMO actually has, but that has got to be close to all of them.

I get the vibe if you are a licensed engineer you can do whatever the fuck you want right now.

If I were in your shoes, I would not go back to sea, perhaps investigate job hopping and looking around for a better paying shoreside job. The grass is not greener on the other side, it is brown everywhere. That being said, I understand what you are trying to do, it’s totally doable, get that money and pay for your flying time, I hear good things out of the Gulf right now.

It should go without saying but if the goal is to see your spouse, this should not be on your list of doors to knock on.


yea, fun travel and adventure (and payola) but if you expect to sail a licensed position and be home on the weekend it don’t happen much.

Original poster, if the goal is to get the ATP and fly for a living, MEBA offers great flexibility and also can always be there for the airline furloughs.

PM me if you want to talk more about ATP and MEBA and engineering.

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Right now you can pretty sail wherever you’d like. The AMO board is full of good paying 3rd engineer jobs, everything from box boats, government contracts, to tankers. There is money to be made if you want it. The offshore companies are hiring as well and they also pay well. It comes down to what is important to you, job security/longer hitches (union) or money/shorter hitches (offshore oil and gas). Having worked in both sectors, they each have their pros and cons.

To put some perspective on sailing and going shoreside I spent 13 years sailing on a variety of vessels. The majority of my time spent on the tankers with AMO. I got paid well and always had a job. That being said when I hit my mid to late 30’s a shoreside opportunity came up that was near my house and paid close to what I made as 1AE. Needless to say I took the shoreside gig and could not be happier being able to go home every night. Oh I still only work 6 months a year as well.


Sailing makes the most sense for me right now. I currently see my spouse 2 days a week or 30% of the year. Sailing lets us see each other 50% of the year. That’s still not as good as the ~75% I get from a shoreside job, but scheduling training flights around a 9-5 is not an easy task and neither is coping with the mind-numbing nature of office jobs.

For me personally, getting my hands dirty, doing rounds as a turd third, dealing with insane shipmates, or just listening to the bus bar hum in an ECR as my brain melts away, all sounds better than sitting in an office all day writing emails, dealing with incompetent and ineffectual bosses, attending useless meetings and, worst of all, being immersed in a bizarre theatrical cult known as “company culture” where everybody pretends they show up out of love for the company.

I appreciate all the advice and perspective in this thread. I understand the grass may be brown everywhere but at least we get to pick which patch of grass we sit on. I will take a look at MEBA and AMO jobs and measure them against my current job as well as the non-union 3rd A/E job I accepted. I’m sure I’ll figure it out one way or another.