Becoming a Cruise Ship Diesel Mechanic - Diesel Mechanic Guide

Becoming a Cruise Ship Diesel Mechanic

The perks of working as a cruise ship diesel mechanic do not stop at waking up to the smell of salt water and the crash of waves against the side of the ship.

With the ability to visit new countries and meet new people on a weekly basis, most may believe that thousands of mechanics are lining up for vacant cruise ship mechanic job postings.

As with most diesel mechanic employers, cruise lines are only seeking individuals who have earned the proper certifications to work on a ship.

With the marine equipment mechanic industry expected to grow faster than normal at 13 percent over the next 10 years, cruise lines are having a difficult time finding the certified talent they need to work on their ships.

Individuals who wish to become a cruise ship diesel mechanic have several training and educational benchmarks they must hit prior to applying for open positions.

diesel mechanic on cruise ship

Skill Requirements

Before beginning any training program, cruise ship diesel mechanics, also known as a ship engineers, need to verify that they have the skills necessary to succeed in this field of expertise.

While on board, cruise ship mechanics will be responsible for monitoring the following components of the ship:

  • Boilers
  • Generators
  • Pumps
  • Electrical equipment

Since most cruise ships are often very large, ship engineers work as a team to make sure everything is running smoothly. Ship engineers need to run diagnostics on malfunctioning equipment, perform maintenance on engine equipment, and replace any faulty components in a timely fashion.

As far as specific personal skills, the ideal cruise ship diesel mechanic will possess the following characteristics:

  • Familiarity with computer systems
  • Exceptional communication skills with coworkers
  • Extensive experience with power tools
  • Ability to work as a team player
  • Familiarity with common ship systems
  • Ability to critically think through difficult problems
  • Ability to pass a drug and background screening

While not all cruise ship mechanics are required to live onboard, most open positions require the mechanic to sign up for tours that may last between six to eight months. Individuals interested in becoming a cruise ship diesel mechanic must be willing to spend a reasonable amount of time away from their families every year in order to be successful and obtain job stability in this industry.

Educational Requirements

For those who meet the above requirements and skill traits, pursuing the proper degree is the next item on the list. To work as a cruise ship diesel mechanic, individuals who have an associate’s degree in diesel technology need to earn their bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from a maritime academy or college.

During this time, students will spend at least one semester at sea, gaining the hands-on training they need to diagnose and repair common ship engine problems. Taking up to five years to complete, this program requires the completion of the following courses:

  • Thermal dynamics
  • Electrical engineering
  • Gas turbines
  • Ship systems
  • Hydraulics
  • Engineering mechanics
  • Instrumentation

During this time, students will have to choose the ship specialty they are interested in working on. Diesel mechanics who wish to work on cruise ships will want to discuss their options with their career counselor, who will then suggest the specific list or courses to complete.


Graduates from the marine engineering program will need to earn the proper merchant mariner credentials, or MMCs, through the United States Coast Guard (USCG) before they can legally work on a ship. The first license that aspiring cruise ship diesel mechanics need to earn is their Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).

As a federal U.S. Coast Guard requirement, those seeking to earn the TWIC card must first go through extensive background checks to verify their identity and any potential wrongdoings.

To make the process as smooth as possible, applicants should compile the following:

  • Proof of citizenship
  • Maritime training documentation
  • Proof of sea experience
  • Successful passing of drug and medical examinations
  • Three character references

Upon completion of these requirements, graduates must take their MMC engineering exams. These exams cover the areas of control engineering, electronics, engineering safety, and environmental protection. Cruise ship diesel mechanics will also have to take the correlating exam to legally work on ships with diesel propulsion engines.

Individuals who pass their first set of MMC exams are given the position endorsement of third assistant engineer, which allows them to legally work on a cruise ship.

Career Outlook

Studies conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) find that approximately 81,600 people work in the water transportation industry across the United States, with the average salary being $48,980 a year.

Although the BLS does not break down the number of cruise ship diesel mechanics, the water transportation industry is predicted to experience an increased growth rate over the next few years.

According to economists’ predictions, this employment growth will add another 10,900 water transportation positions across the country.

The location and exploration opportunities offered as a cruise ship diesel mechanic make this industry an enticing career for individuals with a mechanical mindset.

The growth over the coming years means that the demand for certified cruise ship mechanics will only continue to increase.

Individuals who are interested in pursuing a cruise ship diesel mechanic certification should begin researching available educational programs as soon as possible.

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