How to Become a Subsea Engineer

How to Become a Subsea Engineer: Step-By-Step Guide

Although there are other paths to take, the most common way to become a subsea engineer is to follow these essential steps:


1. Make sure you have the right personal attributes for this work

2. Pursue a mechanical, ocean or subsea engineering degree

3. Get relevant work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities 

4. Get an entry-level subsea engineering job after graduation

5. Purse a graduate degree in subsea engineering and earn ‘Professional Engineer’ status

6. Advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay, consulting, specialization, research or teaching


Reading on below will give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a subsea engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this field, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and actual “Subsea Engineer” job postings.



What Education Will I Need?

Employers looking to fill subsea engineer jobs typically seek candidates that have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, systems, electrical, petroleum, subsea or ocean engineering, or a similar field, with a focus on coursework in subsea engineering. 


Some employers may require that you have a master’s degree, particularly for research and teaching positions.  




What is a Subsea Engineer? 

Subsea engineers are responsible for carrying out or overseeing the design, construction, installation and maintenance of offshore drilling rigs, sub-sea wellheads, transportation equipment, pipelines, military defence systems and other underwater structural and mechanical systems, controls, technology and equipment.  



What Does a Subsea Engineer Do?

Although their job duties can vary dramatically based on their industry of operation, the amount of responsibility inherent in their jobs, and other factors, subsea engineers are generally responsible for the following:


• Developing or improving equipment and product testing procedures

• Writing performance requirements for product, tool, equipment or systems development

• Making calculations by hand, and by using specialized engineering software 

• Using computer aided design software to create geometric models

• Reviewing in-house generated and external contractor documentation (deliverables)

• Understanding relevant regulatory requirements and their application to equipment and installation

• Providing technical and engineering support and guidance to offshore or onsite teams

• Producing budgets and plans for projects

• Overseeing the work of technicians and other staff

• Keeping abreast with technological and regulatory developments in the field

• Using various types of underwater equipment and vehicles

• Using imaging technology and remotely operated vehicles to collect data underwater

• May be involved in underwater diving to install, test maintain or inspect equipment or systems



What Experience Will I Need to Become a Subsea Engineer?

Most entry-level subsea engineering jobs don’t require any work experience above what you gain as part of an internship while completing your engineering degree. 


Mid and senior-level roles often require 3-5 years of experience working in lower level roles, with progressive amounts of responsibility in those roles, as well as Professional Engineer certification. 



What Licensure/Certification Will I Need?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians.


You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.


You won't need to have the Professional Engineer designation to be hired on as an engineer-in-training, which involves working under the supervision of a licensed engineer.



How to Become Licensed

Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam. However, these requirements can vary, so please contact your provincial/territorial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.



What Courses Should I Take in High School?

Excelling at math, (trigonometry, algebra, calculus, etc.) chemistry, biology, physics and environmental studies, will serve as excellent preparation for this career while you’re a high school student. Be sure to do well in these areas if you have the opportunity to take any of these courses. 


Success Tip: Excelling at coursework in these areas will help prepare you for the work involved in this career at an early age, and will help you qualify for engineering degree programs!



Should I Become a Subsea Engineer?

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for work as a subsea engineer, you’ll be a standout:


• You're interested in a well-paying career wherein you might be away from home for long periods of time

• You’re interested and talented in science and mathematics 

• You have a keen interest in solving unique engineering problems posed by an underwater environment 

• You have a keen sense of environmental stewardship 

• You’re willing to devote more of your time living on the oceans than living on land

• You’re willing to accumulate the education and experience needed to go far in this field

• You’re acutely aware of the importance of working as part of a team to accomplish engineering projects 



What is the Salary Level of a Subsea Engineer?

Unfortunately there are no salary statistics available for Subsea Engineers from reliable sources. However, this occupation is widely regarded as one of the highest paying in the field of engineering. 


To get a glimpse of what you could earn as a subsea engineer, we can look at a closely related occupation: Petroleum Engineering. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans working in the "Petroleum Engineers" occupational group earn a median salary of $129,990, with the highest 10% of salaries being above $187,200.


Please Note: The specific salary you could earn can vary based on factors such as your level of education and experience, the region in which you work, the industry in which you work, the size and type of your employer, and many other factors.



What Types of Organizations Hire Subsea Engineers?

Subsea engineers often find part-time, full-time or contractual work with the following types of organizations (not an inclusive list):


• Oil, gas and natural resources companies

• Colleges, universities and research institutions 

• Machinery and equipment manufacturers

• The Armed Forces & defence contractors

• Environmental, mechanical, oceanic, petroleum, systems and electrical engineering consulting firms



What Subsea Engineer Jobs Are Available?

Our job board below has "Subsea Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you demonstrate a strong work ethic, dedication and competence, you will have plenty of opportunities to advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay as you gain experience.


For example, with enough experience you could eventually move into a supervisory or management role, being responsible for other engineers, and eventually the entire subsea operations of your employer. You could also become a highly valued specialist in a specific area of subsea operations.


You could also move into teaching and research roles, or become a consultant in the field of subsea engineering. Some of these roles, particularly for teaching and research, would require a graduate degree. 



What is the Work Environment Like?

The working conditions and environment for subsea engineers can vary dramatically from one job to the next. Some jobs are done offsite, mainly based out of an office, and could involve brief visits to site to conduct inspections or for other purposes. 


Other jobs could involve frequently suiting up in diving gear to install and maintain equipment and systems, and would also involve being away from home and living on a boat or offshore drilling station for weeks or months at a time.


Some jobs would also involve remotely controlling underwater vehicles and other data-gathering equipment, tools, vehicles and machinery. 


One commonality between all jobs would be that while some or most of the work would be relatively autonomous, you would be working within a larger team, and likely have to communicate with colleagues and other stakeholders frequently. 



What are Careers Similar to “Subsea Engineer”?

Listed below are career guides in our database for professions that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Subsea Engineer”:


• Aerospace Engineer

• Design Engineer

• Electrical Engineer 

• Environmental Engineer

• Hydrologist

• Mechanical Engineer

• Military Engineer

• Project Engineer

• Robotics Technologist



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Subsea Engineers? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Subsea Engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a subsea engineer:


• Jobs & Careers: “Assistant Subsea Engineer, Subsea Engineer & Subsea Supervisor.” (n.d.). Maersk Drilling. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

• Career Advice for Oil & Gas Jobs: “How to Be a Subsea Engineer.” (n.d.). Michael Page. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Petroleum Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Mechanical Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

• Mining Careers: "Choosing the Profession of Subsea Engineer." (May 11, 2016). Marine Insight. Retrieved February 27, 2017.


Please Note: Some of the information used for this career guide was obtained from actual job postings, which due to their brief online presence are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a subsea engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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