What Career Opportunities are Available for Marine Motor Mechanics?
Marine motor mechanics repair and perform routine service on all types and sizes of boats, from small fishing boats to expensive luxury yachts. Since boating is a popular sport, especially among older people who can afford the hobby, marine motor mechanics is a field that always offers work. Most marine mechanics work at the repair shop of boat dealerships or boat rental companies where they deal with smaller boats and Jet Skis, or at marinas where they repair and service large crafts. A good marine motor mechanic can expect to make up to $35,000 per year.
Mechanics spend their working day taking apart boat motors, diagnosing problems, and making repairs. They check wiring, carburetors, and propellers. They inspect and repair inverters and bilge pumps. They must document their work either by hand or on a computer, and they usually test the boat after all repairs are finished. For small boats, they may work with fish finders and trolling motors. In larger yachts, such as cabin cruisers and houseboats, they may also work on stereo systems, electric anchors, and winches. They paint the interior and exterior of these boats and apply gel-coats to protect boat decks from weather and sun.
Most people who choose a career in marine mechanics like to work outside. For those who choose to work at a marina, there is an on-the-water atmosphere that is both exciting and relaxing. Mechanics can expect good tips if they are working at a marina that services large yachts. Some mechanics eventually become boat or boat parts salesmen, which can lead to larger salaries and commissions. A few eventually open their own repair shops.
Marine motor mechanics typically pursue a vocational path in high school, taking classes in mechanics, engine repair, and business math. After graduation, they may go to work right away at a boat shop. Or, they may work through a two-year degree at a community college or vocational school. Their training includes an apprenticeship with experienced marine mechanics. Getting an associate degree in marine motor mechanics lets a student transfer credits to other school programs in technology if he later wants to try something different. The starting salary is usually higher for a graduate of these two-year programs; it is worthwhile to look for a good school that offers this specialized degree.
While in school, students receive training in basic engine repair, welding, electronics, outboard motors, inboard motors, two-stroke and four-stroke engines and marine shop. Toward the end of training, they also learn about diagnosing electrical, fuel and mechanical boat problems using computerized troubleshooting programs.
New employees initially work under an experienced mechanic. They do routine work, such as changing spark plugs. Employers say it takes a new mechanic about three to five years to learn everything. Some large repair shops like employees to specialize in certain tasks, such as propeller repair or motor repair. In smaller shops, mechanics usually work in all repair areas, including painting and fiberglass repair.
Some marine mechanics start their career working in related fields, such as car or motorcycle repair, but transition their skills to marine work. On-the-job training is an important component of training.
Many marine motor mechanics work overtime in summer, which is the heavy boating season. Their work may slow down in colder months, but they usually average a 40-hour week. To supplement their income, they often pick up extra work during their time off. Some do motorcycle or other small engine repairs in the winter months. Owners of large boats want major overhaul work done in the winter, so there is almost always work available.
People going into this field need to realize they will spend a lot of time working outdoors, despite uncomfortable weather. They need to be careful to wear sun protection. In addition, they work around harsh chemicals and must frequently wear safety clothing and equipment.
Additionally, marine motor mechanics need to have good customer service skills since they often interact directly with customers. Mechanics who eventually want to own a boat repair business will find weekends to be their busiest times. They will also spend a great deal of time managing employees and dealing with the business aspects of the shop, such as payroll and taxes.
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