Boat Mechanic Career
Boat mechanics, who may also be called small engine specialists or marine technicians, work with customers to repair their broken watercraft. They may work for themselves or within a shop with many other mechanics.
Boat mechanics have to quickly assess and solve problems that customers have with their boats. They must be able to repair engines as well as faults in hulls, sail rigging, and other boat-related problems. They must have an understanding of manufacturer's warranties and any local engine emission standards. Mechanics must create estimates of repair costs and work with customers to find solutions to their problems.
Education and Training
This profession does not have a required level of education, and some boat mechanics learn what they need from an apprenticeship or from teaching themselves. However, there are classes available at many trade schools that are offered in both comprehensive course work or in short, directed courses dealing with very specific aspects of boat repair. Whichever path you choose, remember than most employers prefer to have concrete proof that prospective employees have the necessary skills to do their job properly. Most employers will require boat mechanics to posses a scuba license, which allows the mechanic to inspect boats which cannot practically be removed from the water.
While a high-end degree in marine technology may cost as much as $25,000, educational costs can vary wildly from school to school, if you even choose to attend school at all. The cost of attaining a scuba license varies, but is usually around $200. However, purchasing and maintaining the scuba gear can be a daunting upfront cost for some, with a full set of quality gear costing upwards of $4,000 in some places, notwithstanding maintenance and refilling fees. Additionally, it may be necessary in some cases for the mechanic to purchase their own tools, which can cost thousands of dollars. It may be necessary to find a second source of revenue in areas where boating is not a year-round activity.
Funding and Scholarships
There are no nationwide scholarships aside from Federal aid, Pell grants and Stafford Loans for boat mechanics or small engines specialists. However, some employers may be willing to help with the cost of schooling, and there are some local trade schools which offer financial aid for students. Places in which boating is a large part of the local economy tend to have more opportunities available, but it may be necessary for prospective students to take out a private loan for their education.
Job Openings and Opportunities
Most openings for boat mechanics are through small local shops, though sometimes a large, corporate venture will have one on hand, especially if there is a need for such professionals in the area. Big box stores, department stores and hardware stores may keep a mechanic with marine experience on their roster to help with customers attempting their own repairs or to oversee the sections of their stores which cater to other mechanics.
Boat mechanics tend to earn between $10 and $25 per hour, with higher pay rates going to those with more certification and experience. Many mechanic shops pay on a per-job basis though, so this is only an average. Despite the per-hour rate, some boat mechanics earn as little as $20,000 a year due to the off season lasting as long as eight months in some colder climates. For this reason, those who choose to go into this industry often choose to relocate to areas in which their services are in demand year-round.
The career outlook for this profession depends heavily on the amount of training an individual has. As boating equipment becomes more highly technically complex and boaters rely more heavily on computer aided systems, keeping up with the advances is necessary to stay competitive. For a top of the line, fully updated and certified boat mechanic, the career outlook is very good, and the field of high end marine mechanics is projected to grow by 24% over the next ten years. However, for those with little to no certification, the career is only expected to grow by around 20%, so be certain to stay on top of the technology.
For those who are mechanically minded but who have a passion for the water, this is a great opportunity. As long as you keep your skills maintained and your customer service skills in tune, work will be plentiful. There is not much room for advancement, but there is always the possibility of building a customer base and starting your own business if you are ambitious.