We’ve talked about lots of careers on land and even touched on a few in the air – but what about careers at sea?

The Maritime industry in Australia is huge and encompasses a lot more than you might initially think.

The Australian Maritime sector operates at a global level for transport, amongst other things, and at a local and national level for a range of sub-sectors:

  • Fishing & Aquaculture
  • Cruises & Tourism
  • Patrol & Rescue
  • Maritime border force

Australia’s coastline is over 60,000 kilometres in length and has more cruise passengers than any other nation, making it the fourth-largest cruise market in the world!

It’s not just about cruise ship captains or deckhands, though. There’s a range of career paths to explore, such as:

  • Marine Engine Drivers
  • Marine Engineers
  • Marine Surveyors
  • Cooks
  • Integrated Ratings
  • Deck Officers
  • Ships Masters
  • Marina Operations
  • Marine Biology

And more – including a wide range of opportunities within the Australian Defence Force Navy.

The maritime industry sees Australia as a key player in shipping and transport globally, and as such, there’s always ongoing growth and opportunity.

There are multiple ways to get started in the industry, depending on the type of role you’d ultimately like to land.

This includes trainee and apprenticeships, degree pathways, and direct employment.

What You Could Do

There are lots of different ways to explore the industry if you’ve got a passion for all things maritime.

Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:

Marine Engineer

Marine engineers deal with the maintenance and repair of ship’s machinery, from the control room through to engines and motors. It’s a very technical-based role that involves lots of analytical and problem-solving work, alongside a strong head for technical knowledge.

Naval Architect

Naval architects are a highly specialised profession that work on the planning, designing, and development of building new ships and sea vessels. This could be anything from large cargo ships to specialised mission ships (like those venturing to Antarctica) or lifeboats. The role needs excellent technical knowledge and problem-solving skills, as well as the capacity to think innovatively.

Shipbuilding Engineer

Shipbuilding engineers deal with the engineering aspect of the design and construction of ships and marine vessels. Essentially, they take the designs of naval architects and make them a reality. Like other engineering fields, a shipbuilding engineer goes through four years of training to be eligible to work in a shipbuilding yard.

Shipping Freight Broker

Shipping freight brokers act as a link between those looking to ship cargo and those with the ships to transport said cargo. They’ll liaise with both parties to organise all the details, invoices, and payments and ensure that cargo ends up where it’s supposed to be. They may also help to take care of security and border requirements for smooth delivery.

Marine Biologist

As well as careers above water, there’s a wealth of careers below water too. Marine biologists specialise in the research, study and maintenance of ocean and aquatic life. They conduct in-depth experiments, rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured marine animals and monitor animal behaviours for research purposes. They may work for conservation organisations, sea-life and rescue centres, or in research departments within universities.

Cargo Engineer

Cargo engineers work within shipping yards and take responsibility for supervising the loading, discharging and conditioning of cargo transported by ships. This is one field of engineering which is always in demand, especially as shipping networks expand. They need superb organisation and time management skills, as well as the ability to work under pressure to tight deadlines.

These job roles are only just scratching the surface!

The more you explore the sector, the more opportunities you’ll come across.

Graduate Employment and Gender Split

A degree isn’t necessary for some of the roles within the maritime industry unless you want to pursue a career as an engineer or a marine biologist. Apprenticeships tend to be a popular route into many of the career opportunities.

That said, knowing what graduate employment looks like can help set your expectations and make further decisions.

The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.

Here’s the most recent data for this industry:

  • Engineering (Other) Graduates in full-time employment: 86.8%
  • Engineering (Electrical) Graduates employed overall: 82.8%
  • Architecture and Built environment (inc. maritime) Graduates in full time employment: 69.9%

Keeping in mind this doesn’t account for graduates who freelance or may have continued to higher studies, these are promising percentages!

*Figures from 2021 survey results.

Gender Split

The maritime industry is one of the worst for female representation. This does depend on the sub-sector, but reports indicate the current split as:

  • Males: 98%
  • Females: 2%

Women have a higher representation in the maritime tourism and cruise sectors, but there is low representation within the shipping and cargo sector.

There has been a significant increase in the number of women taking up roles in the industry and pursuing an interest in maritime careers.

Many employers actively promote and encourage women to apply for their early career roles.

At Explore Careers, we’re actively working with employers to help them promote Gender Diverse & Gender Positive workplaces.

Average Salary

Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:

  • Marine Engineer Roles: $80,000-$120,000
  • Naval Architect Roles: $90,000-$120,000
  • Shipbuilding Engineer Roles: $95,500-$140,000
  • Shipping Freight Broker Roles: $62,500-$85,300
  • Marine Biologist Roles: $74,500-$110,000
  • Cargo Engineer Roles: $94,400-$130,5adsw300

Salaries can be pretty varied, with lower expectations for entry-level roles.

Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:

  • The segment of the industry you work within.
  • Your job title and seniority.
  • The amount of experience you have.
  • Any additional qualifications or certifications that give you a specialist skillset

Industry Growth

According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, the maritime sector is expected to see significant growth between now and 2025.

Let’s take a look at some of the key data:

  • The maritime industry contributes an estimated $5.76 billion in annual revenue to the Australian economy.
  • This includes an added $2.03 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20.
  • Australia is the fifth largest user of shipping services in the world.
  • 80% of Australia’s imports and exports by value are carried by sea.
  • Employment is currently projected to increase to 15,300 by 2025.

Marine Transport Professionals make up 16% of the workforce and the employment level for this occupation is projected to increase between 2021 and 2025.

Deck and Fishing hands make up around a further 12% of the workforce and the employment level for this occupation is projected to also increase by 2025.

As such a vital component of the Australian economy, there is a lot of support to boost skills and employment pathways into the sector.

You can be sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities to grow and progress with a career in maritime!

Qualifications and Entry Pathways

Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of role you want to get into.

You’ll typically need at least your high school education certificate for most roles and learn on the job while you gain industry-relevant qualifications.

Nationally recognised training for automotive ad mechanical roles are delivered under the regulatory body:

For engineering-focused roles and some management roles within shipping and cargo, you’ll need to complete a relevant degree program, such as:

  • Bachelor of Global Logistics and Maritime Management
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Maritime Design)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Nautical Science)
  • Bachelor of Maritime Operations

You can also pursue many roles in the building and construction sector through:

  • Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start an apprenticeship and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
  • Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience in entry-level positions and work your way up over time.

TAFE and vocational education pathways are ideal for individuals wishing to pursue careers within the automotive sector.

Here are a few of the qualifications you could pursue:

  • Cert III in Maritime Operations Master
  • Diploma in Maritime Management
  • Certificate III in Marine Mechanical Technology
  • Diploma of Marine Engineering

Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.

Best Places to Study

Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions to study with include:

  • University of Sydney
  • Deakin University
  • University of New South Wales
  • The University of Western Australia
  • James Cook University
  • University of Newcastle
  • TAFE (Nationwide)
  • The University of Tasmania

Your local TAFE and vocational education providers are also excellent places to reach out to explore your apprenticeship and vocational qualification avenues

Top Skills You’ll Need

Some of the key skills identified to be successful in the industry include:

  • Decision Making
  • Active Listening
  • Organisation
  • Time Management
  • Communicating Effectively
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Critical Thinking
  • Team Work
  • Ownership & Responsibility
  • Adaptability

Where to Learn More

You can learn more about different maritime career pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.

Some good places to start:

And many more!

Each state will also have several professional organisations to help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.