How to Become a Boat Mechanic in 5 Steps

Boat mechanics maintain and repair motors, engines, propellers, pumps and other parts. Read on to learn about apprenticeships and college programs that can prepare you to become a boat mechanic, and check the career prospects for this field. Schools offering Diesel Mechanics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Boat Mechanic?

A boat mechanic is a technician who maintains and repairs inboard and outboard boat engines. Their duties include disassembling and inspecting motors, replacing defective parts and adjusting timing or fuel-air mix. Other duties may include testing and evaluating motor performance at a range of speeds. They also inspect, adjust or replace propellers, power-tilts and bilge pumps and keep records on inspections and repairs. Mechanics are likely to remove outboard engines because they're small, but typically have to work on inboard engines in the boat where they are mounted.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

You may begin preparing for a boat mechanic career by taking shop courses if your high school has them. Shop courses provide direct experience with small hand tools and problem solving. English, math and electronics courses are helpful for developing written communication skills and an understanding of technical specifications.

Step 2: Complete an Apprenticeship

Learning on-the-job through an apprenticeship program is one way to obtain the training you need. Boat manufacturers and labor unions may offer some apprenticeships, while others are affiliated with local community colleges or technical schools. Inboard and outboard engines, electrical systems, hydraulic systems, parts fabrication and performance tuning are among the subjects you may encounter. Apprenticeships may last up to four years.

Step 3: Attend College

While an apprenticeship may prepare your for your career, many employers prefer to hire mechanics with formal training or college educations. You may obtain this experience in a certificate or associate's degree program in small engine technology. Some schools emphasize marine technology in their programs. In addition to content that overlaps with apprenticeship programs, your courses might address fundamentals of 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines, diagnostics, welding and shop organization. A practicum or internship course may be available with some programs. Associate's degree programs also require you to complete general education courses. A certificate may be earned in a year. Associate's degrees are typically earned in two years.

Step 4: Obtain Employment

You can apply for positions in repair shops, docks and marinas or start your own business. However, if you choose to be self-employed you will have to promote and administer your business. Approximately 22,100 people worked as boat mechanics in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). By 2018 the BLS projected employment to increase a modest six percent to about 23,400. Consolidation in the retail boat industry will limit opportunities for mechanics. The BLS reported median annual salary of boat mechanics in May 2010 was $35,600.

Step 5: Consider a Second Revenue Stream

Unless you live and work in an area of the country that is temperate year-round, consider developing a second income during cold weather months when boat owners put their boats into dry dock. A sideline repairing motorcycle, snowmobile, portable generator or other types of small engine is one way of applying your skills.

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