Deck or Engine


New Member
Nov 21, 2022
Having a very difficult time deciding between a deck major or an engine major. I feel like I would enjoy deck more as a career, but I also hear that engine is more sought after and transferable to other careers.

I’ve heard they give you classes in each to give you a better understanding of deck/engine before choosing, but do you learn enough in those classes to truly experience and understand what life in each career is like?

Also, for someone who may be interested in going for an active duty slot, is there any benefit in engine over deck, or vice versa?
You will get a lot of opinions on this topic, both while at school and from alumni. Here are my random thoughts from having two KP kids, one active duty and one who went to sea after graduation. Yes, the survey classes will give you a good idea what each will involve. Once you select which path to take, you will not be able to change your mind, so you are wise to give it a lot of thought now. Engineers are probably more sought after, but there are plenty of great jobs out there no matter which path you decide on. You used to be able to double major (called a dualie) but no more. The coast guard requirement for number of days at sea in either a deck or engine position to get your license is such that you cannot get licensed in both. My DS (class of '13) got both his 3rd mate license and his QMED (Qualified Member of the Engineering Department) (called a shopper) but that is also no longer available. He spent part of sea year working as a member of the deck department and part of sea year working in the engine department. He would tell you a couple things about his experience. As an engineer at sea your view never changes and your hearing will suffer. It is hot and loud in the engine room. The person in charge of the ship is a deckie (the captain) but the ship does not go anywhere without good engineers on board. Engineers have to get through a higher level of math than deckies, but both majors are highly technical and difficult. Engineers make fun of deckies because they think engineering is a more difficult path, but that is only because they have never had to pass celestial navigation. The required scores are higher to pass your 3rd mate deck license than your 3rd engineer license. The opportunities for your career are many no matter which path you decide on. As an engineer, you will have a ton of shoreside choices once your obligation is fulfilled such as working in a power plant. As a deckie you will also have a ton of choices,many of which are more in the business side of shipping such as logistics or being a broker (my DD's path). Once you select your path toward the end of plebe year, you will be segregated from the other path and all your classes will be with mids who are either engine or deck. There will be no overlap except as sea partners. I think that is why there is such a rivalry between the two paths. My opinion is that there are terrific opportunities to be had no matter which path you take. Good luck with your decision.
Engine is the harder curriculum, Deck has harder license exams.

Most important is to pick what you like to study. It is an extremely tough road if you don’t like your classes. You can have a very successful shoreside career in the maritime no matter which you choose, however it is true that engine is easier transfer outside the maritime industry.

As for Active Duty it really depends on what you want to do on Active Duty if one is more important than the other but the difference will be very minor honestly and to think about it to that degree is a bit overanalyzing. It used to be you had to be an engineer to go Navy Nuke for example but I believe that is no longer the case. If you want to do something non-shippy if you will like flight, I would just go straight deck, it honestly is the path of least resistance.
I went engine and then went Active duty Navy. They stuck me as Auxiliaries Officer in the Engineering dept on a destroyer and eventually became the. Main Propulsion Officer. I earned my SWO pin when I made jg. A little harder to do from the bowels of the ship but doable. If your gonna go Navy Flight I recommend going deck. Its the easier of the 2 curriculums. The marine engineering degree is essentially a mechanical engineering degree with trade skills included like welding, pipefitting, hvac maintenance and diesel maintenance. These are all skills an engineer aboard an oceanliner will need to do his job. What I liked about it is your skills are definitely needed ashore. After I left AD I went back to sailing as an engineer in the MM and when I was home on vacation I'd double dip as a powerplant engineer.