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Qualifications Required in Marine

Qualifications Required in Marine

What qualifications are required?

Marine education is provided primarily through the third level education system in Ireland. While there is evidence to suggest that there is some degree of interest in marine education at primary and secondary levels, the majority is provided by universities and institutes of technology in Ireland. In contrast, marine training is mainly provided through a range of marine related courses and modules across vocational or continuous professional development programmes and sector‐specific training.

Marine Education

Ireland’s third level education institutions offer a range of marine and marine‐related undergraduate and postgraduate courses. There are approximately 106 marine related courses currently provided. Those courses can be classified as:

  • fully marine
  • partially marine (two or more marine modules)
  • marine element (one marine module)
  • 62 undergraduate courses (link below)
  • 44 postgraduate courses (link below)
For a comprehensive list of undergraduate and postgraduate courses available click here

Marine Training

Marine training is defined as any marine related course that does not result in a National Framework Qualification (NFQ) level 7‐10. Ireland provides a broad range of marine related courses across vocational and continuous professional development areas and sector‐specific training e.g. seafood, merchant (seafarer) and ocean energy.

These are provided by both the State and private operators. There are numerous international conventions and agreements enforced by national authorities with regard to maritime safety and training. With the introduction of new legislation and conventions, there is a growing drive to maintain high training standards. Recent changes in the regulatory environment have increased the need for marine training courses.

Private Marine Training Providers

Maritime Safety applies to all sea‐going vessels from merchant ships to passenger ferries, fishing trawlers and leisure craft. The Marine Survey Office (MSO) of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) in Ireland is responsible for the certifications of seafarers’ competencies. Private small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) provide the training courses across Ireland.

Public Marine Training Providers

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is the national agency with responsibility for training in the seafood sector. BIM’s courses cover a variety of disciplines including: Fishing – Skipper and Crew; Aquaculture; Processors and Retailers and Sea Safety training. BIM’s recent Strategy 2013 ‐ 2017 sets a target of 7,000 individuals to be trained by 2017.

SMART is a cluster of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the Marine Institute, led by Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). The consortium was established in 2011 to develop and deliver practical offshore training on‐board the national research vessels for students of marine science, technology and engineering with the aim of increasing national capacity in research and enterprise. SMART offshore training is recognised nationally and internationally as critical in developing the next generation of marine graduates, equipped with the knowledge, practical research and data collection skills necessary to carry out research and operate at sea. This in turn supports the growing marine sector by producing experienced and skilled marine professionals capable of managing our oceans effectively and developing a sustainable Blue Economy.

Marine Institute Employment and Training Programmes

The Marine Institute, similar to other public sector bodies, offers many employment and training programmes across all areas of business, including internships, bursary schemes and work experience/student placements.

The summer bursary scheme is a work experience programme aimed at undergraduates of Universities, Institutes of Technology and National Institutes for Higher Education. The bursary scheme is strictly limited to undergraduates who have completed 2 years study in a relevant discipline. Bursaries are offered for an eight week paid work period during the summer holidays across a range of the Marine Institute’s business areas. Information is circulated in January each year to universities and colleges and the information on each bursary available can be found on the Marine Institute website www.marine.ie (from January annually) or speak to your careers officer for further information.


Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) is the national agency with responsibility for training in the seafood sector. For training and education information please visit the BIM website, or take a look at BIM’s dedicated Careers Portal page

Shipping, Maritime Transport & Offshore Services

The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI), part of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), is the national centre for education and training for careers in the merchant maritime sector and provides the non-military training needs of the Irish Naval Service (INS). The NMCI offers degree courses in nautical science, marine and plant engineering and a certificate in seamanship.

Courses include:

The 4 year BEng in marine engineering course offered by Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) aims to provide a sound knowledge base of marine engineering. The function of the marine engineer is to operate and maintain the engines, boilers, generators and other systems of ships. Most of the mechanical equipment aboard ship is operated and maintained by marine engineers.


While the offshore energy sector has two distinct sub-sectors there are many overlapping skill sets, e.g., engineering and working offshore, fishermen providing services to the off-shore energy industry. In addition to offshore energy specific education and training other education and training apply such as the marine safety training and marine and environmental scientists.

The one year MSc in Petroleum Geoscience at UCD, which was launched in Sept 2013, offers science graduates a vocational training in the broad range of technical fields associated with the exploration and production of the petroleum industry.

In addition to the formal professional qualifications, specific training and qualification is required by the oil and gas industry before anyone can work on an oil rig. OPITO – Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation – is the skills organisation for the oil and gas industry. Two organisations in Ireland are approved by OPITO to provide training. They are:

  • Effective Offshore in Falcarragh, Co. Donegal and
  • NMCI in association with SEFtec in Ringaskiddy Co. Cork.

The marine renewable energy sub-sector is still an emerging sector and its current skills needs are more for researchers at this point in time until the industry is more developed when it will have a greater need for associate professionals and technicians. With regard to undergraduates the industry prefers students to undertake a traditional/mainstream engineering degree such as mechanical and electrical and then to specialise afterwards.

A taught masters in marine energy was launched by UCC in partnerships with seven other colleges, including Queens University in Belfast, following a consultation of stakeholders by the MRIA (Marine Renewable Industry Association) of the education needs of the industry.

Two SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) funded research centres in Ireland have also been established, namely, the iCRAG (Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences) in UCD and the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) centre in UCC.

Marine Tourism

There are many routes into marine tourism such as tourism, business, hospitality and catering, and hotel management courses. There are also specific training courses available in outdoor adventure activity tourism, water sports training and certification, boat and engine training and marine and countryside guiding. The 2015 EGFSN study focused on the water based tourism, such as angling, sailing, surfing and adventure centres with a focus on water sports.

Adventure/outdoor activity tourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry and many of the education and training boards provide 1yr NFQ level 5 or 3 year NFQ Level 7/8 qualifications in outdoor adventure education.

National governing bodies for water based activities regulate the training, awards and qualifications. The relevant organisations are: the Irish Sailing Association – ISA; the Irish Canoe Union – ICU; and the Irish Surfing Association.

Marine Science & Research

The Marine Institute Cullen Fellowship programme provides research training opportunities for scientists in marine and related disciplines leading to master's and PhD degrees. Set up in memory of Anne Cullen (1958-2013), who made a significant contribution to the work of the Marine Institute over 35 years, the Cullen Fellowship provides fellowships to postgraduates to work on projects relevant to the Marine Institute whilst studying for a higher degree. The fellowships may be offered in all areas of Marine Institute research activity.

More information on the Cullen Fellowships can be found here.

Marine Technology

Marine Technology comprising maritime monitoring, security, surveillance and high-tech products is an emerging area and is the application of technology in the marine environment. The main roles in marine technology include: engineers, software developers, geo-scientists, satellite technicians, environmental scientists and hydrographers. With the exception of hydrography which is directly marine focused all the others have applications outside of the marine area. To work in marine technology an engineer or software developer does not need any specific marine qualification, other than the regulatory safety requirement.

The Irish Maritime and Energy Research Cluster (IMERC) represents a tripartite alliance between UCC, CIT and the Irish Naval Service and aims to become a research and commercial cluster of world standing and to realise Ireland’s potential in the global maritime and energy markets of tomorrow.

Maritime Commerce & Law

The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) provides a number of specific maritime business courses in Ireland. The ICS is the only internationally recognised professional body in the maritime arena and it represents shipbrokers, ship managers and agents throughout the world. It is a major provider of education and training and sets and examines the syllabus for membership, providing the shipping industry with highly qualified professionals.

Courses include:

  • Foundation Diploma in Shipping 
  • Advanced Diploma in Shipping 
  • Professional Qualifying Exams 

These courses are accredited by the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers in London. They are suitable for all those involved in the world of shipping e.g. liner trades, port agency, transport, freight forwarding, port operations and shipping finance.

University College Cork (UCC) provides two taught masters courses in maritime-related law, namely the LLM (Environmental and Natural Resources Law) and the LLM (Marine and Maritime Law) respectively.

Marine Biotechnology and Bioproducts

Higher Education Biotechnology degree courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate (NFQ Levels 7 – 10) are taught in a number of institutions including NUIG (National University of Ireland – Galway), UCD (University College Dublin) and LIT (Limerick Institute of Technology).

Further Course Information

‘A Study of the Current and Future Skills Requirements of the Marine / Maritime Economy to 2020’ published by EGFSN lists numerous education and training courses available in Ireland for individual marine/maritime sub-sectors; the full report can be found on the EGFSN website: available here.

What are the typical routes into this sector?

There are numerous occupations within the marine sector that can be applied for without a third level qualification. However, the industry is quite competitive and those with a further qualification post-secondary school will be at an advantage. If you are passionate about the area that you qualify in, and would like to develop a career in that area, pursuing a higher qualification (Masters, PhD) will only add to your employability.

Another option, rather than moving from an initial qualification to a higher qualification, would be to seek work experience to get a feel for the career and develop further skills in the area. Many companies offer the opportunity of graduate/voluntary work experience programmes/internships and demonstrated work experience in a specific field is a distinct advantage and great for development of skills and knowledge.