How to become a Chief Engineer

How to Become a Chief Engineer

A Chief Engineer in Merchant Navy is the head of the Engine Department on board a ship. The journey to becoming a Chief Engineer starts with first starting at the rank of a Junior or 5th Engineer. As your career progresses you get promoted to the rank of 4th Engineer, followed by the 3rd Engineer. After that, you become the 2nd Engineer to finally become the Chief Engineer at the end. 

Steps to Become a Chief Engineer

1. Complete Your Pre-sea Training Course

The first step to join ship as a Junior Engineer is to study Mechanical Engineering.

To join as a 5th Engineer (Junior Engineer) you are required to clear your class 12 with PCM and English. After which you can opt for a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering/ B.E. Marine Engineering or Diploma Marine Engineering or Graduate Marine Engineering. Students with a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering can also join through lateral entry.

Read here for courses, eligibility, and the detailed process of How to Become a Marine Engineer.

2. Join Ship as a Trainee Marine Engineer-

After a course in marine engineering you join the ship as a Trainee Marine Engineer/ Junior Engineer/ 5th Engineer, the career progression for the same goes as follows-

3. Complete 6 months of Sea-time

After joining the ship as a Trainee Marine Engineer you have to complete 6 months of sea-time.

4. Appear for MEO Class IV Exam

After which you become eligible to appear for your MEO Class IV exam.

The exam comprises 6 written tests and 4 orals.

MEO Class 4

5. Promotion to JEWK

After clearing this exam you get promoted to the rank of JEWK (Junior Engineer Watch Keeper) or 4th Engineer.

A JEWK (Junior Engineer Watch Keeper) earns a monthly salary of $1500 while the salary for a 4th Engineer is $2500

6. Complete 12 Months of Sailing- Appear for MEO Class II

After completing 12 months of sailing (approximately 2 contracts), you appear for your MEO Class 2 Exam which includes 6 written and 4 oral exams. 

After you clear your MEO Class 2, it’s the company’s decision if they want to promote you. 

MEO Class 2

7. Promotion to the Rank of 3rd Engineer

Generally, after you complete 2 to 3 contracts as 4th Engineer you become 3rd Engineer. A 3rd Engineer earns somewhere around $3500.

Once you clear your MEO Class 2 Exam, your promotion to the rank of 2nd Engineer is in the hands of the company.

8. Complete 3-4 contracts as a 3rd Engineer

You have to complete 3-4 contracts at the rank of 3rd Engineer (it can also become 5 at times).

9. Promotion to 2nd Engineer

After this, the company promotes you to the rank of 2nd Engineer.

10. Complete 12 months of Sailing- Appear for MEO Class I

At the rank of 2E, after you have completed 12 months of sailing you can appear for the MEO Class I Exam. It comprises 1 written and 1 oral exam. 

11. Complete specified sea-time as a 2nd Engineer

As a 2nd Engineer, you need to complete a specific amount of sea time depending upon the vessel you’re sailing on to get promoted to the rank of Chief Engineer.

Sailing time as per each vessel-

  1. Bulk Carrier- 36 months
  2. Tanker- 45-50 months

12. Promotion to the Rank of Chief Engineer

After completing the specified sailing time you can finally get promoted to the rank of Chief Engineer.

Salary of a Chief Engineer

chief engineer salary

A Chief Engineer at the peak of his/her career earns around 8000-14000$.

Chief Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

The duties of a chief engineer include- Regular inspections of ship equipment and personal safety equipment at all times along with supervising the manufacturing process of a product.

Must check life-saving and fire-preventing equipment on a day-to-day basis in order to avoid hazardous casualties. Ensure proper maintenance of the incinerator. Perform quality control checks to ensure the effectiveness of the system. Maintenance of fuel and lubricating oil along with fixing any leakages.

Qualities Required to Become a Chief Engineer

chief engineer qualities

Just clearing the MEO Class 4, and MEO Class 2 exams is not enough to become a Chief Engineer. Because, at a few levels, the promotions are left in the hands of the company’s discretion. 

For becoming a Chief Engineer you should have in-depth knowledge of your work. Just knowing the answers to questions in an exam is barely enough. Because the real capabilities of a Chief Engineer lie in the clarity of the concepts that the individual commands. This is because any kind of problem can occur when onboard the ship and not all problems come from the syllabus. Each day is a new challenge and only someone who understands the machinery thoroughly,  in and out can be trusted with the responsibility of heading the Engine Department of a Multi-Million Dollar ship.

This brings our focus to troubleshooting skills, which are the most important whenever issues arise with the working of machinery.

Leadership is a key quality required in a Chief Engineer to handle the whole team. They need to be alert at all times as they are the head of the whole engine department. To lead doesn’t simply mean to give orders but it is to ’lead by example.’ They need to be equally hardworking if not more involved in the tasks, to be able to inspire all the team members to work twice as hard.

While it is important that you are a good leader, none of it matters if you lack teamwork. Before a leader, you have to become a team player, so that the whole engine department can work in harmony. As they say, ‘teamwork is at the heart of any great achievement.’

One should know the ‘Art of Managing People‘ only then you’re a Great Leader. 

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Sir you are the one of the best motivation to the fresher & your information is very clear & clean sir I always be your fan sir 🤝🙏🙏


Sir, first of all thank you. Then your information very helpful to us. because , daily we have to learn many things . Thank you sir.

Leo Joseph

Sir your words are truly inspiring!I wish if you could be my mentor.


Thanks you so much sir for giving this nice information.really very helpful for our future career.

Rakesh yadav

Marchent nevy

Junaid Junaid Khan

yes I’m joining


sir now iam sailing as a tr engine rating in tanker so i done Gp rating now only i came to know that we can give meo class 4 exam after seeing your videos in YouTube channel thank you sir
Sir i have completed diploma in mechanical engineering 3years course so can i give meo fg class 4 exam in India there is any possibility sir please reply to my text sir that will be useful and i can prepare fast for my exam