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Ready for a sea change? Marine careers in Defence

It’s an exciting time for Australian ships and submarines, with plenty of in-demand careers on offer

Whether designing submarines and warships or keeping weapons, propulsion systems and information systems fighting fit, there are heaps of ways to put STEM skills to work in a marine career within Defence. There’s something for everyone, from IT to trade and engineering roles, and cutting-edge research.

Under the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise, the Australian Government is committed to spending up to $183 billion to create a secure and sustainable local shipbuilding industry. This will ensure upgraded facilities and a continuous stream of projects – creating secure STEM jobs for young Australians keen to try out a Defence career.

This includes Navy careers as well as research, general trades, education and training, logistics and so much more. Interested? Head to the Naval Shipbuilding College website and check out the free 30-minute taster course to get started.

Going nuclear

In 2021, the Australian government made the decision to invest in a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and started the National Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce. A priority for Defence is upskilling the nuclear submarine workforce of the future. This includes uni scholarships of up to $20,000 per year for four years (or the rest of your degree) if you’re studying an engineering
or physics course.

If you’re at uni, you can also apply for the Defence STEM Cadetship program. You’ll build real-world skills in 60 or more days of paid Defence work placements each year and get assistance with uni expenses and HELP payments as well. At the end of your degree, you’ll have a full-time Defence job in an exciting new field.

Marine careers – Navy

Working on a warship or submarine is not your usual 9-to-5. You’ll learn skills outside your main role, including medical support and seamanship. You may also work in shifts or ‘watches’. When you’re ‘off watch’, you can relax and catch up on video games or exercise (there are onboard gyms), watch a movie or email your family. Going ashore to catch up with friends or experience new countries and cultures is also a highlight.

There are many pathways into a Defence marine career. Check these out:

Naval architect
Highly specialised engineers who design, build and keep seagoing vessels up to spec. A good first step is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Naval Architecture) at UNSW (ADFA).

Navy marine or electronic technician
Navy tradies maintain and operate the electronic, weapons, communications, navigation, control and propulsion systems of ships and submarines. Sign up for full training and great conditions while earning a wage.

Navy communications and information systems operator
If you’re interested in frontline cyber security, network admin or managing encrypted communications, this high- priority role may be for you. Learn on the job and get paid as you go.

Marine careers – APS

DSTG works on cool science and technology projects like undersea combat and surveillance, nuclear subs and remote undersea surveillance. Working as a STEM grad at DSTG is your ticket to keeping the Navy’s current and future fleet safe and operating at its peak. Here are some of the roles on offer:

Naval architecture and system analysis
Work on cutting-edge scientific analysis and naval architecture assessments to make sure current and future ships, submarines and automated vessels perform to the Navy’s high standards.

Materials and structural integrity
The sea exerts massive pressure on vessels, particularly submarines. If you have a passion for computer modelling and simulation, you can help improve structures to keep sailors safe.

Power and energy systems
There’s more to naval vessels than metal hulls! Put your mechanical or electrical engineering skills to work on generation, battery storage and propulsion tech.

Ship survival
Can you rise to the challenge of improving how the Navy fleet performs when faced with weapon attacks, extreme weather and sea conditions, fire and smoke?

Star your career here

Defence + marine study

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Naval Architecture) (Honours), UNSW (ADFA)
  • Royal Australian Naval College
  • Naval Shipbuilding College
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Computer Systems)

Defence + marine jobs

  • Marine Technician Submariner: $88,437*
  • Mechanical Engineer: $100,845*
  • Electronics Engineer Submariner: $106,884*
  • Naval Architect APS Level 4: $71,207–$77,739
  • Systems Engineer APS Level 4: $71,207–$77,739
  • APS STEM Cadet (Nuclear Science) Trainee salary starts at $50,608 (pro rata), then APS Level 4 at $71,207–$77,739


* Pay on completion of initial military training and initial employment training

This article was first published in Careers with STEM: Defence 2023. For more on Defence careers, head to our STEM + Defence hub!

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