Ocean engineering is a combination of mechanical, electrical, civil, acoustical, and chemical engineering, coupled with a basic understanding of how the oceans work. Ocean engineers design, build, test, and refine instrumentation and equipment that can operate in offshore and/or coastal environments. These instruments must be able to stand up to the wear and tear of frequent use and survive the harsh conditions of the ocean environment (corrosion, waves, currents, severe storms, marine life fouling, etc.) Innovations in instrumentation and equipment design made by ocean engineers have revolutionized the field of oceanography, enabling researchers to travel farther offshore and deeper into the sea, and to stay there for longer periods of time.
The work of ocean engineers also plays an important role in oil and gas, military, and marine navigation sectors. Coastal engineering has become an increasingly important part of ocean engineering. With more and more people living or working at or near the world’s coasts, problems associated with development, such as pollution and waste disposal, will require the expertise and innovation of coastal engineers. Also, waves, rising sea level, and storms have a significant impact on coastlines; coastal engineers work to lessen these impacts and protect coastal structures and systems.