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Working as a Naval Architect

A Naval Architect, also known as a Naval Engineer, is an engineering specialist with great knowledge in architecture, mathematics, electrical and electronic knowledge, hardware and software expertise design. They are often involved in marine vessels and other maritime structures.

This involves a lot of shipbuilding and maintenance projects. It also requires a lot of applied research and calculations, examinations and tests, and other complicated processes which must take place before even the designs themselves can be drawn up and approved. They are also involved in the modification and altering of ships.

A person hoping to begin work as a Naval Architect should have, at least, earned a college-level diploma, such as a bachelor's, in Engineering and a major in Naval Architecture. Certification is also necessary, varying from state to employer to the type of maritime structures the person wishes to design and help build.

What Does a Naval Architect Do

Marine engineers and naval architects design, build, and maintain ships from aircraft carriers to submarines, from sailboats to tankers. Marine engineers are also known as marine design engineers or marine mechanical engineers, and are primarily responsible for the internal systems of a ship, such as propulsion, electrical, refrigeration, and steering. Naval architects are primarily responsible for ship design, including the form, structure, and stability of hulls.

Duties

Marine engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare system layouts and detailed drawings and schematics
  • Inspect marine equipment and machinery, and draw up work requests and job specifications
  • Conduct environmental, operational, or performance tests on marine machinery and equipment
  • Design and oversee the testing, installation, and repair of marine equipment
  • Investigate and test machinery and equipment to ensure compliance with standards
  • Coordinate activities with regulatory bodies to ensure that repairs and alterations are done safely and at minimal cost
  • Prepare technical reports for use by engineers, managers, or sales personnel
  • Prepare cost estimates, contract specifications, and design and construction schedules 
  • Maintain contact with contractors to be sure that the work is being done correctly, on schedule, and within budget

Naval architects typically do the following:

  • Study design proposals and specifications to establish basic characteristics of a ship, such as its size, weight, and speed
  • Develop sectional and waterline curves of the ship’s hull to establish the center of gravity, ideal hull form, and data on buoyancy and stability
  • Design entire ship hulls and superstructures, following safety and regulatory standards
  • Design the complete layout of ships’ interiors, including spaces for machinery and auxiliary equipment, passenger compartments, cargo space, ladder wells, and elevators
  • Confer with marine engineers to design the layout of boiler room equipment, heating and ventilation systems, refrigeration equipment, electrical distribution systems, safety systems, steering, and propulsion machinery
  • Lead teams from a variety of specialties to oversee building and testing prototypes
  • Evaluate how ships perform during trials, both in the dock and at sea, and change designs as needed to make sure that national and international standards are met

Marine engineers and naval architects apply knowledge from a range of engineering fields to the entire water vehicles’ design and production processes. Marine engineers also design and maintain offshore oil rigs and may work on alternative energy projects, such as wind turbines located offshore and tidal power.

Marine engineers and naval architects who work for ship and boat building firms design large ships such as passenger ships and cargo ships, as well as small craft such as inflatable boats and rowboats. Those who work in the federal government may design or test the designs of ships or systems for the Army, Navy, or Coast Guard.

Ship engineers, who are sometimes called marine engineers, operate or supervise the operation of the machinery on a ship. Their work differs from that of the marine engineers discussed in this profile. For more information on ship engineers, see the profile on water transportation workers.

How To Become a Naval Architect

Marine engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering, marine systems engineering, or marine engineering technology, and naval architects typically need a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture. Employers also value practical experience, so cooperative education programs, which provide college credit and job experience, are valuable.

Education

Marine engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering, marine systems engineering, or marine engineering technology, and naval architects typically need a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture. Programs typically include courses in calculus, physics, and computer-aided design. Some programs are offered at one of the six state maritime academies. Courses specific to marine engineering and naval architecture include fluid mechanics, ship hull strength, and mechanics of materials. Some marine engineers have bachelor’s degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering.

Students studying marine engineering and naval architecture at the maritime academies spend time at sea, usually during the summer, to gain onboard operating experience.

Programs in marine engineering, naval architecture, marine systems engineering, and marine engineering technology are accredited by ABET.

Students interested in preparing for this occupation benefit from taking high school courses in math, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and science, such as chemistry and physics. For aspiring naval architects, drafting courses are helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Marine engineers and naval architects must be able to give clear instructions and explain complex concepts when leading teams of professionals on projects.

Ingenuity. Marine engineers and naval architects must use operations analysis to create a design that will most likely perform the ship’s functions. They then employ skills of critical thinking to anticipate and correct any deficiencies before the ship is built or set to sea.

Interpersonal skills. Marine engineers and naval architects meet with clients to analyze their needs for ship systems. Engineers must be able to discuss progress with clients to keep redesign options open before the project is too far along.

Math skills. Marine engineers and naval architects use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Marine engineers must design several systems that work well together in ships. Naval architects and marine engineers are expected to solve problems for their clients. They must draw on their knowledge and experience to make effective decisions.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Along with earning a bachelor’s degree, students at states’ maritime academies take an exam for a U.S. Merchant Mariner’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard. The first stage of the license is known as the 3rd Assistant Engineer’s License. With experience and further testing, a marine engineer may get a 2nd and then a 1st Assistant Engineer’s License. The highest level of licensure is known as Chief Engineer. Higher grades of licensing usually are accompanied by higher pay and more responsibilities.

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as an engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires all of the following:

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Advancement

Beginning marine engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In larger companies, new engineers also may receive formal training in classrooms or seminars. As beginning engineers gain knowledge and experience, they move on to more difficult projects where they have greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.

Eventually, marine engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some may even become engineering managers or move into other managerial positions or sales work. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss technical aspects of certain kinds of engineering projects. Such knowledge is also useful in assisting clients in project planning, installation, and use. For more information, see the profiles on architectural and engineering managers and sales managers.

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Average Salary$81,234
Job Growth Rate9%

Naval Architect Career Paths

Top Careers Before Naval Architect

Top Careers After Naval Architect

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Average Salary for a Naval Architect

Naval Architects in America make an average salary of $81,234 per year or $39 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $119,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $55,000 per year.
Average Salary
$81,234

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range92k - 170k$125k$125,309
New York, NY
Salary Range70k - 123k$94k$93,567
Lafayette, LA
Salary Range65k - 116k$87k$87,389
Washington, DC
Salary Range66k - 113k$87k$86,791
Hoboken, NJ
Salary Range64k - 112k$85k$85,428
Scottsdale, AZ
Salary Range62k - 112k$84k$84,083
$42k
$170k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Naval Architect
Naval Architect
Department of Defense
Department of Defense
08/21/2020
08/21/2020
$70,12008/21/2020
$70,120
Naval Architect
Naval Architect
Selectek
Selectek
04/27/2020
04/27/2020
$83,48004/27/2020
$83,480
Naval Architect
Naval Architect
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Commander In Chief
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Commander In Chief
10/18/2019
10/18/2019
$96,65610/18/2019
$96,656
Naval Architect
Naval Architect
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Commander In Chief
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Commander In Chief
09/26/2019
09/26/2019
$81,28309/26/2019
$81,283
Naval Architect
Naval Architect
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard
09/20/2019
09/20/2019
$69,58109/20/2019
$69,581
See More Recent Salaries

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Naval Architect Demographics

Gender

male

80.8 %

female

12.2 %

unknown

7.0 %

Ethnicity

White

70.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

9.9 %

Black or African American

9.1 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Ukrainian

13.3 %

German

13.3 %

Russian

13.3 %
See More Demographics

Naval Architect Education

Degrees

Bachelors

49.7 %

Masters

38.1 %

Doctorate

6.1 %

Top Colleges for Naval Architects

1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

3. Texas A&M University

College Station, TX • Public

In-State Tuition
$11,870
Enrollment
53,194

4. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Public

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

5. University of New Orleans

New Orleans, LA • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,771
Enrollment
5,909

6. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

7. Stevens Institute of Technology

Hoboken, NJ • Private

In-State Tuition
$52,202
Enrollment
3,420

8. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

9. University of Georgia

Athens, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$11,830
Enrollment
29,474

10. University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,226
Enrollment
10,873
Job type you want
Full Time
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Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Naval Architect

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.1% of naval architects listed structural analysis on their resume, but soft skills such as math skills and problem-solving skills are important as well.

Best States For a Naval Architect

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a naval architect. The best states for people in this position are California, Alaska, New York, and Mississippi. Naval architects make the most in California with an average salary of $113,686. Whereas in Alaska and New York, they would average $97,387 and $93,034, respectively. While naval architects would only make an average of $92,715 in Mississippi, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Naval Architect Jobs:
737
Highest 10% Earn:
$192,000
Location Quotient:
1.15
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New York

Total Naval Architect Jobs:
317
Highest 10% Earn:
$156,000
Location Quotient:
1.21
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Missouri

Total Naval Architect Jobs:
97
Highest 10% Earn:
$148,000
Location Quotient:
1.02
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Naval Architect Employers

1. Atkins
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$88,198
Naval Architects Hired: 
45+
2. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$87,166
Naval Architects Hired: 
29+
3. Perkins Eastman
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$86,955
Naval Architects Hired: 
13+
4. McDermott International
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$72,814
Naval Architects Hired: 
11+
5. American Bureau of Shipping
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$84,347
Naval Architects Hired: 
9+
6. Kohn Pedersen Fox Assoc
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$109,145
Naval Architects Hired: 
9+
Updated October 2, 2020