Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$72,040 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Naval architects are designers of ship structures, hulls, and compartments. They work closely with equipment engineers and shipbuilders to ensure that a ship functions efficiently and that its overall system is sound. Most naval architects work for private shipbuilding companies, but some work for design or research firms or are self-employed consultants. Many are employed by the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea System Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, or other branches of government.
Naval architects design the hull according to the needs of the buyer or client. The ship's structural design must allow for the equipment needed to run it, the people who will occupy it, the speed and maneuverability it will require, the stress it must withstand, and many other factors. The requirements of a luxury liner differ considerably from those of an oil tanker. The ship must be economical to build as well as to operate. Architects also select materials and write specifications for suppliers and construction workers. The architect's work usually continues throughout the building process, because some portions of ship design must be completed during the actual construction.
Some naval architects specialize in certain aspects of the work. They may concentrate on remodeling vessels or on researching the use of new materials or techniques. An architect may specialize in designing particular kinds of ships such as yachts or freight vessels.
Education and Training Requirements
A bachelor's degree in architecture or a related engineering degree is required to enter the field. Only a few schools offer course work or degree programs in naval architecture, so students may want to choose to major in marine engineering, ocean engineering, or mechanical engineering. Undergraduate programs should include the basic courses needed, such as hydraulics, materials testing, electrical theory and practice, and mathematics.
Getting the Job
College professors or school placement offices may be able to help students get a job. Write directly to shipbuilders and contractors to learn about openings. Apply directly to take the civil service test for a job with the Naval Sea System Command, a division of the U.S. Navy.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced naval architects have many advancement opportunities. Their training and work experience give them a practical understanding of many areas of shipbuilding and design. However, the opportunities in this industry depend on the growth of the shipping industry and the U.S. naval fleet.
The employment outlook for beginners with an applicable bachelor's degree is good. In fact, some firms are willing to give on-the-job training to mechanical and civil engineers who show an interest in naval architecture. Although job growth will be slower than average through 2014, a strong demand for naval vessels, yachts, and other small craft should offset the decline in the demand for the design and construction of large oceangoing vessels.
Naval architects divide their time between their offices and work sites. Work sites may be hazardous. Architects may be required to travel to business meetings and professional conferences. They generally work forty hours a week. They may work longer hours to meet deadlines.
Where to Go for More Information
American Society of Naval Engineers
1452 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-3458
National Marine Educators Association
P.O. Box 1470
Ocean Springs, MS 39566-1470
Earnings and Benefits
The average median salary for naval architects is $72,040 per year. Experienced naval architects working for private industry can earn more than $100,000 per year. Most workers receive paid vacations and holidays, insurance, and pension plans. Naval personnel receive additional benefits.