Naval architects are involved with the design, construction and maintenance of ships, boats, and other marine vessels and offshore structures. Most naval architects specialise in one area, for example, design, classification, or research and development. They work on either civil or military vessels.
Also known as
- Architect, Naval
- Boat Designer/Architect
- Ship Designer/Architect
- Yacht Designer/Architect
Video: - Stephen: Naval Architect
As a Naval Architect, you will design ships and similar marine vessels, and oversee their construction and maintenance.
Many marine vessels and structures, such as cruise liners, warships, oil tankers and offshore platforms are very large and complex. Modern engineering on this scale is, therefore, very much a team activity, involving professional engineers from different fields and disciplines.
However, as a Naval Architect, you will have overall responsibility for the project. You will also have a special role in making sure that the team produces a safe, economic and seaworthy design for a new marine vessel or structure.
You'll need to have an excellent understanding of many branches of engineering, as well as being an expert in all aspects of ship design, including function, appearance and safety.
You must keep up to date with advances in high technology areas, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and calculation.
A ship must be stable and have enough strength to cope with all types of weather. It must also be as comfortable as possible for passengers and crew, however rough the sea is. The way a ship looks is also an important consideration for you - especially if you are working on passenger liners and yachts.
In construction and repair, you'll take responsibility for specific sections of the shipyard. You will organise the supply, inspection and testing of materials and parts. You are also responsible for deciding how many employees a project will need.
In technical departments, you must deal with costs and supply matters. You'll look into ways to get the parts and equipment you need to complete the project, and make sure this is achieved within the agreed budget.
Some Naval Architects work as Ship Surveyors. In this area, you'll travel all over the world, making sure ships are safe. You'll examine plans of ships in their design stage, looking at their strength, stability and life-saving features.
During construction, you will also carry out inspections to make sure the quality of the work and materials meet rules and regulations. Once a ship is in operation, you'll continue to do routine inspections, making sure the ship's owners have repaired any defects and are maintaining safety standards.
As a Naval Architect, you may also work as a consultant, providing clients with engineering solutions, technical and commercial guidance, support and project management.
Depending on the type of work, extensive travel, nationally and internationally, may be required.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Naval Architect, you will need:
- to be creative, with strong engineering design skills
- a logical approach to solving problems
- good teamwork skills
- to communicate well with other engineering professionals
- to be able to give clear professional advice and technical support to customers of the maritime industry
- strong leadership and managerial skills
- good computer skills
- good organisation skills to manage projects
- to be able to co-ordinate resources, and work within a budget and timescale
- to develop knowledge of legal issues and regulations, eg, concerning safety
Naval Architects may manage repair teams that deal with emergency repairs as well as routine checks, so you'll need to be resourceful, able to improvise and make decisions.
Naval Architects who work as Ship Surveyors need a great deal of patience and high levels of concentration to check ship plans for strength, stability and life-saving features.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £33,000 - £37,500
- With experience: £40,000 - £47,000
- Senior Naval Architects earn £52,500 - £60,000
Hours of work
Naval Architects usually work 35 hours a week, with occasional weekend and evening work, according to the demands of the project.
Where could I work?
Employers include shipbuilders, classification societies, government agencies, the offshore industry and firms of consultants.
There are other opportunities in education, technical journalism, and sales and marketing.
Most large employers are based in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Smaller firms building/repairing small craft are based around coastal areas of the UK, and in Norfolk (Norfolk Broads).
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
To become a Naval Architect you will usually need to complete a relevant accredited degree in a subject such as naval architecture.
The Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) provide lists of accredited courses.
Students of other engineering disciplines who intend to work in the maritime industries may also be eligible for membership of the above bodies. If your degree is accredited by an institution other than RINA or IMarEST, you may be required to gain additional training and experience to make up for any gaps in your studies. Contact RINA and IMarEST to check whether your course is accepted for membership.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Depending on their level of entry, naval architects can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.
To register as a CEng or an IEng, you must join a relevant, professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council, such as RINA or IMarEST.
To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.
UK-SPEC and the engineering institution you've joined can tell you which qualifications are accredited or approved towards CEng or IEng status. Your engineering institution will also advise you on, and process, your application.
Routes to CEng status include completing:
- an accredited honours degree in engineering or technology, plus either an appropriate Masters degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution, or appropriate further learning to Masters level
- or, an accredited integrated MEng degree
Routes to IEng status include completing:
- an accredited Bachelors or honours degree in engineering or technology
- or, an HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering or technology, plus appropriate further learning to degree level
- or, an NVQ level 4, which has been approved by a licensed engineering institution
However, you can still become a CEng or an IEng if you don't have these academic qualifications. Further information about the assessment process can be found in UK-SPEC.
Previous experience working in a nautical environment would be really useful for this career.
Depending on their qualification, Naval Architects can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of larger projects.
To enter a degree course in Naval Architecture, the usual requirement is:
- 3 A levels, usually including maths and physics
- GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
- English, maths and physics are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above
Other qualifications, such as a relevant BTEC level 3 qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted. Check college/university websites carefully for the latest entry requirements.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.
Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from research councils, especially the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 444000
Maritime UK Careers
Tel: 020 7417 2837
British Marine Federation (BMF)
Address: Marine House, Thorpe Lea Road, Egham, Surrey TW20 8BF
Tel: 01784 473377
Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)
Address: Aldgate House, 33 Aldgate High Street, London EC3N 1EN
Tel: 020 7382 2600
Publisher: Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)
Your Future in the Boating Industry
Publisher: British Marine Federation (BMF)
Royal Institution of Naval Architects
Address: 10 Upper Belgrave Street, London SW1X 8BQ
Tel: 020 7235 4622