If you have ever seen a large ship, you know that these vessels can be marvels of modern engineering. Naval architects are the ones who make them so. These architecture and engineering professionals design the structures of all kinds of ships, including sailboats, submarines, tankers and aircraft carriers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Naval architects start with some specifications, like the ship’s intended purpose, size, weight and speed. They develop the hulls and the interior layout of the ship. In designing hulls, naval architects must pay close attention to how the structure curves to achieve a form that will be stable, buoyant and safe. Their responsibilities when designing the interior include determining the placement of passenger and cargo spaces, elevators and ladder wells, the BLS reported. They also manage the creation and assessment of prototype ships. About 40 percent of naval architects work in the engineering and architecture industry, but others find employment in industries like ship and boat building or with the federal government. While naval architects spend much of their time in offices, they must also spend some of their time at sea.
To build a safe, stable, well-designed ship, naval architects must draw from many engineering disciplines. This means they must cultivate a thorough undergraduate college education that includes a solid background in physics, calculus and computer-aided design (CAD), according to the BLS. They also need specific knowledge about the factors that affect the strength of a ship’s hull and the mechanics of fluids and materials.
Aspiring naval architects can pursue a variety of degree paths to learn the skills they need for success. The most popular choices include bachelor’s degree programs in naval architecture, marine engineering, marine engineering technology or marine systems engineering. Still other students approach the career from a more general engineering background, studying electrical or mechanical engineering. Regardless of their major, students can improve their chances of attaining an entry-level naval architect role by gaining hands-on work experience during their education.
Though necessary, a formal education is only the first step to becoming a naval architect. Candidates must also earning a U.S. Coast Guard mariner’s license, the BLS reported.
Naval architects earn a median salary of $88,100, according to the BLS. The 14 percent of naval architects who work for the federal government earn the highest wages, with a median annual salary of $97,550. The BLS expects opportunities for naval architects to grow by 10 percent over a decade, “about as fast as average for all occupations.” Job prospects will likely be best for marine engineers who specialize in creating and maintaining offshore oil rigs and those interested in joining the crew of a ship.
Naval architects are professionals responsible for designing and planning ships of all types, from small sailboats to large aircraft carriers. They must work to achieve a hull design that will be stable and safe for the type and size of boat. This profession is ideal for candidates with the ingenuity to innovate and problem-solving skills that rival their extensive math abilities.