Naval architects are responsible for the design, construction, refit and repair of ships, boats, other marine vessels (
Naval architects are responsible for the design, construction, refit and repair of ships, boats, other marine vessels (such as submarines), and off-shore structures (such as offshore drilling platforms).
As a naval architect your tasks would typically include:
- coordinating the work of teams specialising in a variety of areas of engineering
- making sure that designs are safe, seaworthy and cost-effective
- ensuring that designs meet operational requirements
- consulting with scientists, lawyers and accountants
- preparing design plans using computer software
- checking specifications using computer and 3D models
- coordinating construction or repair work.
You could specialise in a particular area, such as design, construction and repair, research and development, or consultancy.
Alternatively, you could work for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as a ship surveyor, which involves assessing the safety of ships and marine structures.
You would usually work 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but may sometimes need to do extra hours, for example to meet deadlines.
Although design is mainly office-based, you may also work in laboratories or on the factory floor. You may need to spend time on board ships, boats and rigs, which can involve working at heights and being outside, sometimes in inclement weather or rough seas.
You would usually work in coastal towns and cities. You may need to travel to shipyards and docks, and sometimes spend periods away from home.
Starting salaries can be around £22,000 a year
Experienced naval architects can earn from £40,000 to over £50,000.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Most naval architects have a degree or diploma recognised by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) in an appropriate branch of marine engineering, such as:
- naval architecture
- ocean, offshore or marine engineering
- ship science.
Visit the RINA website for details of courses. With a degree you can become a student member of the RINA and work towards Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) status.
If you have a degree in another area of engineering, or from a course not accredited by the RINA, you should check with the RINA whether your qualification entitles you to membership. You may need to do additional training or gain experience to be eligible.
You may be able to get onto a degree course if you have work-based qualifications gained from working as a technician. To become a technician you would usually need four GCSEs (A-C) or equivalent, including English, physics and mathematics. See the RINA website for more information.
After your degree, you would need to follow an RINA-accredited scheme of work-based professional development. A number of companies have accredited training schemes.
If your company does not have a scheme, the RINA can help you to develop an individual training programme. Your training needs to cover three areas – design, engineering practice and management services.
You would then need to complete a minimum of two years' work experience and have Chartered or Incorporated Engineer status before applying to be a member of the RINA.
Training and development
As a qualified naval architect you would need to keep your skills and knowledge updated through continuing professional development (CPD).
The RINA and other professional organisations run courses and conferences covering a wide range of topics, such as new technologies, management systems and communication, which are useful for CPD.
Skills and knowledge
- an understanding of the different branches of engineering
- a high level of IT skill, especially in areas such as computer aided design (CAD)
- the ability to work effectively with a wide range of other professionals
- a logical and enquiring mind
- sound judgement
- the ability to communicate clearly in speech and writing
- leadership and management skills
- an analytical and creative approach to problem-solving.
As ship building in the UK is only done in a small number of big shipyards, there are not many openings for naval architects working just on new ships being built in this country.
But many British naval architects are responsible for designing some of the most famous ships in the world such as the Cunard Queen Mary 2, even if they are built overseas. Also the UK is a world leader in the design and manufacture of leisure boats and yachts on the South East coastline.
You could find opportunities in the design and construction of these small craft and yachts, mainly in coastal towns and cities, or in maintenance and repair.
With experience, you may be able to progress to senior positions or become a consultant, providing technical and commercial guidance, support and project management for design, construction, refits or conversions. You could also move into other branches of engineering.