Naval Architect/Boat Designer
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Naval architects/boat designers plan, design and supervise the construction and repair of ships, yachts and pleasure craft. They may also be employed in the offshore industry, doing work such as design and construction of oil rigs.
Naval architects usually earn
$40K-$150K per year
Boat designers usually earn
$35K-$70K per year
Pay for naval architects and boat designers varies according to their experience and qualifications.
- Newly graduated naval architects usually earn between $40,000 and $45,000 a year.
- Experienced naval architects can earn $150,000 or more.
- Boat designers on a salary usually earn between $35,000 and $70,000.
Naval architects and boat designers who are self-employed may earn more depending on the success of their business.
What you will do
Naval architects/boat designers may do some or all of the following:
- consult with clients, professionals and government officials and write feasibility studies
- create or adapt designs, drawings, written plans and technical calculations for ships, yachts or pleasure craft, and check them against regulations
- conduct and analyse results of scale, computer-based and water pressure tests
- manage the design and building process of boats and ships
- oversee repairs, changes and upgrades
- manage shipyards.
Naval architects may also be involved in developing laws for the marine industry and providing expert advice for court cases.
Skills and knowledge
Naval architects/boat designers need to have:
- knowledge of different styles of boats, yachts and ships
- understanding of boat building methods and requirements
- knowledge of boat building materials, including the ways various materials perform in different situations
- knowledge of structural engineering
- understanding of hydrodynamics (water pressures and flows) and aerodynamics (air pressure and flows) and the effect they can have on vessels
- good understanding of boat handling
- knowledge of marine standards and safety regulations
- design, draughting and sketching skills
- skill using computer-aided design (CAD) and 3-D modelling programs.
Self-employed naval architects also need to have business skills.
Naval architects/boat builders:
- usually work regular business hours, but as they are often self-employed, their hours can also be flexible. They may work long hours to meet deadlines
- work in offices, workshops and shipyards
- may travel around New Zealand and overseas to visit work sites and meet with clients or contractors.
What's the job really like?
Harry Stronach - Naval Architect
What does your work involve?
"I run a consultancy that provides technical advice, analysis and design for clients – mainly in the larger commercial shipping sector.
"The work is pretty varied and can involve working with people from all around the world. For example, I designed a new ship for a coal organisation in the South Island. I discussed the building with shipyards in China, had design work done in Ireland and had the Danish Maritime Institute carry out the computer-based model testing."
What has been one of the more unusual jobs you've done?
"One that stands out was converting an 18 metre catamaran into a 31-metre monohull. It involved a lot of research, analysis and tank testing. That's one of the only conversions from a catamaran to a monohull that anybody's done."
What do you enjoy most?
"I enjoy the creative aspect of designing ships, but you still have to make sure you're getting the correct answer in the analysis of a design, or the result in the water will be conspicuously wrong.
"It's challenging work, but I get a great sense of achievement when I see a successful result."
To become a professional naval architect you need to have a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in naval architecture. This major is available at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
You can also become a professional naval architect by completing:
- an engineering degree in New Zealand, followed by further study at an overseas university or college specialising in naval architecture. This must be followed by several years' experience in industry
- the Bachelor of Applied Technology (Marine) at Unitec, followed by a Master's degree or several years' experience in industry.
There are no specific requirements to become a boat designer, but considerable sailing experience and a degree or diploma in engineering or design is recommended.
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths, physics, English, art and graphics.
Naval architects/boat builders need to be:
- mechanically minded
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to work well under pressure
- good at maths and physics
- able to write reports
- good communicators.
I think you need to be someone who's prepared to keep learning as well as someone who really likes boats and has some sort of understanding of how they move through the water.
Richard McBride - Boat Designer
Useful experience for naval architects/boat designers includes:
- boating experience
- boat building
- draughting or use of design and CAD software
- architectural or engineering work
- shipyard work.
Membership with the Royal Institution of Naval Architects is recommended. This enables naval architects to keep up to date with developments in the maritime industry and gives access to professional development opportunities.
Find out more about training
- NZ Marine Industry Training Organisation
- 09 360 0056 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzmarine.com
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Census data, the number of people employed as naval architects dropped by 18% between 2006 and 2013 to 93.
The boat building industry was one of the hardest hit by the recession, as it generally produces an expensive luxury product that people spend less money on when the economy is down. The industry has also struggled with a high New Zealand dollar, which causes boats built for export to become more expensive. However, in other specialty areas, such as commercial, demand has remained steady, and opportunities are better for both graduate and experienced naval architects/boat designers.
Naval architects/boat designers may also use their skills to work as:
- mechanical and structural engineers
- marine consultants
- marine surveyors
- marine inspectors.
Marine experience improves your chances of finding work
Your chances of getting work as a naval architect/boat designer are best if you can get relevant experience, such as working on high performance sailing yachts, or commercial vessels such as fishing boats. Experience could include volunteer work, work experience placements, or work in a hands-on technical role to gain a basic understanding of the industry.
Self-employment common among naval architects/boat designers
Naval architects/boat designers are often self-employed. They may also work for:
- small boat design companies
- government organisations or other regulatory bodies, such as the Ministry of Defence, Maritime New Zealand, or port authorities.
Most jobs based in Auckland
The chances of finding work as a naval architect are highest in Auckland, with about 60% of naval architects based there.
- Blakeley, T, chief executive, The Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2013.
- MacLeod, I, president NZ Marine Industry Association, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2013.
- Marine Industry Association, 'MIA News – Summer 2010', accessed March 2010, (www.nzmarine.com).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Raine, J, head of School of Engineering, Auckland University of Technology, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2013.
- Statistics New Zealand, '2013 Census of Population and Dwellings' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2014.
Progression and specialisations
Naval architects and boat designers carry out similar tasks. However, there are some differences:
- Boat Designer
- Boat designers are only qualified to work on vessels up to a certain size. They may specialise in vessels such as mussel harvesters or pleasure boats.
- Naval Architect
- Naval architects are qualified to work on any type of vessel but may specialise in working on certain types of vessels, such as yachts or fishing boats.
Naval architects/boat designers may move into managerial roles. They may also progress to set up their own businesses.
Last updated 20 September 2017