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Naval Architect

Kaihoahoa Tāruru

Alternative titles for this job

Naval architects plan, design and supervise the construction and repair of ships, yachts and boats.


New naval architects usually earn

$50K-$60K per year

Naval architects with more than three years' experience usually earn

$60K-$150K per year

Source: Able Ships and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a naval architect are poor as roles are limited due to a small boat building industry.


Pay for naval architects varies depending on experience.

  • Newly graduated naval architects usually earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.
  • Naval architects with three to six years' experience can earn between $60,000 and $75,000.
  • Naval architects with more than six years' experience can earn up to $150,000 or more.

Naval architects who are self-employed may earn more depending on the success of their business.

Source: Michael Hudson, consulting naval architect, Able Ships Limited, 2017; and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Naval architects may do some or all of the following:

  • create or adapt designs, drawings, written plans and technical calculations for ships, yachts or boats
  • check designs align with safety regulations
  • consult with clients, professionals and government officials on designs
  • write reports on whether a design is possible
  • conduct computer and water pressure tests on designs
  • manage the design and building process of boats and ships
  • oversee repairs, changes and upgrades
  • manage shipyards.

Naval architects may also help develop laws for the marine industry and provide expert advice for court cases.

Skills and knowledge

Naval architects need to have knowledge of:

  • different styles of boats, yachts and ships
  • boat building methods and structural engineering
  • boat building materials, including the ways various materials perform in different situations
  • hydrodynamics (water pressures and flows) and aerodynamics (air pressure and flows) and the effect they can have on vessels
  • boat handling, marine standards and safety regulations
  • design, draughting and sketching skills
  • computer-aided design (CAD) and 3-D modelling programs.

Self-employed naval architects also need to have business skills.

Working conditions

Naval architects:

  • usually work regular business hours, but 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

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."

Entry requirements

To become a naval architect you need to have a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Level 8) majoring in Naval Architecture from Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

Secondary education

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include construction and mechanical technologies, design and visual communication, digital technologies, maths and physics.

Personal requirements

Naval architects need to be:

  • creative
  • practical
  • 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.

Useful experience

Useful experience for naval architects includes:

  • boating experience
  • boat building or general construction work
  • draughting or use of design and CAD software
  • architectural or engineering work
  • shipyard work.


Membership of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects is recommended. 

Find out more about training

Marine and Specialised Technologies Academy (MAST)
09 360 0056 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Few naval architect roles in small boat building industry

Opportunities for naval architects are limited because:

  • the New Zealand market for boats is small
  • most boats are imported, so they are designed overseas
  • most companies are small, with one person doing the designing.   

According to the Census, 111 naval architects worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Marine experience improves chances of finding work 

Your chances of getting work as a naval architect are best if you can get boat building or marine engineering work experience on high performance sailing yachts, or commercial vessels such as fishing boats.  

Most naval architect jobs based in Auckland

Most naval architect jobs are in Auckland, with about 60% of naval architects based there.

However, there are also significant numbers working in the Bay of Plenty and Northland, with the rest based around New Zealand.

Self-employment common among naval architects

Naval architects are often self-employed. They may also work for:

  • small boat design companies
  • mechanical and structural engineers
  • marine consultants
  • marine surveyors
  • marine inspectors
  • government organisations such as Ministry of Defence, Maritime New Zealand, or port authorities.


  • Gibson, A, 'Billion-dollar Territory? Big Gain for NZ from America's Cup Hosting, City Chief Predicts', 27 June 2017, (
  • Hudson, M, consulting naval architect, Able Ships Limited, Careers Directorate - Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.
  • McKechnie, I, 'Economic Benefits of 36th America's Cup to NZ Expected to be Profound', 29 September 2017, (
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook - Boat Builders and Designers', accessed October 2017, (
  • New Zealand Herald, 'Boat Builders Eagerly Await New America's Cup Rules', 22 July 2017, (
  • New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation website, accessed October 2017, (
  • Shaw, A, 'Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Boats both largely Built in New Zealand', 23 June 2017, (
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Theunissen, M, '40 America's Cup Boat Builders Let Go', 28 June 2017, (
  • Tupou, L, 'America's Cup Win to Spark Boat Building Boom', 28 June 2017, (
  • van der Hor, C, general manager, New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation, Careers Directorate - Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Naval architects may progress to set up their own design business, or move into management roles.

A female boat designer stands on a gangway giving directions to a male boat builder

Naval architects direct boat builders on how to construct their designs

Last updated 18 August 2022