A marine architect could...
|Design remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for undersea research.||Oversee the construction of luxury yachts used by vacationers.|
|Design a deep-water oil platform.||Engineer and test military submarines used to help protect and defend our country.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Water covers more than 70 percent of Earth's surface, and marine architects design vessels that allow humans and their cargo to cross through or under those waters safely and efficiently. Some of their watercraft designs are enormous, like merchant ships, which carry huge loads of oil, cars, food, clothing, toys, and other goods, across thousands of miles of open waters. These ships are essential for trade between countries. Other vessels are smaller and more specialized, like luxury yachts or cruise liners. Still others are designed for military purposes.|
|Key Requirements||Analytical, detail oriented, excellent spatial and communication skills, and a desire to mix office work with gritty, on-site construction work|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, computer science, statistics, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Average (7% to 13%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
A bachelor's degree in architecture or a related engineering degree is required to enter the field. Only a few schools offer course work or degree programs in marine or naval architecture, so students may want to choose to major in marine engineering, ocean engineering, or mechanical engineering. Undergraduate programs should include the basic courses needed, such as hydraulics, materials testing, electrical theory and practice, and mathematics.
Education and Training
For those seeking to become a marine architect through an engineering degree, most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, such as mechanical engineering, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class, or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.
In addition to the standard engineering degree, many colleges offer 2-year or 4-year degree programs in engineering technology. These programs, which usually include various hands-on laboratory classes that focus on current issues in the application of engineering principles, prepare students for practical design and production work, rather than for jobs that require more theoretical and scientific knowledge. Graduates of 4-year technology programs may get jobs similar to those obtained by graduates with a bachelor's degree in engineering. Engineering technology graduates, however, are not qualified to register as professional engineers under the same terms as graduates with degrees in engineering. Some employers regard technology program graduates as having skills between those of a technician and an engineer.
Graduate training is essential for marine engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level jobs. Many experienced marine engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.
About 1,830 programs at colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in engineering that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Inc., and there are another 710 accredited programs in engineering technology. ABET accreditation is based on a program's faculty, curriculum, and facilities; the achievement of a program's students; program improvements; and institutional commitment to specific principles of quality and ethics. Although most institutions offer programs in the major branches of engineering, only a few offer programs in the smaller specialties. Also, programs of the same title may vary in content. For example, some programs emphasize industrial practices, preparing students for a job in industry, whereas others are more theoretical and are designed to prepare students for graduate work. Therefore, students should investigate curricula and check accreditations carefully before selecting a college.
Admissions requirements for undergraduate engineering schools include a solid background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus) and science (biology, chemistry, and physics), with courses in English, social studies, and humanities. Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically are designed to last 4 years, but many students find that it takes between 4 and 5 years to complete their studies. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize on the job or in graduate school.
Some engineering schools have agreements with 2-year colleges whereby the college provides the initial engineering education, and the engineering school automatically admits students for their last 2 years. In addition, a few engineering schools have arrangements that allow students who spend 3 years in a liberal arts college studying pre-engineering subjects and 2 years in an engineering school studying core subjects to receive a bachelor's degree from each school. Some colleges and universities offer 5-year master's degree programs. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study and practical work, permitting students to gain valuable experience and to finance part of their education.
Marine architects should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as marine architects frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside of marine engineering.
Nature of the Work
Marine architects are designers of ship structures, hulls, and compartments. They work closely with equipment engineers and shipbuilders to ensure that a ship functions efficiently and that its overall system is sound. Most marine architects work for private shipbuilding companies, but some work for design or research firms or are self-employed consultants. Many are employed by the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea System Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, or other branches of government.
Marine architects design the hull according to the needs of the buyer or client. The ship's structural design must allow for the equipment needed to run it, the people who will occupy it, the speed and maneuverability it will require, the stress it must withstand, and many other factors. The requirements of a luxury liner differ considerably from those of an oil tanker. The ship must be economical to build, as well as to operate. Architects also select materials and write specifications for suppliers and construction workers. The architect's work usually continues throughout the building process, because some portions of ship design must be completed during the actual construction.
Some marine architects specialize in certain aspects of the work. They may concentrate on remodeling vessels or on researching the use of new materials or techniques. An architect may specialize in designing particular kinds of ships, such as yachts or freight vessels.
Marine architects divide their time between their offices and work sites. Work sites may be hazardous. Architects may be required to travel to business meetings and professional conferences. They generally work 40 hours a week. They may work longer hours to meet deadlines.
On the Job
- Design complete hull and superstructure according to specifications and test data, in conformity with standards of safety, efficiency, and economy.
- Design layout of craft interior, including cargo space, passenger compartments, ladder wells, and elevators.
- Study design proposals and specifications to establish basic characteristics of craft, such as size, weight, speed, propulsion, displacement, and draft.
- Confer with marine engineering personnel to establish arrangement of boiler room equipment and propulsion machinery, heating and ventilating systems, refrigeration equipment, piping, and other functional equipment.
- Evaluate performance of craft during dock and sea trials to determine design changes and conformance with national and international standards.
- Oversee construction and testing of prototype in model basin and develop sectional and waterline curves of hull to establish center of gravity, ideal hull form, and buoyancy and stability data.
Companies That Hire Marine Architects
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Archimedes Squeeze: At What Diameter Does an Aluminum Boat Sink?
- Bottled-up Buoyancy
- Build a Raft Powered by Surface Tension
- Buoyancy of Floating Cylinders
- Capsized! How Sailboats Stay Upright
- Do Submarines Need Fins?
- Drag Racing in the Water
- How Much Weight Can Your Boat Float?
- How Salty Does the Sea Have to Be for an Egg to Float?
- Making It Shipshape: Hull Design and Hydrodynamics
- Milk Does Your Body and a Boat Good—Design Your Own Milk Carton Boat
- Rocking the Boat
- Taming the Tsunami: Investigating Different Structures to Reduce Tsunami Damage
- The Swimming Secrets of Duck Feet
- Tireless Tides: Extracting Energy from Ocean Tides
- What A Drag!
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Marine Architect that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Society of Naval Engineers: www.navalengineers.org
- National Marine Educators Association: www.marine-ed.org
- Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers: www.sname.org
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Motter, P. and Pearl L. (2009). Meet Joe Farcus, Ship Architect. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/feature/farcus06.cfm
- Net Industries. (2009). Naval Architect Job Description, Career as a Naval Architect, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/71/Naval-Architect.html
- Marine Institute. (2011, November 23). Naval Architecture. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKUsGe7m4mU
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman