Two marine architects examine the hull of a large ship

A marine architect could...

Design remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for undersea research. Photo of a rover collecting crabs on the sea floor Oversee the construction of luxury yachts used by vacationers. A large yacht near shore
Design a deep-water oil platform. Aerial photo of a large oil platform out at sea Engineer and test military submarines used to help protect and defend our country. Workers build a submarine is a large warehouse
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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
Median Salary
Marine Architect
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Average (7% to 13%)

Watch or read an interview with a real-life marine architect, Joe Farcus, who designs spectacular and luxurious cruise ships that are like floating cities.

Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

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.

Other Qualifications

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.

Watch this video to find out why a naval architect, Christopher Shears, chose this career path and what the options are for somebody interested in this field.

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.

Work Environment

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.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Marine Architects

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