Naval Architect Career Profile
Naval architects are essentially engineers, doing the highly technical work of design and planning of ships and other craft. They’re responsible for the creation of the biggest and most beautiful ships in the world.
The work environment
Naval architects have one of the most technically difficult of the design jobs. Designing a huge ship isn’t easy. The technical issues are a representative of the nature of the naval architect’s work:
Stress: Every ship is subjected to huge stresses by waves and wind. Ships, like aircraft, are designed aerodynamically, with each element of the design integrated for best stress response.
Safety: Any form of ship or marine craft is designed with a lot of safety features built in. This is a special area of design which relates to everything from watertight doors to life boat bays and cabin exits.
Materials: Cruise ships include the equivalent of a small town’s variety of different materials, structures, and design values. A naval architect has to be fully aware of what materials are appropriate at sea, and their structural and design issues.
Stability: For some vessels which carry big loads, stability is a real problem. A ship must remain basically upright and be able to deal with big swells and other ocean conditions.
Fuel efficiency: The giant ships, like tankers and big cruise liners, use a lot of fuel, and for economy and performance, fuel efficiency translates into engine design, choice of fuel, and in some cases the design of the lines of the ship itself.
Hydro dynamics: This means “how a ship design behaves in various scenarios, and its general performance in the water. Ship hydro dynamics are tested extensively before the plans are finalized.
Structures: There’s a tremendous variety in structural design in ships. Naval architects design things like the housing structures for giant engines and the elegant dining rooms of the super liners. This work includes internal structures and the ship’s frame and superstructure are designed on the basis of stresses, performance, and style.
Systems design: The marine architecture of a ship includes the drive systems, the engines, navigational systems, controls, and propeller systems, in addition to advanced communication systems and on board computer systems.
Naval architects are the creators of some of the most innovative designs in maritime history. The fabulous ship designs are the result of years of experience and dedication to this extremely demanding work. Their work is typical engineering design work to a point, CAD design of all sections and plans, and designing component elements. The big difference comes in the very demanding integrated systems and structural designs. To design a ship involves good use of space, and creating the whole design is a massive undertaking.
Wages: $55,000 to $100,000. Consultancy contract work may increase income considerably.
Hours: Usually studio hours, may vary with schedules and contract design commitments.
The career environmentNaval architects can progress in a clear career track from basic elements of design to being in charge of designing an aircraft carrier or a supertanker. It’s also a profession which leads to major consultancy contracts.
Many areas of naval architecture, like systems and superstructure design, also transfer to other areas of design. The naval architect may have a major advantage when working in these areas, because new ships use very advanced systems architecture.