How to Become a Naval Architect: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a naval architect. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the field of naval architecture.

Should I Become a Naval Architect?

Naval architects oversee the design and construction of ships. Duties of naval architects might include designing a vessel's hull and structure, arranging a craft's interior for power and propulsion systems, developing prototypes and overseeing construction. These professionals work primarily out of office spaces, though they sometimes make trips to shipyards.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Naval architecture or marine engineering
Certification/Licensure Requirements vary by state; licensing may be required for some positions; passing examinations offered by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) may enhance career prospects and advancement
Experience Entry-level positions with bachelor's degree
Key Skills Design skills, analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, reasoning skills, ability to work with others, communication skills, mathematics; computer-aided design (CAD); industry software may include AeroHydro MultiSurf, Autodesk AutoCAD software, MSC Software Nastran, Seasafe Marine Software Seasafe
Salary (2014) $92,930 per year (Median salary for marine engineers and naval architects)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), O*NET Online

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Aspiring naval architects may want to pursue a degree program in naval architecture approved by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Only those candidates that complete a training program recognized by an accrediting board such as the ABET can later take examinations administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

Colleges and universities may offer naval architecture as a combined program with marine engineering. Relevant coursework might include hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, ship design principles and marine engineering design.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Some employers may prefer that applicants have some level of experience in addition to a college degree in naval architecture or marine engineering. An internship program provides candidates with the opportunity to acquire industry skills and knowledge that can be directly applicable to work experience often sought by potential employers.

Step 2: Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

Graduates of ABET-accredited naval architecture programs qualify to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam. Administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), this exam is a prerequisite for licensure as a professional engineer (PE). The examination takes about 8 hours to complete, is open-book formatted and consists of multiple-choice questions. Most applicants complete it toward the end of their college degree program.

Step 3: Apply for an Entry-Level Position

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) reports that naval architects seeking licensure generally need four years of professional experience under the supervision of a licensed naval architect or marine engineer. Jobs can be found in multiple sectors, examples of which include the federal government at naval shipyards, as well as for private contractors.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional association. Membership within a professional association, such as the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) or the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE), can provide many benefits. Aspiring naval architects can have access to industry tools and resources that include an association newsletter, bulletins, reports, journals and other publications, such as books and industry research. Additional highlights of joining include career resources where members can post their resume online and conduct job searches.

Step 4: Become Licensed

Every state has its own licensure requirements and administers its own exam, so applicants need to ensure they meet their state's qualifications. Then, naval architects who have satisfied the education and experience requirements are eligible to take the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam. Test questions cover basic engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering.

Step 5: Find a Managerial or Supervisor Position

Once naval architects have gained some experience in addition to their licensure, they may advance into managerial or supervisor positions in the field. According to the BLS, some positions might include that of technical specialists or engineering managers. In these positions, managers will be working with teams in order to plan, coordinate and troubleshoot.


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