Shipwright: Job Description and Requirements for Becoming a Shipwright

Nov 16, 2020

Career Definition for a Shipwright

A shipwright builds and repairs boats and ships of all sizes, from handmade canoes to large naval vessels. Shipwrights design and build ships according to the specifications of individuals or companies. Depending on the size of the ship, shipwrights may use hand and power tools to construct the boat themselves, or they may oversee a team of shipbuilders.

Education Degrees or apprenticeships required for employment
Job Skills Creativity, organizational skills, employee management,
Median Salary (2019)* $92,400 (for marine engineers and naval architects)
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 11% (for marine engineers and naval architects)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A degree from a maritime shipbuilding program or a lengthy apprenticeship is required to become a shipwright. Shipwright apprenticeships may last for several years to ensure that shipwrights learn all of the practical and creative aspects of shipbuilding. Maritime schools offer shipwright programs that vary in length and include classes in woodworking, lofting, and skiff construction.

Skills Required

Shipwrights must be highly creative and have knowledge of construction, physics, engineering, and math. Organizational skills and the ability to manage employees also are important for shipwrights. They must have communication skills to provide clear, concise instructions to engineers or other professionals, as well as highly developed team working skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most shipwrights begin as shipbuilders and later transition to careers as shipwrights. Those who specialize in building one type of boat and garner a reputation for craftsmanship will have the best chances of employment. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for marine engineers and naval architects, including shipwrights, was $92,400 in May 2019. The BLS projects there will be 1% growth in the number of jobs for marine engineers and naval architects during the 2019-2029 decade.

Alternative Career Options

Here are a few other options for careers in architecture:


While shipwrights build boats, carpenters build wooden structures, including houses and other types of buildings. Carpenters typically complete apprenticeships to learn all the aspects of carpentry, including using tools, reading blueprints, and ensuring worker safety. The BLS reported in May 2019 that the median annual salary for carpenters was $48,330. The demand for new homes and renovations of old homes is expected to result in little to no change for carpenters from 2019 to 2029.


Drafters assist boat builders and other professionals by converting hand drawings and sketches of building projects into digital schematics by using computer-aided design programs. Once digitized, drafters can work with architects and engineers to modify the design and produce a set of instructions for building the project.

A common path to this career includes completing an associate's degree in drafting. Although drafters are not required to obtain licenses, they may seek voluntary professional certification. According to the BLS, overall job growth for drafters is expected to decrease by 4% from 2019 to 2029. In 2019, the BLS reported that drafters earned a median salary of $56,830.

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