Watercraft Designer: Job Duties & Requirements

Apr 05, 2019

Read on to learn what a watercraft designer does. See what the education and training requirements are. Get the details about job prospects and earning potential to see if this career is right for you.

Career Definition for a Watercraft Designer

Watercraft designers conceptualize, draw, design, and sometimes help sell boats, ships, and other watercraft. Designing watercraft involves creative abilities in addition to manufacturing and business sense. Watercraft designers typically work for boat or shipbuilding companies, the military, architecture firms, design and engineering companies, or as independent consultants.

Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Job Skills Analytical and creative skills, good problem-solving abilities, knowledge of mechanics, experience with 3-D design programs
Median Salary (2018)* $92,560 (for marine engineers and naval architects)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 12% (for marine engineers and naval architects)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most watercraft designers have completed bachelor's degree programs in industrial design, architecture or marine engineering. Some watercraft designers have bachelor's degrees in other areas and return to school to complete master's degrees in industrial design or marine engineering. Coursework typically includes classes in mathematics, physics, fluid dynamics, engineering, computer-aided design, and manufacturing. Many watercraft designers began their careers with internships for watercraft architecture and design firms.

Skills Required

Watercraft designers must have both analytical and creative skills. The Industrial Designers Society of America lists creative problem-solving skills, an aptitude for mechanics, good written and oral communication skills, and experience with 3-D design and other computer software programs as essential qualifications for successful industrial designers, such as watercraft designers.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that jobs for marine engineers and naval architects - a category that includes some watercraft designers - will increase at a faster-than-average rate of 12% from 2016-2026. The BLS listed the annual median salary for marine engineers and naval architects as $92,560 in May 2018. California is the top-paying region for the profession.

Alternate Career Options

Similar careers to a watercraft designer include:


A drafter uses computer-aided design and drafting software to convert plans drawn up by architects and designers into usable technical drawings for construction managers, engineers, and other production professionals. Drafters can specialize in mechanical, aeronautical, civil, electrical, and architectural projects, among others. Drafters usually have an associate's degree in drafting; voluntary professional certification by specialty is also available. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for drafters will increase from 2016-2026, by 7%. The BLS also reports that architectural and civil drafters earned median pay of $54,920 in 2018. Mechanical drafters were awarded the highest pay in the state of Washington, while the District of Columbia offered above-average wages for civil and architectural drafters.

Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineers draw up plans for airborne objects - like satellites, airplanes, spacecraft, and missiles - using their knowledge of physics, flight mechanics, and related concepts. They also participate in the manufacture and testing of designed aircraft and aerospace objects. Areas of specialty include navigation, communication, structural design, and robotics, among others. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field from an ABET-accredited program is required for entry-level work. Aerospace engineers with sufficient work experience who are interested in career advancement generally earn an engineering license; there are minimum education, work experience, and testing requirements for licensure. Job increases of 6% from 2016-2026 is predicted for aerospace engineers, per the BLS. The BLS reports that aerospace engineers earned median pay of $115,220 in 2018, with professionals in the District of Columbia receiving the highest pay.

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