Naval Architect

What is a Naval Architect?

A Naval Architect is a professional responsible for designing, constructing, and repairing marine vessels and offshore structures, including ships, submarines, and drilling platforms. They play a crucial role in ensuring the safety, seaworthiness, and efficiency of these structures. In this guide, we’ll explore the role of a Naval Architect, what they do, how to become one, potential salaries, career prospects, and related opportunities.

What Does a Naval Architect Do?

Naval Architects have a range of important responsibilities:

Design and Construction

  • Designing marine vessels and offshore structures, coordinating various aspects of a project, including budget, location, and facilities.
  • Ensuring that the designs meet safety standards, are within budget constraints, and adhere to specified specifications.

Project Coordination

  • Coordinating teams of engineers working on a project, managing resources effectively.
  • Overseeing the design process, working with computer models or 3D designs, sourcing materials, and evaluating design safety.


  • Utilizing strong written and verbal communication skills, as Naval Architects work collaboratively within teams and need to convey technical information effectively.

Organization and Efficiency

  • Being organized and efficient in managing project timelines and resources.
  • Leading a team and meeting project deadlines, often in a fast-paced environment.

Technical Skills

  • Possessing strong IT and numeracy skills, as well as a keen eye for detail.

How to Become a Naval Architect

Becoming a Naval Architect involves specific entry requirements, training programs, and the development of essential skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Entry Requirements

  • Gaining entry to a relevant degree program is essential. Look for degrees in naval architecture, ship science, or marine engineering, ideally accredited by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA).
  • Typical entry requirements for a degree program include 2 A levels/3 H grades, including Physics and Maths, and 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England).

Postgraduate Qualification

  • Consider pursuing a postgraduate qualification, especially if you aim to achieve chartered status later in your career.

Work-Based Qualifications

  • If you have work-based qualifications, such as a BTEC, HND, or HNC from your time as a technician, you can transfer to an engineering degree.
  • Alternatively, explore marine engineering apprenticeships offered by organizations like the Royal Navy or local shipbuilders after completing your school education.


  • Graduates usually undertake a RINA-accredited training scheme within the workplace, where experienced professionals provide training in areas like design, engineering practices, and management services.
  • Another option is the Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) Graduate Scheme offered by the Ministry of Defence, although it is highly competitive and typically requires at least a 2.1 degree.

Professional Membership

  • After completing an approved qualification, you can apply for full membership with RINA.
  • After holding a relevant position with suitable responsibility for five years, you can apply for fellowship status.

Working Conditions

Working as a Naval Architect comes with specific conditions:

  • Typically, you’ll work standard office hours, five days a week, but you might need to work extra hours to meet project deadlines.
  • Your work may involve office-based tasks like design work and site visits to construction sites, docks, and shipyards, both in the UK and overseas.
  • Onsite work might expose you to noisy, dirty, and challenging environments, especially when working onboard marine vessels.
  • You may need to wear protective clothing for certain tasks.

Naval Architect Salary

Salaries for Naval Architects can vary based on experience and the type of projects they are involved in. Here’s an approximate salary range:

  • Graduate salaries typically range from £25,000 to £30,000 per year.
  • With more experience, salaries can increase to approximately £35,000 to £50,000 per year.
  • Highly experienced Naval Architects working for large organizations can earn in excess of £65,000 per year.
  • Freelance or contract work can result in varying income levels.

Please note that these figures are approximate and may vary depending on factors like location and specialization.

Career Prospects and Progression

Naval Architects have several career progression opportunities:

  • They can become self-employed, work for established companies, or become design consultants.
  • Progression can lead to roles in general management or senior positions.
  • Achieving chartered status can open doors to specialization in areas like design, research, or consultancy.
  • Some Naval Architects may transition into roles as ship surveyors, assessing the safety of ships and marine structures.
  • Teaching positions at universities are also an option for those looking to share their knowledge.

Organizations like RINA provide Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses that cover various topics, including new technologies, management systems, and communication, to support career development.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Working as a Naval Architect has its advantages and disadvantages:


  • Opportunities to work abroad for ship surveying companies or on large-scale international projects.
  • Playing a crucial role in the design and construction of marine structures.


  • High competition for Naval Architect positions.
  • Work may involve challenging physical conditions, including challenging weather and environments.
  • Working in difficult and physically demanding conditions may be required for some aspects of the job.

Related Opportunities

If you’re interested in this field, you may also consider related career opportunities:

  • Aerospace Engineer: Specializing in the design and development of aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Marine Engineer: Focusing on the maintenance and repair of marine vessels and systems.
  • Merchant Navy Engineering Officer: Managing engineering operations on commercial ships.

Further Information

To pursue a career as a Naval Architect and access additional resources, you can explore the following organizations:

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