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What is Naval Architecture?

The world’s waterways, including oceans and rivers, are some of the most important elements on the planet. These areas provide food and water, as well a place for travel, sports, and entertainment. Any type of watercraft or structure that you can imagine – including fishing boats, cruise ships, barges, submarines, and rowboats – have been built using naval architecture.

Naval architecture is the process of designing and building the watercraft that make water travel possible. Professionals that work in this field design and help build several different types of marine vessels and structures. For instance, they design watercraft that floats and travels across the top of the water, from small boats to ships. They also design submersibles, which travel under the water, and standing structures, like marine oil rigs. Special types of aircraft that are designed for water landings, are also designed and built with the help of naval architects.

Designing watercraft and structures in marine environments is much different and slightly more difficult than designing land vehicles and structures. Professionals responsible for these designs must take into account several different variables that are not an issue on land.

Safety and strength are two of the biggest concerns when designing and building marine crafts and structures. Ships, for example should be safe enough to float, and submarines should be strong and sturdy enough to withstand the immense pressure under the water. As more and more individuals are becoming aware of environmental issues, naval architects are also attempting to create watercraft that have less impact on the environment.


Work Environment

A naval architect typically works in a team with other architects and engineers to create all types of different marine vessels and structures. It is the job of a naval architect and his team to discuss the needs of a particular company or client in regards to the marine vessel that they want designed. Different vessels and structures are typically built for different purposes. A cruise ship will usually be designed with the comfort of the passengers in mind, for instance, while a military vessel will be designed for the purpose of defense; missiles and torpedoes are useless on a cruise ship, and a military vessel is useless without them.

Once a naval architect and his team have determined the general size and purpose of a vessel, they can then start brainstorming for ideas on how to design it. During this initial brainstorming process, several ideas will usually be tossed around, and several sketches will usually be drawn. The final design, however, is usually very detailed, and it will include nearly every aspect of the building process. These designs are often created with the help of special sophisticated computer software.

A naval architects job does not usually stop at designing a marine vessel, however. These professionals will usually oversee and even help with the building process. In doing so, they can quickly and accurately catch and correct any problems during the construction.


Education Requirements

Naval architecture is a very specialized field, and those interested in naval architecture careers will need to earn special degrees. Naval architecture degrees are usually a combination of engineering and design.

Although some engineering schools offer naval architecture programs, many individuals pursuing naval architecture careers will usually choose to earn degrees at special schools. For instance, the United States Naval Academy offers degree programs in naval architecture through their Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department. Advanced degrees are also available for individuals who have already earned a four year degree in an engineering related field.


Salary and Job Outlook


Those pursuing naval architecture careers will soon find that this is not only rewarding and exciting, it is also very lucrative. The majority of naval architects typically make more than traditional architects. For instance, the average salary of traditional architects was $75,550 in 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that same year, however, naval architects made an average salary of $87,770.


Licensure is usually a necessity for individuals looking for successful naval architecture careers. In the United States, aspiring naval architects will usually need to pass a Fundamentals of Engineering exam given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Survey upon graduation. After four years of work experience, they must then pass another exam on the Principles and Practice of Engineering before becoming licensed. Naval architects will often be able to secure employment with several different companies and organizations that work to build marine vessels and structures. Oil and gas companies often hire these professionals to build and maintain ocean rigs, for instance. The military also hires talented individuals to design and build their marine vessels, such as submarines and aircraft carriers. Aspiring naval architects looking to create luxurious vessels, on the other hand, may be able to secure employment with certain recreation companies, like cruise lines.

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