Naval Architecture

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.


FAST FACTS: Marine Engineers and Naval Architects
2016 Median Pay

$90,970 per year
$43.74 per hour

Recommended Level of Education

Bachelor's degree

Number of Jobs in 2014


Expected % Change in Employment (2014-2024)

12% (Faster than average)

Expected 10 Year Employment Growth (2014-2024)


Source: BLS - Occupational Outlook Handbook

Naval Architects Salaries by Industry

Top Paying Industries for Naval Architects

Land Subdivision


Scientific Research and Development Services


Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution


Computer Systems Design and Related Services


Lessors of Real Estate

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Wage

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Naval Architects

  1. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL
  2. Salinas, CA
  3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  4. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA
  5. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
  6. Stockton-Lodi, CA
  7. Brunswick, GA
  8. Gainesville, FL
  9. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
  10. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES

Helpful Resources

  • Get to Know the Artist - Ryan Thewes, Modern Architect

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizOct 05, 2013

    Having worked for two different architects that apprenticed with the famously prolific Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as one of the top creative architects in the world, Thewes now operates his own design practice in Nashville, Tennessee since 2006. Thewes gains inspiratio...

  • 25 Best Environmentally Friendly Architecture Firms

    Tammi Edwards
    Tammi EdwardsApr 14, 2017

    As awareness and advocacy about protecting the environment has grown, the job of an architect has become more complicated. Luckily, architecture firms around the country are responding by applying the practices of sustainable design to their work.

  • Five Ways to Jumpstart Your Art Career

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJul 17, 2017

    An art career cannot happen overnight. Becoming an artist takes dedication, hard work, and a plan. Learning early lessons about how to develop your skills, attract clients, and market yourself can help you generate early results.

  • Architecture Schools

    Students of architecture become highly educated engineers and gain knowledge in areas like environmental aesthetics and functionality, architectural philosophies, the history of architecture, architectural sustainability, digital architectural photography, computer tech...

Naval Architecture Jobs