What is a Naval Architect?
Let’s clear up some misconceptions. A naval architect does not design bellybuttons or oranges. That would be a job for navel architect. And becoming a naval architect has nothing to do with being in the Navy. Finally, a naval architect is not really an architect at all. Naval architecture is a field of engineering like electrical, civil, or mechanical engineering, specifically having to do with marine vessels.
The term architect is really a misnomer. A far more descriptive title would be marine engineer, except that name has already been snapped up by (guess who?) the marine engineers. So what is a naval architect and what is a marine engineer? How do you become one?
The field of naval architecture embraces disciplines related to design and analysis of floating vessels or structures, including hull form, arrangement, stability, strength, resistance, propulsion, structural design and so on. By contrast, marine engineering has to do with the vessel’s machinery and auxiliary systems, including main engines, gensets, pumps, electrical systems, heating, and the like. At the risk of greatly oversimplifying, consider everything inside the engine room, as the domain of the marine engineer and everything else, including the size and location of the engine room the domain of the naval architect.
The distinction is not clear-cut because the inherent nature of marine vessels requires that all components must be integrated functionally and spatially. In designing a building, an architect may rely on utilities to provide electrical, sewage, and water supplies. But a ship or yacht must be totally self- sufficient. The simple act of turning on a faucet involves several systems, including freshwater supply, wastewater disposal, and electrical generation for pumps, valves, and other equipment. All of these functions must be provided on a platform that can propel itself safely, comfortably, and efficiently in adverse weather. Oh, by the way, if it’s a yacht it also has to look good.
Because naval architecture is inherently multidisciplinary, most undergraduate programs offer a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, not as a dual major, but reflecting the combined fields of study. A four-year accredited program would typically require one or more courses in at least the following subjects:
Hydrostatics, Hull Form and Stability
Structural Analysis and Design
Hydrodynamics, Maneuvering, and Seakeeping
Resistance and Propulsion
Diesel Engines, Steam, and Gas Turbines
Auxiliary Machinery and Systems
Engineering and Science Core Requirements
Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science
Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics
Engineering Drawing and Computer-Aided Drafting
Mathematics and Computer Science
Advanced Engineering Mathematics
Calculus and differential Equations
Computer Programming and Applications
These course requirements are in addition to core requirements in the humanities, social sciences, written composition, and oral communication.
Although most schools offer electives within the technical course selections, the degree requirements ensure that the naval architect is well rounded in all aspects of the discipline. It is a paradox that naval architecture is often thought of as a limited, specialized field, when in fact the diversity of skills involved demands a broad technical education.
Webb Institute is unique in many respects. It offers just one undergraduate program, granting a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. Total enrollment is about 85 students, all of whom attend on four-year, full-tuition scholarships and live on our 26-acre campus in Glen Cove, New York.
Another unique aspect is Webb’s Winter Work Term. Each year during January and February, all students are required to work in the marine industry. Freshmen go to work in shipyards, sophomores go to sea as cadet/observers, and juniors and seniors intern in design and engineering firms. Other colleges may encourage students to gain professional experience, but the formally structured internship is unique to Webb.
Because few schools teach naval architecture, the supply of naval architects is limited, so there are usually lots of jobs. Webb has the practical education that makes all of our graduates in great demand and has created the enviable record of having all graduates employed soon after graduation at salaries that are among the top in all engineering disciplines. If you’d like to visit typical corporations that hire Webb graduates click here.