What is a Naval Architect?

Where do Webb graduates find employment?

What is a Naval Architect?

A naval architect must be capable of engineering, designing, and problem solving. In general, naval architects are systems engineers that integrate electrical, mechanical, piping, and structural systems to develop vessels for the marine environment. Ships are among the most complicated manmade objects and require exceptional design and engineering to be successful.

A naval architect may design large cargo ships, high speed sailing and power vessels, cruise ships, naval combatants, or mega yachts.  Naval architects in the offshore industry design   offshore drilling platforms, massive floating wind turbines, and unique floating structures for a wide range of applications. Naval architects looking for something even more unique may find themselves working on underwater robotics, nuclear submarines, or autonomous sailing vessels. Naval Architecture is one of the most inclusive systems engineering degrees available.

The field of naval architecture embraces disciplines related to the design and analysis of floating vessels or structures, including hull form, arrangement, stability, structures, resistance, propulsion, and access. By contrast, marine engineering has to do with the vessel’s machinery and auxiliary systems, including main engines, generator sets, pumps, electrical systems, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 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 between naval architecture and marine engineering 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 and other equipment.  All of these functions must be provided on a platform that can propel itself safely, comfortably, and efficiently in adverse weather.  In addition, for certain vessels such as yachts, the vessel also has to look good. 

Naval Architecture is inherently multidisciplinary, and the true naval architect is also a marine engineer.  A four-year accredited program would typically require one or more courses in at least the following subjects:

Naval Architecture

Hydrostatics, Hull Form and Stability 
Structural Analysis and Design
Hydrodynamics, Maneuvering, and Seakeeping
Resistance and Propulsion 
Design Project

Marine Engineering

Diesel Engines, Steam, and Gas Turbines
 Auxiliary Machinery and Systems

Engineering and Science Core Requirements

Electrical Engineering 
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 that includes not only a capstone design project, but a senior thesis.  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 the production departments of shipyards, sophomores go to sea as cadet/observers, and juniors and seniors intern in design and engineering firms.  Many of our students intern internationally.  Other colleges may encourage students to gain professional experience, but this formally structured program is unique to Webb.

Because few schools teach naval architecture, the supply of naval architects is limited.  The placement rate of Webb graduates is 100%.  Webb’s practical approach to education results in our graduates being in great demand, commanding salaries among the top of all engineering disciplines. If you’d like to visit typical corporations that hire Webb graduates click here.