Becoming a Boat Constructor: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of becoming a boat constructor or builder? Read the following career and salary info, along with real job descriptions, to find out if becoming a boat constructor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Boat Constructor

Boat constructors build, restore and repair recreational and commercial boats and ships. They are also sometimes known as shipwrights or boat builders. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a boat constructor.

Pros of Becoming a Boat Constructor
Good salary potential for required education (average for construction, production and repair workers in boat building industry was about $20.00 to $22.00 an hour in 2014)**
Several education and training options (certificates, degrees or on-the-job training)*
Education programs available in many states*
Could work on new construction and repairs of existing boats**

Cons of Becoming a Boat Constructor
High risk of on-the-job injuries (falls, chemical inhalation, repetitive motion, etc.)***
Requires spending a lot of time on your feet*
May face temporary layoffs when business is slow ****
Large consequence of error if all work is not done correctly*

Sources: *U.S. Department of Education, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ****OceanCareers.com.

Career Information

Job Description

Boat constructors, also called boat builders or shipwrights, use blueprints to build new boats and repair or restore used boats. As a boat constructor, you could build boats made of fiberglass, wood or metal. You construct all types of boats, including motorboats, sailboats, cabin cruisers and even canoes. Using hand and power tools, such as planers, joiners and circular saws, you shape the boat frame and attach fittings. You might work inside in a boat-building facility or outside in a shipyard.

Once you construct the boat, you may sand and paint it to complete the project. Finally, you inspect the vessel for defects.

Salary Info

Salaries for boat constructors, builders and shipwrights can vary, depending on education and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014, production workers in the ship and boat building industry earned an average of about $20.49 an hour. Those who work in construction and extraction made about $22.67 an hour. Repair and installation workers in the ship and boat building industry made an average hourly wage of about $23.16.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Boat constructors, builders and shipwrights usually need 2-4 years of training or experience. Some jobs require less education and more experience. There are many education programs available, including short certificate training programs that target specific boating materials, like fiberglass or wooden boat construction. Some certificate programs last less than a year. There are also associate's degree programs in boatbuilding and marine carpentry.

Specialized boat-building programs include marine systems, yacht design, composite boat building and construction of small or cruising wooden boats. You learn skills through lectures, hands-on work and field trips. In addition to specific skills, many programs also involve general education courses in math, language arts and science. You might also be able to find apprenticeships or internships where you can learn the skills on the job.

What Do Employers Look for?

You can find work in the boat building industry as a joiner, finish worker, sail designer or composite technician. Many job ads for boat builders state that experience is required. Check out the following excerpts from real job listings in March 2012 to find out what employers were seeking.

  • A manufacturing company in Florida was hiring full-time boat assemblers. Only a high school education was required, along with at least two years of experience and the ability to read blueprints. The job involved installing carpets and cabinets and framing the boats. This same company was also looking for a full-time fiberglass boat finisher. Three years of fiberglass finishing experience was preferred. This was a night position.
  • A boat builder in Texas advertised for experienced fiberglass boat builders. The job was a temporary full-time position that could turn into a permanent job. These employees would construct center consoles for fishing boats, using boat molds.
  • A large marine manufacturing company in Florida was looking for a full-time assembly quality process technician. A high school diploma was required and this company preferred an associate's or technical degree, with professional certifications. Experience was desired in manufacturing, large and small craft assembly, fiberglass, reading blueprints, quality control and computer software.

How Can I Stand Out?

Job ads state that professional certifications are preferred by some employers and thus earning a certification may help you stand out from other applicants. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) offers a certification in composite boat building, among other certification programs. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers quality control and project management certifications that are requested by some employers.

Gaining a wide range of work experiences could also be beneficial, including being able to operate a boat. A state-issued safe boating certificate or license may demonstrate to potential employers your broad knowledge of boats. You might also consider continuing education courses in related topics. Membership in a professional organization, such as the American Boat Builders and Repairers Association, could also help you stand out.

Other Careers to Consider

Naval Architect

If you like working with boats, but you want a higher salary potential, you might consider investing four years in a bachelor's degree to work as a naval architect. Naval/marine architects design boats and oversee the construction, repairs and restoration of boats, ships and other marine craft. As a naval architect, you might perform quality assurance reviews and help to manage technical product development. You would meet with clients to assess their needs and then propose boat designs. Many naval architects now use software tools to aid in their designs. In May 2011, the BLS revealed that the annual mean wage for a naval architect was about $92,000.

Carpenter

In 2012, the BLS reported that employment in manufacturing in general was projected to decline through 2020. However, employment in construction was expected to increase. Skills, knowledge and abilities connected to boat constructing might be adapted to the occupation of carpenters who build and repair structures from wood or other materials. You could learn your trade through on-the-job training or a formal apprenticeship. In May 2011, the mean annual wage for carpenters was around $44,000, according to the BLS.

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