Naval Architecture Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Class Info

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Bachelor's and master's degrees in naval architecture can lead to careers in government and private businesses. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Naval Architecture: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs in naval architecture frequently pair the topic with the close field of marine engineering. These programs prepare you for a career designing ships and other water vessels. Specific duties may include making design proposals, developing the stability of a vessel and testing prototypes. If you are looking for a bachelor's program, you may consider one that is approved by ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for naval architects and marine engineers are expected to increase 17% from 2010-2020. The anticipated increase is due to the need to create ships that can carry specialized cargo and the need to make updates to existing vessels. Experienced individuals may become architectural managers. The BLS anticipated that employment growth for this career would be nine percent during the same time period.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking a career as a naval architect Experienced individuals who want career advancement
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Naval architect ($85,000)*
- Marine engineer ($85,000)*
- Architectural manager ($122,000 - generally requires more than five years' experience)*
Career paths are similar to what's possible with a bachelor's degree, although advancement opportunities may be available for candidates holding a master's degree
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements -Senior design project - Thesis, research project or additional advanced coursework
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent
- SAT or ACT scores
- Bachelor's degree
-GRE scores
Online Availability None found at this time None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Naval Architecture

Bachelor's degree programs include foundational topics in chemistry, engineering, math and physics along with topics in ship design and engineering, preparing you to lead architectural or engineering teams in school competition and later, the workplace. Depending on the type of school you elect to attend, hands-on experience through labs or internships may be required. Some schools offer dual degree programs that combine naval architecture and marine engineering with another form of engineering, such as mechanical engineering or aerospace engineering.

Pros and Cons


  • Programs include both design and engineering coursework
  • Opportunities for advanced undergraduate research are available
  • Work experience is built into some programs


  • May need to attend ABET-accredited program
  • Some programs are offered at U.S. service academies which require additional commitments
  • Standalone naval architecture programs aren't readily available
  • Entrance to some programs can be highly competitive

Coursework and Requirements

In addition to the core curriculum, these programs include advanced math and science requirements, including calculus, differential equations and physics. Foundational engineering courses, such as statics and dynamics, are also required. Core coursework may include the following:

  • Ship hull strength
  • Marine design methods
  • Ship structures
  • Ship propulsion systems
  • Propulsion design
  • Thermodynamics for naval architecture

Online Programs

Due to the significant number of lab sessions and experience requirements, online programs are not available. According to ABET, most programs it accredits are offered on-site. While a few programs it has approved are available entirely online, programs in naval architecture are not among them.

How to Get Ahead with this Degree

While still in school, you may complete cooperative education or an internship. These can provide technical experience in areas like tools evaluation and model testing. After graduation, you may consider becoming professionally licensed. Requirements for licensure generally vary by state but may include taking the Professional Engineer Principles and Practice Examination in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, being licensed allows you to offer your services to the public or bid for government contracts. The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) also supports licensing for its members. To become licensed, you typically need to graduate from an ABET-accredited program, pass two exams and gain four years of supervised experience.

Master's Degree Programs in Naval Architecture

Similar to bachelor's degree programs, master's degree programs in naval architecture are typically offered with marine engineering. These 2-year programs may be tailored to be research- or practice-related, depending on your career interests. While these programs are intended for individuals with undergraduate degrees in engineering, some programs may consider applicants with non-engineering backgrounds, although prerequisite coursework may be required. Schools may offer a thesis or non-thesis option, resulting in a Master of Science or Master of Science in Engineering degree, respectively.

Pros and Cons


  • May have the option to complete a program as coursework-only or with a thesis
  • Allow for more flexibility in curricula than bachelor's degree programs
  • Joint programs that combine with another master's degree (including Master of Business Administration degree) are available


  • A limited number of programs are available
  • May not lead to career options other than those available to bachelor's degree graduates
  • Applicants without an undergraduate engineering degree may have to take a significant number of preparatory courses and exams without earning graduate credit

Coursework and Requirements

While many programs are flexible, there is usually a core curriculum that you must take that includes physics and calculus classes. Some programs may be offered as a Master of Science in Engineering, with a concentration in naval architecture and marine engineering. Course topics may include:

  • Wave loads on ships and offshore structures
  • Advanced marine design
  • Marine structural mechanics
  • Marine dynamics
  • Fluid dynamics for naval architecture
  • Market forecasting, managing and optimizing marine systems

Online Programs

Similar to bachelor's degree programs, master's degree programs in naval architecture are not readily available online. This is due to the significant research and hands-on learning requirements.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

Taking advantage of learning opportunities through specialized learning centers or faculty research interests can help students gain important technology and hands-on skills and insights into the field. Some schools may offer access to naval architecture research labs or research activities in a naval architecture-related sub-field like remote sensing, experimental hydrodynamics or systems management. In addition, similar to bachelor's degree graduates, you may consider earning your professional license.

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