How to become a naval architect: Lawrence's story

Meet Lawrence. He's 27 and lives and works in Bristol. Find out about his job as a freelance naval architect for H2NA Limited. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Laurence at work, smiling.
"I have a real passion for sailing. When I was 23 I spent three months at sea rowing from England to America!"

What does working as a naval architect involve?

It might be surprising, but most of my work is based on a computer.

I design yachts and boats, making sure they are stable and structurally sound. I draw them on paper first, then I use specialist software to design 2D and 3D models.

Most of my clients are medium-to-large businesses who want changes made to their boats and it's my job to make sure that it's done safely. I work as a freelancer, and I work independently. However, there is one main company that I work for. There is no central office so I work at home and check in via email and our weekly meetings.

Do you use any of the skills your learnt in school in your work?

I use Maths and Physics every day. I need to calculate things like density, volume, and mass to work out if a boat is going to float!

What other skills do you use in your work?

Self-discipline - you need to be able to organise your own life when you are working for yourself. As a freelancer, I also need to be organised because I look after my own finances. I have to keep accurate records of the money I make, my invoices, and expenses so I can provide a tax return to the government every year.

Lawrence measuring a boat.
Lawrence studied Naval Architecture at university which is the marine side of engineering.

Top tips

  • I've always chosen things that I've really enjoyed doing because I think that's the best way to succeed
  • Doing practical work when you're starting out is really beneficial because you get an understanding of how things work
  • Try out different work experience placements, no matter how small, to help you to work out what you find interesting
  • Be proactive: build a network of people and make as many new contacts as you can. I got my first proper job offer this way.

What to expect if you want to be a naval architect

  • Naval architect salary: £25,000 to £60,000 per year
  • Naval architect working hours: 39 to 41 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: Most naval architects have a degree or postgraduate qualification that is recognised by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. This would usually be an engineering subject like Naval Architecture, Ocean, Offshore, or Marine Engineering, or Ship Science. You may be able to get onto a degree course if you've got qualifications from working as an engineering technician. You'll usually need three A-levels (or equivalent) including Maths and Physics.

This information is a guide (sources: National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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