From Mechanical Engineering to Small Craft/Naval Architecture

Discussion in 'Education' started by M.Ezell, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. M.Ezell
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 16
    Likes: 0, Points: 1, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Portland, OR

    M.Ezell Engineer, PE

    Good Day All,

    I am a Mechanical Engineer with a B.S in Engineering and 13 years of engineering experience outside of the marine field. My career has been a good mix of design/project engineering and project management and I'm a registered PE in the state of Oregon. I have extensive skill with AutoCAD, Mechanical Desktop, and Inventor. I'm currently learning Rhino and DeftShip.

    I have always had a keen interest in Naval Architecture and over the last couple of years I've been studying it on my own. My studies so far have been primarily in small craft and yachts, mostly because it's easier to find technical books on this subject, but have touched on ship naval architecture. I've listed part of my library in my profile.

    I have several Questions:

    What qualifications would I need to present myself as a reasonable candidate for an engineering position at a Naval Architecture Consulting Firm, Port, or Ship/Boat Yard?

    In the absence of a degree in Naval Architecture, how could I demonstrate that I have the needed qualifications to present myself to the above as a viable candidate?

    Would a degree from either Westlawn or YDS combined with my Engineering B.S. be enough to qualify me for the Above?

    Anyone out there know of a firm looking for a Mechanical Engineer excited to learn more?
  2. Landlubber
    Joined: Jun 2007
    Posts: 2,640
    Likes: 124, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1802
    Location: Brisbane

    Landlubber Senior Member


    It is not so much how many degrees you have mate, it is experience in the field that matters, too many paper pushers have been given positions in boatyards and stuffed things up real bad, go get a job hands on and learn from others just what is needed, the degrees are great starters to understand the game fundamentals, but nothing beats the guys that have hands on experiences.

    Be honest with prospective employers and explain how you are keen to get more on job time and i am sure you will be rewarded.
  3. Ad Hoc
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 6,910
    Likes: 855, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 2488
    Location: Japan

    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    I know many mechanical engineers who have positions as naval architects. A willingness to start from the "bottom" may help, with firms not too keen. Also try the take me on for free, as a trail, that may help too.

    However, what is you really wanna do??..since naval architecture means different things to different people. In some roles, your qualifications and experience is ideally suited, and not in others...depends what you want to get into
  4. CDBarry
    Joined: Nov 2002
    Posts: 795
    Likes: 33, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 354
    Location: Maryland

    CDBarry Senior Member

    Call Godfrey Lee at Gunderson, or go by at 4350 NW Front Ave.

    They are looking for mechanicals and you could probably pick up a lot of the NA stuff, especially from Godfrey.

    You should be able to swith over pretty easily.

    Also join SNAME, www,
  5. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    Although there is some overlap, engineering and NA are different skills and responsibilities. I am also a PE, and I have worked in many industries: aerospace (both military and civil), structural design of buildings, automotive, civil engineering, and some marine design. All used similar skills, but I would never take money from someone to design them a boat, though I have designed and built a number of different small craft for myself.

    All kinds of large ship builders can use the skills you already have, you just have to learn a new set of regulations (which is what I have done each time I switched industries). Find an employer that can use you and then learn the other skills from others as you go.

    A cautionary note, despite the different industries, the actual day to day work in each was more the same than different. One would think that designing advanced military aircraft sounds exciting, but it was one of the most boring jobs I ever had. Very tedious and repetitious (although the project was interesting, the work was NOT). One would think designing buildings can be boring, and sometimes it is, but as a consultant I have more control of my choices and my responsibilities, and I can use some creative solutions to solve real problems. Much more satisfying than working for a larger employer with lots of rules and limits on how you can do your job.

    If you are bored where you are, and think changing careers would be more interesting, you might be disappointed. So carefully examine why you want to make such a big change at this point in your career. It might just be a case of the grass looks greener over there.

    I love designing and building boats, but I choose to keep it as a hobby not a profession. I think the fun would be taken out of it then.

    You might consider reading the book: "48 Days to the Job You Love"

    After reading it, if the marine industry is a better fit for you, than Go for it!

    Good luck
  6. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,490
    Likes: 348, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    I do not have a degree in Naval Architecture. I started out to get one but things got in the way. Eventually I ended up with a degree in operations management.

    But I spent many years working in Naval architecture. I worked in the NA division at a shipyard in my younger years, and in my 34 years with the USCG I spent at least 20 doing NA work.

    Experience always helps and more than likely you'll have to start at a lower position than you are qualified for. I did a lot of work as an engineering technician and as a draftsman (boy that dates me doesn't it)

    Training helps though and taking the Westlawn course (or YDS) is good. I took it a long time ago. But the best thing to do is just spend a lot of time around boats. Most naval architecture courses deal with big ships and very little about boats. There are distinct differences. Yes there are many similarities but the differences are more important.
  7. M.Ezell
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 16
    Likes: 0, Points: 1, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Portland, OR

    M.Ezell Engineer, PE

    Thanks guys. It is great to get this feedback from all of you. I was actually approached by Gunderson about their position. At the time I started the thread I had been laid off. Gunderson contacted me two weeks after I had accepted another position. I only wish I had known about them a little earlier! I didn't feel that it would be ethical to quit the new job so soon after accepting it.

  8. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,490
    Likes: 348, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    I might add that I have known far more Mechanical Engineers working in the NA field than NAs. NAs are actually a pretty rare breed, but they are also a breed apart because of the necessary breath of knowledge and skills. That does not mean an ME can't learn it, but an NA has a leg up.

    Petros comment about the work being pretty much the same and routine (boring?) is true. My job in a shipyard was pretty routine and I did much the same thing over and over. However, It also gave me the opportunity to learn the basics of naval architecture. I was involved in everything from doing weight and moment calculations to inclining experiments, launchings. sea trials and so on. It was great training.

    But boat design and building is a whole different animal. It's more holistic. The designer is involved in everything from the first sketch until it's delivered to the owner. So continue to pursue your dream.
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.