Looking at doing an MSc in Yacht design, Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Discussion in 'Education' started by Zarko_B, Dec 7, 2015.

  1. Zarko_B
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    Zarko_B New Member

    Hello dear users,

    My name is Zarko, (21) and I am currently looking to sign up to do a 1 year degree in Yacht design provided by "Polimi/Design" which is based in Milano, Italy. The interview with the head of the course went well so now I have to decide weather or not to do it.. Although there are many things in my head that I am currently trying to figure out at the moment, I still need to decide to make this big step in my life, you could say I'm looking for some useful info and good opinions to help me make my mind up. Ill try to make it as short as possible so you get a fair idea of my situation.

    I graduated June this year with a Bsc in product design in the Wales (Great Britain). Having a passion for Cars and Car Design I was thinking of doing a masters in Automotive design,

    But then.. whilst I was looking I found the Masters in Yacht Design, What initially attracted me to the course was the fact that It had a 3 month internship (which in my personal opinion experience in these days counts more than anything when it comes to employment). I also find something very noble in Designing boats, as much as i love cars I could see myself Creating a boat.

    The questions that I have been curious about, First of all is the money side, the Course will cost me 11,000 euros for a full year.(and thats without living costs in milan :O) If anyone has previously done the course any info would be appreciated, Is it a good course and worth the money?

    What is a day in the life of a boat designer look like (duties etc). Reason why Im asking is I love taking my paper drawing and actually making the part/thing. So both office work and shipyard work intrigue me.

    What is the employ-ability like in this sector. I know the course says that Italy has a 67% Market in Shipbuilding but that could have changed. Figures on average salary would be useful as I need to know If I can afford to pay all my education debts back and live out there.

    that is all I can think of right now, Any further info would be welcomed.

    Thanks Guys !
  2. DavidJ
    Joined: Jun 2004
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    DavidJ Senior Member

    I'm sorry, but I don't have much relevant information for you. I have no idea about wages or the current work prospects. I do know that there aren't a huge amount of yacht design positions out there. It's rare to see a job posting for one. The industry in general is quite small and there isn't a large market for concept designs. I used to work at a small yachts design firm (15ish people) and we didn't have a single university educated designer on staff. The staff was about equally split between naval architects, mechanical engineers, and drafters. The owner did most of the design work and he was a self taught artist who apprenticed under other independent boat/yacht designers and did at least a partial naval architecture profession.

    About 4 years ago I was speaking with the head of the design department for one of the largest yacht shipyards in the world and he said that the naval architecture department(engineering) had 50 people in it. By contrast the design department had 5. And that was including him and he wasn't actually an educated designer. He was a naval architect who moved sideways into that role.

    I'm also unsure as to how valuable a specific masters education in yacht design would be. Most of the designers I am familiar with got their educations in architecture, interior design, and yes car design. If you go look at the websites for yacht design firms and read the profiles of their design staff you will see very few yacht design degrees.

    I would assume it's an extremely competitive job market. I'd recommend contacting companies you'd be interested in working for. Ask them questions about how often they hire designers. You could also ask them if they've heard of the program and if they'd recommend it. Who knows you might even find a job?

    Good luck.
  3. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Petros Senior Member

    There are not a lot of positions for yacht designer in any country, and even the established builders and design firms have a tough go of maintaining a steady income. Many of the most celebrated and well known navel architects and designers often rely on other income (other careers in a different industry) for their main source of income, and design yachts as a side or part time occupation (particularly since most yacht design positions do not pay very well). The demand for new yachts tend to go with the economy, when it is strong people with disposable income are willing to borrow money for a new yacht. When the future is uncertain and the economy is slow, they will put off such purchases. So the demand is always soft at best, or non-existent. Particularly when the economy takes a down turn, a lot of very nice expensive yachts show up for sale at bargain prices.

    My degree and profession is in engineering, I have worked in a variety of industries (automotive, aerospace, consumer products and building construction, and even a bit of marine engineering), I have never been unemployed for very long over the last 40 years. When one position went away, I was able to find something else in a matter of weeks, often in very different industries. My more general education (non-specialized) made me more employable in different industries or market segments. The skills learned in one position enhanced my employability for another. I do not think that would have been the case had I degree in navel architecture or marine engineering. I have been self employed now for over 20 years with my own consulting firm, and my many different experiences has greatly enhanced by ablity to keep my business going over good times and slow.

    Acquiring basic skills makes you more employable, even in the yacht design trades, than a specialized degree. Continue your education if it will help you get employed, but try and avoid the debt if possible (go to school locally), but I would suggest in the area of general drafting and design (if design work is really want you want to do). Than self educate yourself the areas of your passion, and try and find work in that field. In the mean time you can take any work that comes along to support yourself, and build your experiance.

    Having a specialized degree from a small specialized school will not help you find work as much as the actual skills and enthusiasm you bring with you to a job interview. Besides, if you find that the pay, working conditions and the kind of people you have to work with in yacht design are not what you had in mind, you can always takes your skills and work in other, better paying, industry. That would be tough if you were in debt and your degree was in yacht design, and no one designing yachts is hiring, and you are competing for other jobs with people who graduated from more well known local trade schools.

    Good luck.
  4. Zarko_B
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    Zarko_B New Member

    First of all I want to thank you DavidJ and Petros for taking the time to reply yo my post, I regard it highly, it says a lot about the type of good mentality people that this forum has to offer.

    DavidJ I am taking in your recommendation of contacting companies I'd be interested in working for.
    As a fresh off the boat product designer (excuse the pun :p), I am finding it rather difficult to set myself in a direction of designing consumer products as I find I do not want to be contributing to the ever growing consumerism that is on this planet. (how ironic right? :D)
    I do however have a strong passion for vehicles, cars in particular so Ill try to purse a path with those elements in it.

    "The skills learned in one position enhanced my employability for another."
    I can relate a lot to this comment, I have had a number of jobs since i was 15, In fact my latest position is as a door to door B2B dental equipment salesman working for myself. I find it a rather hard job as I've never practiced "selling" or "influencing people" and although I have learned a lot about the sales process in general and how to be a lot more confident with people. But I still find emptiness ,like this is not my calling so I'm looking for my next Adventure. I honestly thought that the Yacht Design would have been a great opportunity and after reading your first paragraph I started to think twice. I can see what you mean by:

    "Having a specialized degree from a small specialized school will not help you find work as much as the actual skills and enthusiasm you bring with you to a job interview."

    I haven't had a problem with my enthusiasm at interviews so far :idea:

    A lot of times I thought that once I leave university, I will find my dream job and everything will be "okay". Though I find the truth is biased towards reality and the reality is: It seems that it seems far more opportunity is to be found in the engineering sector than in the design sector.

    Ah well..... I should have stuck to my mechanical engineering course that I initially took. Its good to learn from harsh feedback sometimes :D

    p.s Thanks again both for chipping in with some advice ! If there is anything else you want to add, more than welcome to!

  5. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    competent and skilled engineers are always in demand, for good reason. Over half of those that struggle through a 4 or 6 year tough engineering curriculum are almost useless as an engineer. They need to be closely supervised and given very straightforward tasks or they will make critical (and often costly) errors.

    Someone with engineering skills can find well paid work in any country and almost in any town, anywhere in the world. Those skills will also make you a top notch designer if that is where you want to take your career. You can be an engineer and a designer, but a designer can seldom do the work of an engineer.

    I have been called an architect, boat designer (I have designed and built almost 30 small boats, almost all of my own design, and assisted many others in their designs), scientist, physicist, geotech, computer programmer, artist, mechanic, carpenter, machinist, among other things. almost none of those skills I have had any formal training in, perhaps some exposure in school, but mostly self taught and never intimidated too much to give it a try after some practice.

    I suggest you consider picking up your engineering program and finish it out, you can read books on yacht design on your own as you, or during school breaks. If the program can keep the credits you already have you likely will graduate no later than you would if you went to yacht design school. You will be worth a lot more when you get out, and able to pay off any student loans much faster too (though you should try and not borrow any more money if possible). And you will find it a lot easier to find work in a boat builders or navel architect's office.
  6. Zarko_B
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    Zarko_B New Member

    Thanks for the reply again Petros,

    I can relate to your comment when you mentioned "Over half of those that struggle through a 4 or 6 year tough engineering curriculum are almost useless as an engineer." . This is where I was 3 Years ago, fresh from college starting my degree in "product design and mechanical engineering".

    In the first month of doing this course I realized that I don't have the head for the math skills involved in it, simply because my previous engineering course which I took in college was training us more for the vocational stuff in engineering (it was a Btec program ), They taught subjects to us that were all round engineering : PLC programming, Hand engineering drawing, CAD , Lathe and milling operation, welding , brazing, fiber glassing, electronics sand casting etc.

    The maths and physics we did was a small unit at the end of the second year. (no where near to prepare us for the maths in university). This is why a lot of my peers went on to do apprentice ships in industry. and only a small number of us (3 or 4) went on to study in University. Having transferred to do just product design in another Uni, I had the chance of learning "solid-works".

    Just like you Petros, I'm self taught in a lot of the skills stated above, and I'm also not intimidated by giving it a go.
    My biggest hurdle is actually going into industry and getting some experience , watching how things are done and then putting them into practice. This is why the "yacht design" course appeals to me so much, its the fact that they offer 3 months of internship in a shipyard and the potential to stay and work for them after that (depending on how good I perform at the end ofcourse).

    To me that's a big bonus as who is going to be willing to take on a fresher like me with no experience in the industry.

    I appreciate your concern as far as student loans go and I will be borrowing money from parents.

    Anyways with regards to the course, here are some of the teaching units that they are going to cover in this 12 month course:

    -Yacht Design: principles, methods, tools
    and rule
    -Design and representation
    -Naval architecture
    -On-board systems and propulsion
    -Interior design
    -Production process and corporate
    -Design workshop

    I have also attached the pdf file with the full course itinerary if you want to have a nose at it. If you do, let me know what you think .

    Cheers !

    Attached Files:

  7. u4ea32
    Joined: Nov 2005
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    u4ea32 Senior Member

    Westlawn is the obvious answer.

    Its not a Master's degree. Instead, its an education that actually makes you skilled, insightful, and valuable as a yacht designer. Its an education that is accredited by those who actually understand the material -- RINA, the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.

    The education consists of 4 modules, 38 exams, 9 of which are design projects. The final consists of two complete yacht designs, ready to build: one sail, one power, one plastic, one metal or wood. Everything related to boat design is covered: stability, structure, style, interior, propulsion, rigs, systems, etc.

    The Westlawn education has steadily evolved over the past 86 years, and has always been based on "project based learning" which means we teach you something, and then you apply that learning in a practical, applied manner. Then we teach you more, and you apply it. You apply your education on 9 different boat designs. So you really know yacht design by the time you are done, and its easy for you to demonstrate your knowledge with your design portfolio.

    All Westlawn instructors have always been successful yacht designers. That is the most important criteria for our instructors. Westlawn instructors make money doing yacht design! So its not surprise that so many of the successful yacht designers are from Westlawn.

    Some people have mentioned they are skeptical on the jobs prospects. Because Westlawn is focused on educating people to be successful in this industry, our graduates are in high demand. It seems the vast majority are working in design roles during their studies.

    If you want to be successful in the yacht and boat design industry, Westlawn is probably the place to go.

    It certainly helps that its costs are very low, and everything is included (except your computer and internet connection). We provide enrolled students all books, all software, all software training, access to all rules documents including ISO and ABYC, membership in both SNAME and RINA.

    When you graduate from Westlawn, you can sit for your Professional Engineer exam in the EU. You can become a full member of both RINA and SNAME.

    But most importantly, you will have demonstrable skills that can earn you an early career annual salary 3 or 4 times your total cost of your Westlawn education. That is one of the best returns on investment in all of education.

  8. alanrockwood
    Joined: Jun 2009
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    alanrockwood Senior Member

    Would a certificate from Westlawn be useful to a person approaching retirement age? To put it another way, is small craft design something that could be done on a part time basis to augment a retirement income, or is it something that would require a full-time employment commitment?

    Also, as a practical matter, is it almost necessary to live in a coastal area, or could one practice the profession in an inland region?

    Finally, would a graduate degree in one of the physical sciences help much in going through the course, or perhaps as an alternative, are there any opinions on the distance learning MS program at Virginia Tech?
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