Suggested academic avenues?

Discussion in 'Education' started by NoviceBoyandsea, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. NoviceBoyandsea
    Joined: Feb 2013
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Prescott Valley, AZ

    NoviceBoyandsea New Member


    I am a 44 year old Army Veteran about to embark on a nearly impossible journey. It seems there is a program that veterans can take advantage of called VRAP- Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Basically it is another form of GI bill through the Veterans Administration. I have already applied and received my certificate of eligibility. This program ends on march 31, 2014, but there are other means of financial help out there that I plan to pursue. The next step in my process is to find an approved college or technical school.

    My interests have been in the small craft design and my research has led me toward marine engineering and naval achitecture. The vrap program will not pay for this degree, but it will get me started. My first question of many is, "What school for the money is best for an associates degree in small craft design?" I have done a little research in the matter, finding Maine Maritime Academy as a possible lead. However, I have no clue on its stature in the mainstream boat building community, or any other school for that matter.

    I live in Arizona at the moment and realize there isn't any water here, so why should there be boats or boat classes! :rolleyes: I will have to move, so out of state tuition will play a role on overall costs. Hopefully, Obamas state of the union address will be heard by the school I end up attending and the tuition will be affordable!

    If you have any insight or avenues I should investigate, please feel free to comment!(I am aware of veterans upwardbound, va clep reimbursement, and am working on possible disability from a sustained injury while on active duty for disability education assistance)
  2. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,934
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    Welcome to the boatdesignnet Noviceboy,

    there is not a lot of opportunities for a carrier in small craft design, it will be difficult to make a living out of it even self employed. Most fully licensed Navel Architects either work for very large companies doing commercial vessels, or have other careers outside of boat design and use small craft and yacht design as part time income.

    However, a degree in Mechanical engineering, engineering technology, or Marine engineering will allow you do work both in small craft design, or find well paid positions in the marine industry, or even outside of it if necessary. This kind of education is far more flexible and useful to many employers, but will also allow you the formal training to pursue small craft design as a part time business, that could eventually lead to your own business once you have proven your skills in small craft design.

    It is very difficult to find full time long term employment in small craft design because of the very cyclical nature of the recreational market. Large builders of commercial freighters and cruise ships can also give you steady employment, but you will have to move to where they are located, and this kind of work is very far from designing small craft.

    Good luck. Choose carefully because you do not want to spend a lot of time studying for a career where there are no jobs. Skilled technology workers will always be in demand, but not always in the field you would want.
  3. DavidJ
    Joined: Jun 2004
    Posts: 222
    Likes: 32, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 441
    Location: Canada

    DavidJ Senior Member

    Petros is right about the small craft industry. It isn't very big and there aren't many jobs for inexperienced people. Lots of one man shops.

    Eric Sponberg has a good article on his site about the realities and options for becoming a yacht designer.

    I have never met a grad of the Maine Maritime Academy but I believe their design program is run in association with the Landing school. I've also never personally met a Landing school grad but they appear to have a good reputation. I'd recommend talking to the school (both schools?) to see if they have information on employment percentages for grads. Usually schools survey graduates and it would be good to know how many people find work within their field and after how long.

    The cost of American universities always astounds me. I have no idea how normal people can afford to go to school. The best deal you will find is at the Marine Institute of Memorial University in Newfoundland Canada. The weather is horrible. But the price is right. It's a three year program. It is currently $5,694 per year for an international student. You can do the whole program for less than the cost of a single year in the states. There are small craft elements but it is a ship naval architecture course.

    Speaking of ship naval architecture degrees, almost all of them are oriented towards big ships, but you usually can choose to so small craft projects. Also the main engineering principals are the same for ships and canoes. Things such as strength of materials, stability, resistance/powering, and structural design. You won't learn the aesthetic elements of boat design in a traditional naval architecture course but you will gain transferable skills that will make you more employable.

    I would also recommend you read the first post in the following thread.
    I think it accurately describes the type of situation a wannabe boat designer often ends up in. Almost everyone goes into naval architecture because they want to design the next America's Cup yacht or fun little sport boats, but the reality is they will most likely be crunching numbers or pumping out drawings or pouring over regulations for a ferry or a barge or an offshore supply ship. The idea of Spielberg making a movie all by himself is poignant.

    Good luck
    1 person likes this.
  4. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 16,778
    Likes: 1,703, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    The jobs for small boat designers in basically nil. If you want to do it as a hobby it is different. However, unless you have a degree in engineering (Naval Architecture is a branch of engineering) your skill won't be too marketable. The University of New Orleans has a good Naval Architecture program. You can get loans, grants or scholarships to help you finish.
  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
    Posts: 19,126
    Likes: 497, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 3967
    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    The key in the pleasure craft market is diversity. Repairs, remodels, restorations, new builds, consultation, inspection and certification, design and engineering can lead to multiple paths for opportunity, in the various aspects of the industry. This of course means an equally diverse education and experience exposure. Most take decades to acquire and develop these skill sets, though education can speed things up a bit. It also depends on what type of person you are. FWIW, I have 3 clients in Arizona. If you're a go getter, mechanically inclined and capable of running a reasonable business model, you'll eventually find a nitch and hack out some sort of living. It's surely a small market, particularly now, but this is typical of the industry, which will turn around and go like crazy again. Lastly, remember the pleasure boat industry is a discretionary funds motivated market. The buyers don't NEED a boat, so when discretionary fund availability slows or dry up, this type of industry is the first to slow and the last to pick back up. Other industries are like this and this is the reason divestiture is the best thing to have up your sleeve.
    1 person likes this.
  6. ancient kayaker
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 3,497
    Likes: 147, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 2291
    Location: Alliston, Ontario, Canada

    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    I think boat design is one of those things that need to be a passion, not just to endure long enough to get accepted but to succeed at all. Without it you'll have a hard row to hoe. If you have it, and your own background gives you a perspective that can lead to creativity and added relevance in your marketplace then you can achieve success. If you have the opportunity to get assistance in the education process and help to keep you going in the lean years than that is all to the good. I don't know if the head-buttings of the various levels of US are going to impact on that, of course.

    As PAR and others have said, it's a static or shrinking market and likely to remain so for some time, but then the same thing can be said for most things these days. To tap into the things other than design which PAR mentioned will likely be even more difficult and academic qualifications will not as much help there.
  7. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 16,778
    Likes: 1,703, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Mass produced boats have limited the amount of designs built. When in the past small craft designers could draw a few a year, now a few designers can supply the market's needs.

  8. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,667
    Likes: 467, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    Novice; Thanks for your service. As retired Coast Guard I know what you are facing. I was 45 when I took off the uniform. I had a similar ambition to yours, but I had already gotten education and skills in the marine industry and drew a complete blank. I came up with zilch even though I had known many of the top people in the industry for years and done a lot of networking. It's a tough business to break into as a designer. BUT, not a tough industry to get into doing other things. I went back to work for the Coast Guard as a engineer in Boating Safety working with boat builders and designers to insure compliance with federal laws. That's pretty close to what I wanted to do and just as satisfying. So you can get into the biz through the back door so to speak.

    A suggestion: go at it from a different tack. (by the way I wish they had had VRAP when I retired, but the GI bill was good too.) Take engineering at the school of your choice. You don't even have to leave Arizona to do that. Then on the side take the Westlawn course in Yacht Design (see That is what I did. It is a an internationally recognized and accredited course. They can't give you a degree but they will give you the design skills you need. I is a correspondence course, but it is not easy and will require a lot of your time, but it is well worth it.
Similar Threads
  1. gunaycital
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.