Mar 10, 2009, 6:30 AM
Post #4 of 13
From Ioannis Moatsos, MEng (Hons), PhD, Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design:
Re: [Phoeb3] Naval Architecture vs Mechanical Engineering?
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In the real world even though the positions in yacht design, engineering and shipbuilding companies can be few and coveted there are many paths that one could take that will provide you the skills required for successful employment in a design office, whether this is for ship & yacht building & design or offshore engineering. At the end of the day, I believe, ideally you would want the subject of your studies to coincide with your engineering interests and what you would enjoy the most being involved with in such an environment. The positions in a yacht design office can vary significantly from the more traditional Naval Architecture related posts that look into the design of hull & appendage shapes to the design of systems (electrical, mechanical and hydraulic) to the even more specialized task of designing and engineering the composite structure of the vessel. All are design positions but each requiring a different skill set with certain skill areas overlapping.
A Naval Architecture (NA) degree is a little more specialized when compared to a Mechanical Engineering (Mech Eng) degree but even though the word "specialized" might sound restrictive in terms of career options, a degree in Aerospace Engineering can also be considered specialized and the pursue of either of the three degrees could potentially lead to a job in the marine, aerospace or any other engineering related positions in a widespread range of industries (medical, construction, sports equipment etc). The Mech Eng path could possibly provide you with more options to gain a variety of knowledge (not necessarily Marine related) if you're unsure where your interests lie but the subjects taught are so widespread that you will not necessarily gain the required knowledge that will allow you to successfully gain employment and be involved in the design and build of sailing and motor vessels. Focus on specific areas such as CAD design, structures, composite design and fluid dynamics would be a good alternative to an NA degree if you wish to keep your options open but application of the basic theory to marine specific problems might not be necessarily the focus of your studies unless the lecturers involved have such background and research interests. Options also exist to pursue a Masters in Naval Architecture after a Mechanical Engineering degree, if you would like to keep your options as open as possible, but the knowledge path is rather steep if you lack some of the basic marine related knowledge taught in undergrad classes.
Personally having studied NA in the UK it was sailing also that provided the incentive for choosing to study the particular subject and pursue a career in the design of yachts. My study paths run parallel with most Mech Eng students in the University of Glasgow (we took the same Composite Design & Structural Analysis classes taught by the same lecturers) even until the final year but this can differ depending on how engineering faculties are organized in different colleges. After graduation all of my NA classmates were employed in a variety of positions that were not necessarily marine related and ranged from Banking to Civil Engineering but over 80% were in marine related fields and all being offered jobs before or shortly after their graduation. I strongly believe that the specialized knowledge you gain studying NA is irreplaceable for a ship/yacht design position or employment in the marine industry as I find myself often digging deep into the knowledge gained as early as my freshman year of studies. All the skills and knowledge obtained while studying for a degree in NA has allowed me to be involved in all the areas of design that our company is involved including the composite engineering part, understand the different requirements that each area has, and easily switch between them when required.