What is a Naval Engineering Degree?

Naval engineering encompasses the research, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of ships and other watercraft. Programs incorporate coursework that prepares students for careers as naval architects, who design ships, and marine engineers, who monitor and maintain shipboard systems and machinery. Foundational classes include engineering sciences, electrical technology, and industrial chemistry.

Program Options

It is important to select a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Bachelor’s Degree in Naval Engineering – Four Year Duration
Most undergraduate degree programs in this field combine naval architecture – the design of ships – with marine engineering – the maintenance of shipboard systems and equipment. The typical curriculum is composed of credits in general education, math and science, and engineering. It is not uncommon for students of naval engineering to spend time at sea, normally during the summer, to gain operating experience.

Here are some samples of courses that make up the typical naval engineering undergrad program:

• Standards of Training, Certification, and Watch Keeping for Seafarers – standards regarding emergency, occupational safety, and survival; orderly abandonment of a vessel in an emergency situation; proper use of equipment; coordinating survival activities during rescue operation
• Basic Engineering Sciences – fundamental principles of engineering sciences: thermodynamics, mechanical science, and electrotechnology; mass, volume, density, statics, kinematics, dynamics, energy, work, power, fluids, and heat
• Communication / Maritime English – range and types of communications in the maritime world; developing abilities to produce accurate, concise, and clear written work
• Electrical Technology – introduction to current circuit analysis and safety procedures to be followed when working near electrical equipment on board vessels; hands-on lab experience building circuits and using test instruments to measure voltage, current, and power
• Introduction to Marine Engineering – confined space entry, firefighting, watch keeping, pollution regulations, and ship’s engine room layout; introduction to ship’s auxiliaries including pumps, pump systems, boilers, air compressors, oil purification equipment, water makers, refrigeration, hydraulics, steering gear, and deck machinery; marine diesel engine cycles, heat balance, performance measuring characteristics, and timing diagrams; structural differences between medium and slow speed marine diesel propulsion engines
• Industrial Chemistry – introduction to the fundamentals of chemistry and its application to the marine industry; electronic structure, bonding of atoms and molecules, the periodic scale; the chemical structure of water, methods of water treatment, and cooling water
• Maintenance and Repair of Auxiliary Machinery – procedures and safe practices while starting, operating, shutting down, and overhauling all auxiliary machinery on ships; computer simulation and hands-on operation and maintenance of auxiliary machinery
• Introduction to Logic Circuits – hands-on building and testing of logic circuits
• Mathematics – positive negative integers, ratio, rate, proportion, percent equivalents, indices, applied algebra, analytical geometry, trigonometry, logarithms, exponential functions, graphing, and introductory calculus
• Materials – overview of the properties of engineering materials used on ships; extraction of major metals from their ores; manufacturing of iron and steel; alloy structures; identifying and selecting metals, plastics, and ceramics for shipboard applications
• Ship Design / Construction – arrangement of the main commercial ship types showing major structures: holds, tanks, bulkheads, cargo, and engine spaces
• Technical Drawing – interpretation of machinery drawing and marine engineering drawing and design handbooks; technical communication for design; basics of AutoCAD software to make 2D drawings
• Skills Training – hands-on training in the safe use and care of common hand tools, power tools, and fasteners found on board ships
• Introduction to Ship’s Machinery Systems – understanding the general machinery layout and reading machinery system schematics; systems examined include sea water cooling, compressed air, fresh water, bilge and ballast, lubrication oil, fuel, and sewage
• Ship Security Officer – qualifications and duties of Ship Security Officer: security of a ship, implementing and maintaining a ship security plan; liaising with a Company Security Officer and a Port facility Officer; awareness of terrorist threads; obtaining current intelligence and threat assessments
• Marine First Aid – applying first aid in the event of an accident or illness on board; immediate action; first aid kits; body structure and function; toxicological hazards aboard ship; examination of the patient; spinal injuries; burns, scalds, and effects of heat and cold; fractures, dislocations, and muscular injuries; medical care of rescued persons, including distress, hypothermia, and cold exposure; radio medical advice; pharmacology; sterilization; cardiac arrest, drowning, and asphyxia; psychological and psychiatric problems; patient assessment
• Oil and Chemical Tanker Familiarization Training – basic design of oil and chemical tankers and their cargo handling systems; the hazards involved in the handling and carriage of crude oil, petroleum products, and chemical cargoes
• Cooperative Training – integration of academic study with work experience / sea phases conducted with reputable companies
• Applied Mechanics – solving applied engineering problems in kinematics, dynamics, power and energy, friction, stress, and strain
• Automation and Controls – introduction to basic control engineering, instrumentation systems; temperature, pressure, level, flow, and other general measurement processes
• Maintenance and Repair of Diesel Engines – introduction to engine construction and rebuilding; hands-on disassembly and diagnosis of the components of an operational engine; completion of a parts requisition and an engine condition report
• Naval Architecture – the effect of hydrostatics related to flotation and ship stability, hull coefficients, and center of pressure; the effect of a change in the ship’s displacement on its center of gravity; load diagram; center of pressure
• Thermodynamics – units used to describe the state of a thermodynamic system: pressure, temperature, volume, and energy; hands-on solving of problems requiring the calculation of changes of pressure, temperature, volume, and energy in non-flow thermodynamic processes
• Propulsion Plant Simulator – hands-on practice on operating all the machinery in the engine room
• Leadership and Teamwork – understanding leadership and teamwork at the operational level on board a ship
• Advanced Firefighting – classroom learning and practical training in fire safety; managing and controlling fire situations aboard ships
• Marine Law – overview of international and US legislation covering marine safety, pollution prevention, certification, inspections, maintenance, and emergency response
• Refrigeration and Air Conditioning – safe operation and maintenance of a shipboard refrigeration and air conditioning plant
• Dry Docking and Corrosion Control – preparing, planning, and executing a successful dry docking of a ship; causes of corrosion in the marine environment, and its prevention on the hull and sea water and diesel engine cooling systems

Master’s Degree in Naval Engineering – One to Two Year Duration
At the master’s level students can design their program in consultation with a faculty member, to focus on their particular area of interest. Possible concentrations include design, production, and management; dynamics and control; hydrodynamics; marine and offshore structures; marine renewable energy; robotics and autonomy; structural and hydro-acoustics; and yacht design. The program’s culminating requirement is a thesis based on original research.

Doctoral Degree in Naval Engineering – Five to Six Year Duration
The master’s program involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have a great deal of independence. They have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on their independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to the field of naval engineering.

Below are some examples of graduate level courses in naval engineering, as well as a description of each of the concentration/research areas listed above in the master’s degree section. The courses taken by individual master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates will vary, depending on the focus of their thesis or dissertation.

Possible Graduate Level Courses
• Ship Production and Industrial Engineering – build strategy, shipyard layout and equipment, manufacturing techniques, outfitting and painting techniques, material properties, corrosion, welding, fatigue, and composite materials
• Business Acumen for Technical Leaders – managerial accounting, strategy and performance, market evaluation, operations management, negotiations and contract management, business-case building and valuation
• Ship Design – use of advanced design software and databases to design a vessel according to specified criteria
• Shipbuilding Internship – supervised, technical work experience in an approved organization, or participation in a research project with faculty

Possible Research Areas
• Design, Production, and Management – development of new design concepts and new manufacturing methods for ships, platforms, and other marine structures
• Dynamics and Control – design of marine systems that respond to unexpected conditions and events including rough seas, blast events, shocks, and extreme motions and loads
• Hydrodynamics – how to make ships and submarines more effective, efficient, and durable; how to extract usable energy from waves, ocean currents, and wind
• Marine and Offshore Structures – how to make marine structures (ships, submersibles, coastal structures, offshore platforms and plants) stronger, more durable, more reliable, and easier to build; evaluating structural integrity using math-based assessments; optimizing strength and reliability by analyzing fatigue, fracture, dynamic response, and ultimate strength
• Marine Renewable Energy – how to put the ocean’s energy to work as an abundant, clean, renewable source of power; harnessing the hydrokinetic energy of currents and tides
• Robotics and Autonomy – creating robots and vehicles to explore, map, and protect marine environments; developing new transportation technologies including autonomous cargo ships and remote underwater vehicles
• Structural and Hydro-Acoustics – how sound is produced in marine structures and how sound spreads through the ocean; structural acoustics, noise produced by machinery, vibration, and remote sensing; military and environmental applications
• Yacht Design – architectural design of high-performance sailing yachts; aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, stability, structures, and fluid dynamics

Degrees Similar to Naval Engineering

Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering degree programs teach the analytical, computational, and engineering and design skills needed to work in the aerospace industry. Students learn how to apply this knowledge to the manufacturing, testing, and monitoring of civil or commercial aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, rockets, spacecraft, lunar vehicles, and space stations.

Architectural Engineering
Degree programs in architectural engineering combine architecture and engineering. Their goal is to produce engineers with technical skills in all aspects of building design and construction. Courses, therefore, cover subjects like architectural drawing and design, building construction, lighting and acoustics, energy systems, and fire safety.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Electrical Engineering
Students of electrical engineering learn how to use physics, electronics, and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by or produce electricity. Most degree programs in the field start with foundational classes in calculus, physics, and chemistry.

Engineering Technology
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing. In addition to aerospace engineering technology, subfields include automotive engineering technology, civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, electronics engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, and industrial engineering technology.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors. In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, life sciences, and physical sciences.

Petroleum Engineering
Degree programs in petroleum engineering teach students how to find and safely and environmentally remove petroleum and natural gas from the earth.

Robotics Engineering
Robotics engineering is focused on designing robots and robotic systems than can perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to perform.

Skills You'll Learn

The process of earning a degree in naval engineering leaves students with a notably wide scope skills:

• Blueprint Reading/Understanding
• Technical / Mechanical – math and physics; design techniques; working with drawings, models, and CAD software
• Project Management / Leadership – leading teams; complying with standards and regulations; decision-making
• Communication – interacting with clients, management, and staff
• Creativity – developing and improving on solutions
• Critical / Analytical Thinking – critically analyzing complex problems
• Conflict Resolution – reconciling differences among team members
• Organization and Time Management – efficient scheduling and planning
• Attention to Detail – precise design and implementation
• Problem-Solving – responding to challenges and issues in a calm and efficient manner
• Visualization – transforming architectural/aesthetic designs into functional ones

What Can You Do with a Naval Engineering Degree?

Graduates with naval engineering degrees find employment in the various sectors of the field:

• Classification Societies – private companies whose mandate is to rate new ships based on predefined technical standards and then to assign the ships a ‘class’ according to their design
• Marine Suppliers
• Marine Surveying – marine surveyors inspect all types of ships to determine seaworthiness
• Model Basins – a model basin is a tank in which ship models are tested by being towed at various speeds
• Offshore Industry – oil rigs, power generation projects such as offshore wind turbines and tidal power
• Ship and Yacht Design and Building
• Shipping / Cruise Lines / Ferry Services – on-board naval/marine engineers keep shipping tankers, cruise ships, and ferries operating safely and efficiently
• Shipyards
• Tug and Barge Operations
• US Army Corps of Engineers
• US Navy


See which schools are the most and least expensive.

Read more