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Why Study to be a Marine Engineer or Naval Architect?

November 6, 2023
UBC MEL Master Program

The marine industry is in the midst of an exciting – and challenging – period of transformation, spurred in part by commitments to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008. Nautical engineering and marine architecture leaders must identify and develop new ways to design and operate ships, using the tools of AI, data analytics and modern manufacturing to support change.

“Given the scope of the challenge facing our industry, it’s crucial that naval architects and marine engineers have both the broad and specialized knowledge needed to explore potential options and develop sustainable solutions,” says Jon Mikkelsen, a director of the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

But finding ways to develop that combination of broad and specialized knowledge can be difficult once you’ve launched your career as a marine engineer or naval architect. That’s why it can be beneficial to pursue a professional master’s degree where you can gain the credentials, knowledge, industry connections and professional development opportunities needed to pursue new and rewarding opportunities.

An integrated curriculum focused on marine engineering and naval architecture

The MEL in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture offers an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to provide a holistic understanding of the industry. Courses are taught by world-renowned experts from UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science and cover topics in ship production and industrial engineering, ship dynamics and control, marine engineering, ship design, and ship hydrodynamics. Students also take two electives to delve deeper into areas of interest.

Strong connections with the local marine sector ensure that the courses and project assignments are relevant and innovative.

“In a course on ship design, students develop a concept for a special-purpose vessel, and participating industry advisors will offer their insight on guidelines and best practices to consider,” explains instructor Jasmin Jelovica in his article “Strategies to reduce emissions in the maritime industry”.

In the summer semester, students have historically had the opportunity to work on a research project, often in collaboration with an industry partner

In 2020, for example, students worked on a project for BC Ferries to develop a machine learning model to predict vessel fuel consumption. They created a digital twin of the ferry using data shared by BC Ferries to develop an interactive fuel decision tool that took into account variables such as wind, distance, propeller pitch and propeller shaft speed.

In 2021, two students – a naval architect and marine engineer – collaborated with a leading classification society to develop a methodology that surveyors could use to assess the likelihood of a loss of ship propulsion when high waves cause ships to incline at high angles. Their study addressed both inclination and acceleration. The two hope the methodology they developed will eventually provide an efficient and cost-effective way for design plan appraisal surveyors to identify the conditions within which marine diesel engines and all auxiliary machinery are to be capable of operating. Read about their project in our article Combining the science of stability and seakeeping.

Preparing nautical engineers and naval architects to be leaders in their field

Being a leader in marine engineering and naval architecture requires more than technical knowledge. It requires a familiarity and ease with business, organizational leadership, strategy, innovation, analytics, accounting, project management and more.

Students gain this broad-ranging business knowledge through courses taught by UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, one of the world’s top-ranked graduate business schools. In these courses, students explore case studies, engage in lively conversation and work together in interdisciplinary groups.

An intense three-week course in the summer delves into six core business competencies, including accounting, organizational behaviour, finance, marketing, business technology management and professional development.

Alumni often tell us that these business courses gave them the tools they need to succeed in their careers as marine engineers and naval architects.

“I am using the knowledge I gained in these classes weekly if not daily,” says alum Anthony Brandon, who is working as a Ship Systems Integration Lead for Harland & Wolff.

“The project management class was superb. And the focus on environmental sustainability and social values has been incredibly helpful. The MEL program seamlessly integrates naval architecture with marine engineering and business leadership. No other master’s degree offers this.”

Advancing into leadership positions in marine engineering and naval architecture

Graduates of the MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering are in high demand across the industry. Many students who come to the program have worked as marine engineers on large vessels, and the program can give them the skills to confidently shift to shore-side careers. For those who come to the program with experience on the naval architecture and design side, the program can enable them to gain the broader technical understanding and leadership skills needed to manage complex teams and projects.

“I’m working on teams with technical experts who have years more experience than me,” says 2017 alum Connor Maloney, who is now an Assistant Project Manager at Irving Shipbuilding.

“Having the broad technical understanding from the MEL is useful because when you’re managing a team or leading a project, you really need to be able to speak the lingo of everyone’s specialty if you want to influence the team to get the result you’re after.”

Launch your future as a marine engineer or naval architect leader

UBC is one of very few schools offering a master’s education in marine engineering and naval architecture that also incorporates in-demand leadership and business skills. That’s an important selling point for professionals that want to move into leadership roles.

The close connections between university researchers and BC’s vibrant and growing marine sector also create opportunities for students to grow their professional networks and make the contacts that can support career growth.

If you’re ready to accelerate your professional development, the MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering offers a proven path to gain the cross-disciplinary technical knowledge, business insight and industry connections marine engineers and naval architects need to lead complex projects and teams within the marine industry.

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Combine the engineering and physics of ship design with broad business and leadership training.

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