Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Boat Builders and Designers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for boat builders and boat designers are quite good over the next few years due to the growing demand for leisure and luxury boats and strengthening of the global economy. About half of employment in the boat building sector is in Auckland, but there are also sizeable pockets of employment in the Bay of Plenty and Northland and small numbers in other regions.

How to become a boat builder

What they do

Boat builders build, refit and repair marine vessels. This involves all parts of the vessel, including the hull and interior. Boat builders can specialise in constructing a particular part of the boat, or boats of a particular material. The materials a boat builder can specialise in are alloy, steel, composites and wood.

Boat designers design boats such as yachts and pleasure craft. They will use design software to draft and refine boat designs, and they may manage the building process as well.

Their tasks may include:

  • studying plans and specifications, and preparing templates and scale plans for fabrication and cutting of hull sections
  • marking reference points and lines on dry docks and slipways
  • checking position and functioning of slipway apparatus
  • assembling shells of boats and erecting hull sections of ship
  • erecting and preparing launching platforms, conducting pre-launch tests and supervising launching procedures
  • installing masts, frames, decking, fittings, machines, shafts and safety equipment
  • building and installing structures such as cabins, machine mountings, propeller supports and rudders
  • determining repair requirements and procedures
  • making hull moulds and fabricating and repairing vessels using materials such as aluminium, wood, glass, reinforced plastics, carbon fibre, Kevlar, fibreglass and concrete


There is no entry requirement to work as a boat builder, but in order to become a qualified boat builder, students must complete a New Zealand Certificate (Level 4) in a field related to boat building.

Some relevant qualifications include New Zealand Certificates in Boat Building, Marine Systems, Marine Interiors, or Marine Coatings (all level 4). These are the responsibility of the New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation (NZMACITO). Check its website for a full overview.

Boat designers need to have considerable experience and understanding of boats. At the highest level, a qualified naval architect would need a Bachelor of Engineering in naval architecture or similar which would take four years to complete and involve overseas study.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.


Cost of study

On the job training

*if completed as an employer-funded apprenticeship there may be no fees for the apprentice.  

The least expensive way to train as a boat builder or boat designer is to become an apprentice and learn on the job. As an apprentice you can earn while gaining a qualification. At the other end of the scale, a fully qualified naval architect would need to complete a Bachelor of Engineering in naval architecture, which may involve overseas study.  

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

The Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that looks after training for the boat building industry is the New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation (NZMACITO). It arranges apprenticeship training nationwide.


Completed qualifications

The number of students completing Level 4 qualifications in the broader category ‘Maritime Engineering & Technology’ peaked in 2011. 300-400 students completed qualifications in this category in 2012-2014, before declining to 220 in 2015, then increasing again.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for boat builders is estimated to be around $54,500 and for boat designers around $80,000. Inexperienced boat builders and new apprentices are likely to start out at the minimum wage or the training wage. Fully qualified naval architects are likely to earn considerably more than these rates. 

Estimated Average Income
Boat Builder Boat Designer
$54,500 $80,000

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Boat builders and designers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
2,058 1,344 1,550 1,710
  -5.9% 2.4% 1.6%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers”.

The number of boat builders and designers in employment declined strongly from 2006 to 2013 due to weakness in the sector following the Global Financial Crisis. Subsequently, employment has increased and should continue to increase out to 2028.

Most of the employment is for boat builders. Boat designers comprise only about 6% of employment numbers. Opportunities for designers are there but it is a more specialist area requiring more experience and expertise.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections
* Numbers employed are for boat builders and boat designers combined.

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
16% 28% 4% 54% $49,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission.
*Three years after completion of L4 Certificate – Maritime Engineering & Technology.

Three years after completing a L4 Certificate in Maritime Engineering & Technology most graduates are either in employment or in further study.

Boat builders and designers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Boat builder vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Boat builders and designers can specialise in different types of boats and different boat building materials.

They may also go on to establish their own businesses.

The NZ Marine & Composites Industry Training Organisation has more information on the boat building sector and boat building apprenticeships.


Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level boat builders and designers.

  • Cabinet Makers
  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • Naval architects
  • Painters and Floor Finishers
  • Yacht Builders

Other information


More information on boat builders and designers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of boat builders and designers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for their purpose of this report:

3991 – Boat Builders and Shipwrights
233916 – Naval Architect (Aus) / Marine Designer (NZ)