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Canada’s Best Jobs 2014: Specialized Engineer

High stakes on the high seas

agricultural engineers

Specialized engineers consult in fields like agriculture and naval architecture. (Lisa Blue/E+/Getty)

Median Salary: $79,997
Change in salary (2007–2013): +28%
Total employees: 14,300

“Other engineers” encompasses a wide variety of fields, from agriculture to biomechanics to textiles—not to mention an array of marine jobs like naval architect. That’s a bit of a misnomer—they’re not quite architects and most don’t serve in the navy. But they design all kinds of vessels, from canoes to offshore drilling platforms.

How to qualify: Most begin with a few years of undergraduate engineering study before picking a specialty. For instance, Newfoundland’s Memorial University, the University of British Columbia and the Institut maritime du Québec all offer naval architecture programs.

Money: Compensation data for Canadian naval architects is lacking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary is US$88,100. According to PayScale, junior positions start around US$53,000; experienced professionals can command as much as US$125,000.

Opportunity: Although there are relatively few jobs in Canada, there are also few qualified candidates. Common employers of naval architects include shipyards, government agencies, offshore oil and gas firms and actual navies. “Globally, there’s been an explosion in ship-ordering and shipbuilding over the past 10 years or so,” says Erik Seither, executive director of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Shipbuilding activity is slumping at the moment, but Canada’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy stirred up activity here. Many naval architects find work internationally; hotbeds include Singapore and Texas.

What it’s like: Working hours, travel and time in the field vary greatly depending on the role. But the work is typically demanding. “If you make a small mistake when writing code for some application like Facebook, the maximum that might happen is that you end up having some additional text on the screen,” says Praveen Viswanath, a naval engineer working in Vancouver. “But if you make a mistake when you are doing an engineering calculation in naval architecture, you may end up killing some people. And you have to meet the requirements of all the stakeholders. So you have to make a design that is less expensive for the owner, more easy to maintain for the operator, and which can be built relatively easily by the shipyard.”

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