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Boat Builder

Kaihanga Waka

Alternative titles for this job

Boat builders build, repair, fit out and sometimes design boats and marine components.


Boat builders with up to five years' experience usually earn

$18-$40 per hour

Boat builders with more than five years' experience usually earn

$40-$75 per hour

Source: NZ Marine and Composites ITO, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a boat builder are good due to increased demand for boats.


Pay for boat builders varies depending on experience:

  • Apprentice boat builders usually start on minimum wage.
  • Boat builders with one to five years' experience usually earn minimum wage to $40 an hour.  
  • Fully-qualified boat builders with more than five years' experience can earn $40 to $65 an hour.
  • Self-employed and senior boat builders can earn $50 to $75 an hour.

Source: New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Boat builders may do some or all of the following:

  • build, refit, repair and service boats
  • use computer-aided design (CAD) software, diagrams or sketches to build boats
  • use a range of tools and materials 
  • select the correct building materials to use, such as composite materials, timber, alloy and steel
  • build interior/exterior cabinetry
  • minimise potential hazards in the workplace
  • install engines and marine systems (plumbing, electrical, electronic, tankage) and components in boats
  • work as part of a team on one boat.

Skills and knowledge

Boat builders need to have knowledge of some or all of the following:

  • different boat building methods
  • different types of boat building materials and how they are applied in the manufacturing process
  • how to interpret diagrams, rough sketches and computer-aided design (CAD) drawings
  • how to design boats using online tools
  • carpentry and engineering
  • how to install machinery, cabinetry and other equipment
  • electrical wiring, plumbing and painting
  • safe working practises
  • trends in boat design.

Working conditions

Boat builders:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines
  • work in workshops and factories, and do repairs outdoors in boat builders' yards, slipways and marinas
  • work in conditions that can be dusty, noisy and fumy.

What's the job really like?

Check out all the different jobs boat builders do in workshops around the country – 6:12 mins. (Video courtesy of NZ Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation)

Entry requirements

To become a boat builder you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain one of the following certificates, depending on your specialisation:

  • New Zealand Certificate in Boat Building (Alloy, Composite, Steel, Wood) (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Marine Coatings (Interior/Exterior) (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Marine Interiors (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Marine Systems (Systems Engineering/Electrical Electronics) (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Production Boat Building (Alloy, Composite) (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Trailer Boat Rigging (Level 4)
  • New Zealand Certificate in Yacht Rig Structures (Rigging, Composite/Metal Spar Making, Canvas/Composite Sail Making) (Level 4)

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements for this job, but NCEA Level 1 is recommended. Useful subjects include construction and mechanical technologies, design and visual communication, mathematics and physics.

Personal requirements

Boat builders need to be:

  • good at maths
  • accurate and reliable
  • motivated to learn a variety of tasks to a high standard
  • able to work as part of a team
  • good at solving problems
  • interested in boats and boating.

Useful experience

Useful experience for boat builders includes:

  • boating experience
  • construction experience, especially carpentry, plumbing and electrical
  • engineering experience
  • experience in panel beating and painting.

Physical requirements

Boat builders need to be reasonably fit and healthy. They also need to be comfortable with heights and working in confined spaces.

Find out more about training

NZ Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation
(09) 360 0056 - training@nzmarine.com - www.nzmacito.org.nz


Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Opportunities for boat builders are good due to increased demand nationally and internationally for commercial vessels, super yachts and trailer boats, and the refitting and maintenance of boats.

New Zealand is recognised globally for innovations in boat building technology and its high quality of work, which means boat builders are in demand here and overseas. This demand means it can sometimes be difficult for employers to find skilled staff, so many take on apprentices.

According to New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation, there has been a 55% rise in the number of boat builders in the last three years. There are currently around 8000 people working in the boat building and composites industry.

This job can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy could lower the demand for boat builders.

America's Cup may increase boat builder demand

The recent America's Cup win will further enhance New Zealand's boat building reputation. This is expected to increase demand for boats and skilled boat builders.

Types of employers varied

Boat builders can work for a range of employers, including companies that build, refit, service or maintain:

  • yachts and super yachts
  • launches and sail boats
  • fishing, commercia and rescue craft
  • trailer boats
  • inflatable boats, dinghies and other small pleasure craft
  • marina operations.

There are around 1000 marine industry employers throughout New Zealand.


  • Gibson, A, 'Billion-dollar Territory? Big Gain for NZ from America's Cup Hosting, City Chief Predicts', 27 June 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • McKechnie, I, 'Economic Benefits of 36th America's Cup to NZ Expected to be Profound', 29 September 2017, (www.nzmarine.com).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook - Boat Builders and Designers', accessed October 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • New Zealand Herald, 'Boat Builders Eagerly Await New America's Cup Rules', 22 July 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation website, accessed October 2017, (www.nzmacito.org.nz).
  • Shaw, A, 'Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Boats both largely Built in New Zealand', 23 June 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • Theunissen, M, '40 America's Cup Boat Builders Let Go', 28 June 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • Tupou, L, 'America's Cup Win to Spark Boat Building Boom', 28 June 2017, (www.radionz.co.nz).
  • van der Hor, C, general manager, New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation, Careers Directorate - Tertiary Education Commission interview, October 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Boat builders may progress to set up their own boat building or repair business, or move into management or training roles.

With further training, boat builders may progress to become naval architects or marine designers.

Boat builders may specialise in:

  • chandlery (selling boats and boating equipment)
  • marine coatings such as painting
  • marine interiors such as furnishings
  • marine systems engineering, such as electrical wiring
  • production boat building (boats built on an assembly line)
  • trailer boat rigging
  • yacht rig structures such as spar making, rigging and sailmaking.
Sam Christiansen drills screws into hull of a boat frame

Boat builders work with wood, composites and metals to build boats

Last updated 18 July 2019