Membership of the Shipwrights' Company may be held in two grades - Freeman and Liveryman. Men and women may become Freemen in one of three ways:
- by right of Patrimony. In order to claim this right, you must have been born when one of your parents was already a Freeman of the Company
- by Servitude, following a full apprenticeship to a member. This way has for practical purposes almost ceased to exist.
- by Redemption, which requires an application supported by two members of the Court and two Liverymen. This has become by far the most common way.
The Freedom is for life - "shall be and continue a Freeman until he happen to die". Freemen intending to become Liverymen must fulfil two conditions:
- become a Freeman of the City of London
- have a close involvement in maritime affairs
Both Freemen and Liverymen pay a "fine" on admission. Liverymen pay Annual Fines of Quarterage ("club subscription") and Tallage ("dining subscription"). There is a scheme whereby Liverymen and Freemen may elect to make an annual donation to the Company's charitable funds under Gift Aid.
The Company's administrative and financial year runs from 1st May to the following 30th April.