Abstract Free vibration characteristics of a multi layered graphite/epoxy circular cylindrical shell are presented using an eight-noded isoparametric quadrilateral shear flexible shell element. The effects of rotary inertia are considered in the formulation of the mass matrix. Variations of length to radius and radius to thickness ratios of the shell, and different fibre orientations such as (0/90°), (0/90/0/90°), (0/90°) s and (0/90/0/90°) s with respect to the frequency parameter, K ω are studied. The influence of the ratio of major to minor Young's moduli on frequency parameter is also shown. Comparison of numerical results with those available in the literature shows a good agreement.