Navy Officer Career Path

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Navy Officer Career Path

Navy officers charge the ships and submarines that protect our coasts. Navy officers have various responsibilities, from leading men and women in a battle to teaching recruits about naval traditions. They also have a lot of exciting opportunities for education, travel, and advancement. If you’re thinking about becoming a navy officer or want to learn more about this branch of military service, then read on!

1. What Is a Navy Officer?

A navy officer is a commissioned member of the United States Navy, selected from the ranks of senior enlisted personnel. Officers hold a variety of leadership and staff positions, are responsible for the training and welfare of their sailors, and often command ships or other naval units.

A navy officer often has an executive role on the bridge of a ship but is also responsible for maintaining discipline and setting policy aboard their assigned vessel. Officers can be promoted within the ranks of enlisted personnel to become chiefs. Still, they must first have reached the rank of petty officer third class before being selected as candidates by board selection.

The Navy commissioned officer rank structure is as follows:
E-1 Seaman recruit, E-2 Seaman apprentice, E-3 Petty officer third class, E-4 Petty officer second class, E-5 Petty officer first class, and E-6 Chief petty officer.

2. How Does Someone Become a Navy Officer?

Aspiring officers must first complete the Navy Officer Candidate School. This typically includes 2-3 months of training in leadership, seamanship, navigation, and military subjects. After completing this program, an officer candidate is commissioned as Ensign in the Navy. More senior officers are usually promoted to higher ranks through the Captain’s Mast process.

Officer applicants must be at least 20 years of age and meet specific medical qualifications. They must also have passed at least two years of high school math classes in algebra and geometry before enlisting in Officer Candidates School. Candidates must have a clean record free of any felonies.

Officer candidates are selected based on their performance, physical fitness results, security background checks, medical history, and interviews with selection boards.

Officers must have completed four years of accredited college or university courses before being commissioned as officers. There are over 80 different degree programs in the Navy from which officers can choose. These include liberal arts, mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, international relations, and public health degrees, to name a few.

3. What Does a Navy Officer Do?

Navy officers serve in many different roles:

* Executive Officer: responsible for the day-to-day operation of a ship.
* Commanding Officer: responsible for the welfare, readiness, training, and administration of a command. The officer is in charge of their assigned vessel and its mission.
* Combat Systems Officer: responsible for operating systems that early warn enemy aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles.
* Engineer Officer: responsible for supervising the operation of propulsion plants, power generation systems, auxiliary equipment, and control mechanisms aboard a ship.
* Aviation Officer: responsible for executing combat patrol missions, transport and refueling aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier or other significant deck aviation assets.
* Legal Officer: responsible for providing legal advice to commanding officers, ships’ captains, and their command.
* Public Affairs Officer: responsible for communicating news about the Navy’s activities to the media and general public.
* Cargo & Ammunition Officer: responsible for coordinating cargo transfer between ships and ground-based terminals at ports worldwide.

Navy officers receive ongoing training to ensure they are up to date on changes in their specialty and other new developments. They also attend various schools, conferences, and military courses as part of their career development.
Navy officers help defend our nation from threats that come from the air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace domains.

4. How Much Does a Navy Officer Make?

A navy officer typically makes an average salary of $81,000 per year or more, depending on their rank within the Navy. The salary for a US Navy Officer ranges from around $41k-$117k, according to For example, one can make up to about $118K as a Lieutenant Commander after four years of service with at least three years experience in pay grades O-3 or higher, according to Payscale’s data set (2012). As you progress through your career in the military, you will see that your pay grade and salary will increase according to your rank.

The lowest 10% make less than $55k per year from their enlisted military base pay. In comparison, the top 10% make over $111,000 with their salary consisting of multiple components such as bonus incentives and allowances for food and housing. There is also a cost of living allowance and a qualitative and technical bonus for each rating or qualification you acquire that can range up to $30,000 per year.

5. What Skills Are Required to Become a Navy Officer?

Navy officers need to think on their feet, as they may be required to make quick decisions in difficult situations. They also need to work well as part of a team, as they will often be required to carry out tasks jointly with other officers. Officers must stay calm under pressure and must have excellent leadership skills. They must also be physically fit, as they may be required to undertake strenuous activities while on duty. Naval officers need to understand subjects such as maths, physics, navigation, and foreign languages.

6. What Are the Entry Requirements?

Applicants for direct-entry officer positions must be under 26 years old (although there may be some exceptional circumstances where this age limit can be waived). Applicants must also hold one of the following:

  • A UK degree
  • A degree from another country in the EU
  • A degree from a Commonwealth country

Applicants must be medically fit and have good eyesight. They must also meet the Navy’s minimum height requirement of 1.778m (5ft 10in) for men and 1.732m (5ft 7in) for women. Applicants must also undertake the Navy Officer Selection Board (NOSB) process, which involves an initial interview, a medical assessment, and a series of fitness tests.

7. How Long Does it Take to Become an Officer in the Navy?

The shortest possible time to become an officer in the Royal Navy is 16 months. Depending on which route applicants take, it will take between eight and ten months to complete Officer Cadet training, followed by four additional months of sea training.
It will then take two years before the newly commissioned officer is ready for seagoing service.

8. What Are the Career Prospects Like?

Officer Cadets who complete their training successfully will be promoted to the rank of Midshipman, provided they have met all requirements. Officers who have not completed their initial seagoing training could be discharged from the Navy or assigned to shore-based roles. Officers who complete their initial seagoing training successfully will be promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant and can apply for specialist training in engineering, navigation, or weapons systems. Once officers have been promoted to Lieutenant, they could become submarine warfare specialists, maritime warfare officers, or air traffic controllers.

They may become aviators, weapons engineers, or support staff. Officers who perform well could be promoted rapidly and apply for their command relatively quickly. Usually, it takes about five years to make Lieutenant Commander; 15 years for Commander; 22 years for Captain; 27 years for Commodore; and 34 years for Rear Admiral.

9. Navy Officer Career Path

Many are unaware that the Navy has many officer jobs above the typical line and commissioned officers. There are three types of officers you can become in the United States Navy, Line Officers, Staff Corps Officers, and Flag Officers. Within these divisions, you will find nearly 40 different career paths or designation, most specific to certain communities within the Navy or a specific branch of service.

Line Officers are the most common officers in the Navy, and their career path is similar to what you see in other military branches. Line Officers have a distinct uniform which is uniform from enlisted personnel; these officers usually begin their Navy careers at the rank of Ensign or O-1 and will work their way up to Rear Admiral, O-8 or Vice Admiral, O-9 through either stellar performance in their previous rank or by a selection of an advanced education degree.

10. The Following Are the Most Common Line Officer Designators:

  • Surface Warfare Officer – SWO (SW)
  • Naval Aviator – NA
  • Naval Flight Officer – NFO
  • Naval Flight Surgeon – NFS
  • Special Warfare Operator – SWO (SEAL)
  • Intelligence Officer – INTEL
  • Law Enforcement Officer – LEO
  • Cryptologist Warfare Officer – Cryptologist (CW)
  • Cryptologist Warfare Operations – CRYPTO (TAO/CTO)
  • Electronic Warfare Officer – EWO
  • Fire Control man – FC
  • Sonar Technician (Submarines) – STG
  • Nuclear Power School Instructor – NPSI
  • Oceanography – OCNA or OCSA (OCEANOGRAPHER)
  • Civil Engineer Corps Officer – CE (ENGINEER)
  • Civil Engineer Corps Officer (Submarine) – CE (ENGINEER SUBMARINE)
  • Supply Corps Officer – SC (SUPPLY)
  • Naval Flight Surgeon – FLIGHT SURGEON
  • Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit Officer – CBMU
  • Naval Security Forces Officer – SECURITY FORCES (SECFOR)

11. The Benefits of Being a Navy Officer

Some of the benefits of being a navy officer include:
Officers are paid to train when in the Navy. The pay scale can be upwards of $45,000, depending on rank and time in service. This is a good starting salary for many entry-level officer jobs.

Navy officers have access to excellent benefits, including health, dental, vision, vacation, sick leave, disability insurance, and various retirement plans.
The Navy offers six weeks of paid maternity leave, one of the best in the US military. For every child born to a Navy couple, both parents are eligible for 6-week leave at full pay (100%), with an additional ten days allowed upon the birth of each additional child. This additional ten days can only be taken if the mother has taken the regular 6-week leave.

Navy officers can receive free or reduced tuition and other benefits for off-duty education and work-sponsored education. Officer candidates attending college retain their status as candidates until they complete all required courses or fail to complete courses within prescribed timelines. Officers generally attend school during prime sea duty time, from the second through sixth years of a tour.
In addition to receiving pay and benefits as officers, Navy medical staff serve as full-fledged military members and receive the same benefits as any other officer. Navy nurses pursue both bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in nursing at accredited colleges throughout the country.

Some Navy nurses teach as adjunct faculty at nursing schools.
Navy officers also can experience various cultures, languages, and ways of life by traveling throughout the world.
The United States Navy is one of the most respected armed forces in America and around the world, with a history dating back to 1775. Though the US Navy remains one of the largest fleets globally, it maintains high standards for those who wish to serve as officers.


Becoming a navy officer is not an easy task, and it requires years of training and development and a commitment to serving your country. But if you have the desire and determination to succeed, then a career in the Navy can be gratifying. We hope this article has given you a good overview of what it takes to become a naval officer, and we wish you all the best on your journey ahead.

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