Submarine Officer Career Path

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Submarine Officer Career Path

Becoming a submarine officer is a highly sought-after career path due to the unique challenges and opportunities it offers. The training process is rigorous, but it provides officers with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in this challenging field.

There are many different paths that officers can take within the submarine force, which allows them to specialize in a variety of areas.

Officers who pursue a career as a submarine officer can expect to be challenged both mentally and physically, but they will also have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a submarine officer.

1. What Is a Submarine Officer?

Submarine officers are the professionals who are responsible for guiding submarines through the water, analyzing information about their environment, and commanding their crews. These officers serve on board military submarines to carry out a variety of missions in locations all over the world and must display a high level of professionalism at all times.

Submarine officers are responsible for the lives and safety of their crew members. The submarine community is made up of about 130 men and women who work, train, deploy, and fight together to complete individual missions. The mission of the Navy’s submarine force is to maintain positive control of assigned units and to project power despite the enemy’s defenses.

Navy submarines conduct a variety of missions, including anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; delivery of special operations forces (SOF); strike warfare; surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular/counter-terrorism operations; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); mine warfare; and special naval warfare (NSW) support.

Submarine officers first receive their commission as either an unrestricted line, restricted line, or staff corps officer through the Naval Academy, NROTC program, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or other sources. Following commissioning and designation as a submarine officer, these officers will report to their first submarine assignment following completion of the nuclear power training pipeline.

2. What Are the Responsibilities and Duties of a Submarine Officer?

Submarine officers are responsible for a variety of tasks throughout their careers. They must be prepared to assume command at a moment’s notice and know how to operate every piece of equipment onboard their submarine. A few of the specific duties that these officers will undertake throughout their careers include:

  • Training, supervising, and leading their crew
  • Planning and executing submarine missions
  • Evaluating information about the surrounding environment to make tactical decisions
  • Monitoring the location of other vessels in their area for navigation safety
  • Operating sonar equipment.
  • Communicating with superiors via radio or satellite link.
  • Operating periscopes, rescue chambers, and other equipment used in special missions.
  • Assist with ship’s navigation.

3. Eligibility Requirements for a Submarine Officer

This career path is highly competitive for qualified candidates, with only about 2% of applicants receiving appointments in this field. Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, be between the ages of 18 and 28, be a U.S. citizen, and have good eyesight and hearing. Admissions requirements vary from one school to another, but they all focus on a candidate’s ability to succeed in a rigorous academic setting as well as his or her technical skills and leadership abilities.

Candidates who can fulfill these minimum qualifications will need to complete a thorough medical examination and pass a stringent physical fitness test in order to qualify for the nuclear power training pipeline. This training is rigorous and can last from 18 months to two years, depending on each individual’s performance.

4. What Education Is Required of a Submarine Officer?

In addition to four years of college at an accredited institution, applicants to the nuclear power training pipeline will need to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or one of the physical sciences. Degrees that would be considered appropriate include Mechanical Engineering; Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Chemistry; Physics; Mathematics, Oceanography, Meteorology, and other related fields.

Those who do not have degrees in the physical sciences should enroll in a post-graduate science program that provides extensive physics, mathematics, and chemistry training.

5. What Skills Are Needed to Become a Submarine Officer?

Skills that are needed to become a submarine officer include:

Ability to serve effectively on a submarine crew-This includes the ability to communicate effectively and work well with others. These skills will be especially important as the submarine officer is responsible for a large group of people during missions and must be able to coordinate efforts in a “cramped” environment.

Excellent leadership abilities-Submarine officers are directly responsible for every member of their crew and must provide strong and effective leadership in order to see their missions through to success. Academics-Submarine officers must be prepared to spend long periods of time working with computers and technical equipment. They are responsible for learning how to operate every piece of equipment onboard their submarine, including the nuclear reactor.

Patience-As a submarine, you will need the ability to remain calm and collected even intense situations. Should a problem arise, you will need to focus your attention on that issue and work through it methodically without allowing yourself to become flustered or overwhelmed.

Willingness to serve-All submariners must be prepared for an extensive obligation of service after completing their initial training. A typical initial obligation is nine years, although many submariners continue to serve in the Navy after their initial term of duty is completed.

6. Who Does a Submarine Officer Report to?

Submarine officers report to the commanding officer of their submarine. This individual is often referred to as the “captain” and is in charge of all activities on board. The captain has complete administrative and disciplinary responsibility for every member of his or her crew and must provide effective leadership in order for a submarine’s missions to be successful. As a submarine officer, you are responsible for the morale and well-being of your crew members. You must also be prepared to put in an extensive amount of time studying technical manuals in order to memorize every system onboard your submarine.

7. What Is Life Like for a Submarine Officer?

As a submarine officer, you can expect long hours of work and an extended obligation of service. Your work schedule will be determined by your commanding officer, but you can expect to spend long periods at sea with irregular hours while on duty. During patrols, there is no day or night, and you may find yourself working throughout the entire twenty-four-hour cycle.

During your time in the Navy, you will be able to travel all over the world, including Australia, Africa, Asia, and North America. You will also be provided with free room and board (and, of course, food). However, you must be prepared for potentially dangerous conditions at sea. The injury was always a possibility when onboard a submarine was operating beneath the surface of the water.

8. How Long Is a Submarine Officer’s Training?

Aspiring submarine officers will need to complete a variety of training programs before they can become an officer onboard a submarine. The total amount of time needed for training will vary according to the type of sub you plan to serve on but may take as little as 18 months or as much as 36 months.

9. What Courses Are Included in Initial Submarine officer Training?

Aspiring submarine officers will first need to complete the twelve-week Basic Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut. After completing this course, you will be designated as a submarine and must then attend the two-year Nuclear Power School located at either Charleston Naval Shipyard or Mare Island Naval ShipStation. At these facilities, you will learn how to operate a nuclear submarine’s reactor and perform routine maintenance on it. You will also be taught how to train, lead, and supervise a crew.

10. What Types of Submarines Do You Serve on?

As a submarine officer, you may serve on any number of different classes of submarines from around the world. In order to qualify for duty on board, you will need to complete extensive training programs in order for your commanding officer to feel confident with placing you in charge of a submarine. Once qualified, the types of submarines you may serve on are determined by the needs of the Navy.

11. How Much Does a Submarine Officer Earn?

As a submarine officer, you will earn a monthly salary based on your rank and years of service. A beginning submarine officer with less than two years of experience can expect to earn around $3,368 per month. In addition to your monthly salary, you may also receive additional compensation for performing duties such as diving or emergency operations, as well as hazardous duty pay.

12. What Are the Physical Requirements for Submarine Officers?

You must meet certain basic standards in order to become a submarine officer. You will need to be able to pass an extensive physical examination, which includes hearing and vision tests, as well as strength and agility tests. Near-sightedness may not exceed -8 diopters, and near-sightedness corrections must not exceed plus eight diopters. You will also be required to pass a psychological test, as well as an extensive background investigation which helps determine your character and trustworthiness.

13. What Is the Work Environment Like on a Submarine?

The work environment onboard a submarine can vary depending on where you serve and the type of submarine you serve on. For instance, aboard very small submarines, it can be extremely cramped, and there may only be room for the crew to stand up or sit down at one time. On larger subs, however, enlisted submariners generally have more space to themselves and are able to relax in their racks while off-duty.

14. What Is the Job Outlook for a Submarine Officer?

The job outlook for a submarine officer is excellent. The Navy needs qualified personnel to serve as officers on board its submarines, and many people go through extensive training programs to become qualified for duty on board. Competition is high, but the job outlook for this position is very good.

15. What Is the Best Way to Gain Experience in the Navy As a Submarine Officer?

In order to gain experience in the Navy as a submarine officer, you must first become an officer. In addition to completing your Basic Military Training and Officer Candidate School or OCS, you will have to attend classes that cover specific training needed in order to qualify for duty onboard a non-nuclear submarine. You will need to pass certain tests before being allowed to work on board, so you must also spend time working as an enlisted sailor in order to become qualified for duty as an officer onboard a submarine.

16. How Long Does it Take to Become a Submarine Officer?

It can take up to 10 years before you will be ready to be placed on duty as a submarine officer. You will first complete your Basic Military Training and Officer Candidate School or OCS, after which you will attend an Officer Submarine School where you will undergo extensive training to prepare you for your future duties as a submarine officer.

Once you have completed this training, you will need to spend a certain period of time in the Navy working in non-commissioned roles before you can qualify for duty as a submarine officer. You may also need to complete additional examinations and interviews in order to be selected for duty onboard a submarine. In all, it can take up to 10 years before you are able to serve onboard a submarine.

17. What Are the Best Colleges to Attend for Submarine Officers?

One college that commonly provides students with training and education needed to become submarine officers in the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. It offers a four-year college degree as well as extensive training in order to fully prepare students for their future careers as submarine officers.

Other colleges that offer courses of study which can provide students with the education needed to become submarine officers are the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and SUNY Maritime College.


The submarine officer career path is a challenging and rewarding one. It requires hard work, dedication, and a commitment to serving your country. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a submarine officer, we encourage you to explore the opportunities available through the Navy. Thank you for your interest in our program, and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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