Become a Naval Intelligence Officer: Education and Career Roadmap

Naval intelligence officers interpret incoming communications, including data about enemy threats, and use this information to develop and recommend tactical decisions. Officers supervise but can also work alongside enlisted intelligence specialists. Becoming a military intelligence officer is highly competitive and requires at least a bachelor's degree and a commitment to military service.

Should I Become a Naval Intelligence Officer

Naval Intelligence Officers are responsible for analyzing intelligence from a variety of sources, both national and international. This analysis is then utilized by the officer or their superiors to make informed decisions regarding tactics, military personnel and logistics. These positions often require government clearances, since documents and information they are privy to may be classified.

As a military career, the work environment may vary. Naval intelligence officers can work in office settings or travel internationally in the performance of their job duties. They could be assigned to a ship or submarine or work shore duty at a naval base.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's
Degree Name Varied; typically political science, international studies, intelligence or similar disciplines
Key Skills Mental preparedness, ability to handle sensitive information, analytical skills, interpersonal and communication skills, physical fitness
Salary (2015) $2,934.30-$7,242.90 per month (officer salary, varies by pay grade and years of service)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Navy (navy.com)

Step 1: Complete a High School Diploma

Individuals interested in becoming intelligence officers in the U.S. Navy might want to take any available high school courses related to communications, such as computer science or foreign languages. Graduates with a high school diploma or equivalent can enlist in the Navy or seek Congressional nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy. Only those who have a 4-year degree can become a commissioned Navy officer.

Success Tip:

  • Join the Naval JROTC. Many high schools have a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program designed to prepare high school students for the rigors of joining the military. These classes can provide students with experience and training before they apply to become a naval officer.

Step 2: Complete Post-Secondary Education

Individuals need to possess a bachelor's degree to pursue officer status in the Navy. Students can major in a variety of relevant fields, such as international studies, political or military science, national security, engineering or intelligence. Coursework can include political philosophy, military history, economics and ethics.

Alternatively, qualified and nominated high school graduates can apply to the U.S. Naval Academy, which offers undergraduate majors in a number of disciplines, including oceanography, engineering and foreign languages. Courses might include naval warfare, navigation and leadership. Upon graduation, students become commissioned Navy officers and begin their military service commitment.

Success Tip:

  • Join the Naval ROTC. Many four-year universities have a Reserve Officers' Training Corps designed to prepare potential officers for their service with the Navy. Scholarships are available through the ROTC as well, and many candidates accepted into officer training first go through the ROTC program.

Step 3: Join the Navy

Along with a bachelor's degree, individuals interested in becoming a Navy intelligence officer need to meet age requirements, pass a physical fitness test and demonstrate strong moral character. Non-academy graduates must attend Officer Candidate School to earn their commission as an officer. Individuals interested in the intelligence field also need to complete a 5-month intelligence training program. This program covers data collection and warfare planning. Intelligence officers must obtain various security clearances, which require a background investigation.

Another option would be to join the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Special Duty intelligence officer. Reserve officers have monthly service commitments, usually on weekends, along with an annual multi-week assignment on active duty. Reserve officers must serve at least eight years of military service.

Step 4: Choose a Specialization

Depending on an officer's background or field of expertise, several intelligence jobs are available in the Navy. They could analyze classified data, including satellite material and information from Internet communications as an Information Warfare Officer. They might develop and implement tactical procedures, such as giving incorrect information to enemies or developing defensive plans against attacks as a ship or submarine commander. Intelligence officers could also track potential targets and provide technical support to other deployed naval units as a Navy SEAL officer.

Step 5: Pursue Further Education

Navy officers can continue their education using tuition assistance from the military. Intelligence officers might pursue advanced studies in electronics, computers or other topics in the field of communication to enhance their skills and master various tools and technologies. Training received during time served in the Navy might count as credit toward a graduate degree at some universities. Advanced education could also allow an intelligence officer to work on more specialized projects, potentially earning higher pay as he or she advances in rank.


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