Naval officers work in a specific career field within the Navy, such as aviation, healthcare, technology, engineering, law, safety services, or education. Training requirements to become a naval officer are rigorous, but advancement opportunities exist for officers who meet certain standards. Specific work conditions vary by specialty, but many naval officers must be physically fit and able to travel and/or spend time away from their families.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required|
|Degree Field||College major will depend on career track desired|
|Key Skills||Physical fitness, mental toughness, good at managing stress, able to communicate clearly, able to follow direction, team player, leadership skills|
|Salary (2020)||$51,000 - $116,000 total pay (for officers with 0-4 years in service)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Navy.com, Military.com
Meet Minimum Requirements
The first step to becoming a naval officer is to make sure you meet the minimum requirements. Naval officers are U.S. citizens, and they must be 19-35 years old, although in some cases where there's a high demand for officers in certain positions, the upper limit of the age requirement may be waived. Officer candidates must pass two drug and alcohol tests and pass a physical. Applicants with more than two dependent children are ineligible for officer commissions.
The Navy determines if applicants meet moral standards by conducting background investigations that include evaluating candidates' criminal history and traffic offenses. Officer candidates must also be willing to make a three-year to five-year service commitment, though more time may be required, depending on the position.
Consider Naval Options for College
The second step to becoming a naval officer is to consider naval options for college enrollment:
U.S. Naval Academy
Aspiring naval officers can apply directly to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, for their undergraduate education. At the academy, students earn a Bachelor of Science degree and receive a commission of ensign in the U.S. Navy upon graduation. The curriculum consists of courses in social science, engineering, natural science, and humanities. Students can also pursue specialized study. Character education, along with leadership and physical training, are also core components of the program.
Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC)
Alternatively, college students may apply to the NROTC program, through which they may become commissioned officers after graduating. While in the NROTC, hosted by select colleges and universities only, students complete courses in national security, naval science, foreign language, physics, and calculus in addition to their normal college coursework. NROTC students participate in weekly drills and physical conditioning to prepare them for military life. Students in the program also attend training sessions lasting four to six weeks each summer. Those who successfully complete the program earn a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Complete Officer Training
The third step to becoming a naval officer is to complete officer training:
College graduates who did not participate in NROTC or attend the U.S. Naval Academy can enlist in the Navy directly. After completing boot camp, they may attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), located at Naval Station Newport in Newport, RI. The 12-week program includes classes in navigation, military culture, naval warfare, seamanship, naval history, military law, and leadership. At OCS, recruits also receive military training in drill and physical conditioning, as well as room, locker, and personnel inspections.
Officers who have recently received their commission attend five weeks of professional training at Officer Development School (ODS), also located at Naval Station Newport. The program offers training specific to officers' roles and responsibilities within the Navy. Attendees receive instruction in naval warfare, naval organization, military indoctrination, naval administration, sea power, damage control, military law, and leadership development. Physical and military training, such as drill and inspections, are also required.
The Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course (DCOIC) program provides newly commissioned naval reserve officers with the academic instruction necessary for them to fulfill their professional roles. This 2-week training includes coursework in military indoctrination and naval leadership, like naval warfare and military law, along with required physical and military training.
- Prepare for the physical fitness assessment. Individuals should review the Navy's Physical Readiness Program to view the number of curl-ups, push-ups, and run times needed to pass.
- Memorize certain items. Individuals should study and memorize the OCS Gouge pack. These day-to-day items will be referred to in the OCS.
- Keep living quarters clean. Officers are subject to have their rooms searched anytime and must comply with the daily room standards.
The fourth step to becoming a naval officer is to consider advancement. According to Navy Personnel Command, opportunities for promotion can vary depending on staffing needs; however, naval officers may earn promotions based on a Selection Board review of their Officer Summary Record and Performance Summary Report. Both outline a candidate's training-to-date, job performance, and accomplishments. Factors that may influence the Selection Board's decision include the amount of time served and in what grade, recommendations from supervisors, and exam results.
Becoming an officer in the Navy requires meeting the physical and mental standards of the Navy, earning the appropriate education and training, and looking to advance your career.