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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Many of your questions about the Navy have been asked and answered before. See if you can find your question in the list below. Or, to get the most complete picture of the Navy, locate your nearest recruiter and set up a meeting.

Joining the Navy

What Qualifications Do I need to Join the Navy?

For most Enlisted programs, you must be at least 18 years of age (or 17 with your parents’ permission) and no older than 34 years of age. For most Officer programs, you must be 19 years of age and no older than 35 years of age (keep in mind that waivers may be granted for positions in high demand). To learn about additional requirements associated with joining the Navy, visit the Qualifications & Commitment section of this site. 


 

CAN MY FRIEND AND I JOIN TOGETHER?

Sure! We call it the Buddy Program. The Buddy Program provides for the enlistment of small groups of not more than four people of the same gender who wish to remain together for as long as possible during their first enlistment. Just ask your recruiter for details.

CAN I TALK TO SOMEONE IN THE NAVY WITHOUT OBLIGATION?

Yes. You can talk to your recruiter with no obligation at all, and you won’t be under any obligation until you actually sign a contract. We encourage you to gather all the information you can to help make an informed decision. Visit the recruiter locator to get started.

What is the First Year of Service Like?

Your first year of service will likely include your primary training, your job training and your first duty assignment. This is when you will get familiar with the Navy, its rules and regulations, and your job. Like your first year in any organization, be it a club, a school or a job, you’ll need time to get oriented and meet people.

Money for College/Education Opportunities

HOW DO I QUALIFY FOR NAVY EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS?

Once you know the program you’re interested in, simply apply. The Navy offers everything from college scholarships to financial assistance to accredited training programs. And these programs are available at all levels – from undergraduate to graduate to professional. Visit the Education Opportunities section of this site to learn more about the specific programs available and the requirements associated with each.

HOW CAN I ATTEND SCHOOL WHILE I’M IN THE NAVY?

The Navy encourages continuing education and will pay up to 100 percent of the tuition for Active Duty servicemembers stationed ashore who attend courses during their off-duty time at accredited colleges, universities, vocational/technical schools and business schools. Also, many ships have accredited teachers and educators on board who get underway with the ship to teach college-level lessons and help Sailors keep up with their studies while at sea.

WILL THE NAVY GIVE ME FINANCIAL HELP FOR AN ADVANCED DEGREE?

The Navy encourages continuing education and will pay all or most of the tuition costs, depending on the program for which you qualify. Contact a recruiter for more information.

Life in the Navy

HOW MUCH TIME WILL I SPEND AT SEA?

It depends. Normally ships will go to sea for 10 days to 2 weeks each month for training operations. Extended operations away from home port can last up to 6 months, and ships deploy every 18–24 months. This varies depending on the mission and type of ship. Ships on 6-month deployments spend time visiting ports throughout the world. If you are on a shore duty tour, you will likely spend no time at sea during the course of the duty assignment (usually 2 to 3 years).

WHAT THINGS ARE THERE FOR ME TO DO ON A SHIP?

There are plenty of activities available to Sailors in their off-duty time. Depending on the size of the ship, you’ll have areas for exercise, watching movies, playing cards, emailing friends, and purchasing snacks and other items. Many ships also provide college classes.

HOW LONG IS THE NORMAL WORKDAY?

Navy workdays are varied. The tempo of Operations will dictate actual length. While in home port or on shore duty, the workday is very similar to that of civilian jobs. While out to sea, the workday is often longer because of the workload needed to keep the ship, aircraft and other machinery working properly and efficiently.

HOW OFTEN WILL I GET PROMOTED?

Under normal circumstances, you will be eligible for a promotion from E-1 to E-2 in 9 months, from E-2 to E-3 in 9 months, and from E-3 to E-4 in 6 months. Advancements on the basis of merit can occur in basic training to E-2 without waiting the 9 months. By referring friends who join the Navy, you can be promoted even faster!

HOW OFTEN WILL I HAVE TO MOVE?

Once you have completed basic training and any follow-up schooling, you will probably move just once to your first permanent duty station. Naturally, if you stay in the Navy past your first enlistment (or if you request a specific deployment) you may have to move again.

WILL THE NAVY ALSO MOVE MY SPOUSE?

Yes. This is one of the many benefits the Navy provides for your spouse and your dependents.

Training in the Navy

CAN I REQUEST TO WORK IN A CERTAIN AREA OR FIELD?

You can request career placement in fields such as nuclear engineering, advanced electronics, computers or aviation. The Navy has jobs in more than 60 fields, and if a position is open in a field for which you are qualified, your recruiter will work with you to get you that position.

CAN I SWITCH JOBS IF I DON’T LIKE WHAT I DO?

It is possible to switch jobs, but you can’t always count on it. That’s why you are encouraged to find a job you like before training so that your training will not go to waste. Also, the Navy is more likely to let you switch jobs if you want to switch to a rating that is in high demand, such as one in nuclear power.

WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT JOB I WANT TO DO?

No problem. Your recruiter can help you figure out what you may be good at and can help you find a job that matches your existing aptitudes. 

IF I FIND A NAVY JOB I LIKE BUT HAVE NO EXPERIENCE IN IT, WILL THE NAVY TRAIN ME?

Absolutely. You just need to have the interest and meet any entrance-level qualifications.

Women in the Navy

DO WOMEN TRAIN SEPARATELY FROM MEN?

No. Women undergo the same training as men. Women do have separate living quarters.

WHAT ARE THE GROOMING REQUIREMENTS FOR WOMEN IN THE NAVY?

Women are expected to maintain the same high standards of appearance as men. The only difference is that women are allowed to wear their hair longer, provided it is a style that is easy to maintain and meets certain regulations.

WHAT JOBS CAN WOMEN APPLY FOR IN THE NAVY?

Women are free to apply for and hold any job in the Navy. However, by law there are two communities that women are not allowed to join: the Navy SEAL and Navy SWCC communities. Also, due to privacy and living space considerations, women may not apply for Enlisted positions aboard submarines.

Life as a Navy Officer

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED TO BECOME A NAVY OFFICER?

To become an Officer in the U.S. Navy, you must be a United States citizen, have received a four-year BS or BA degree from an accredited university, have strong grades, and be at least 19 years of age and no older than 35 years of age, depending on the program desired. You must also be in good physical condition and pass a full medical examination.

WHAT IS THE TIME COMMITMENT FOR OFFICERS?

The minimum time on Active Duty for most general Officer programs is 4 years. However, Engineering Officers serve a minimum of 5 years; Pilots and Naval Flight Officers serve 8 to 10 years (depending on the type of aircraft they select after training); and Dentists, Medical Service Corps Officers and Nurses serve a minimum of 3 years.

In general, the Navy Officer career path alternates between shore and sea tours. Shore tours have the advantage of giving Officers additional time with their families and increased opportunities for further education. Sea tours offer opportunities for world travel. While most shore tours do not require Officers to go to sea, most sea tours average less than 50 percent of the time actually at sea

WHAT IS OFFICER CANDIDATE SCHOOL?

OCS (Officer Candidate School) is a demanding 12-week program, comprised of discipline, coursework, physical fitness and military training, that lays the foundation for your Navy career. You’ll be challenged by this unique experience, led by Marine Corps Drill Instructors and Navy Chief Petty Officers. After 12 weeks, you’ll understand and embrace the importance of teamwork and of upholding the Core Values of the Navy: Honor, Courage and Commitment.

CAN I EXPLORE NEW FIELDS OUTSIDE OF THE JOB FOR WHICH I RECEIVE TRAINING?

Absolutely! Once you’ve served at least one tour in your designated field (Pilot, Naval Flight Officer, Intelligence, etc.) the opportunities open up. Here is just a sampling of the many opportunities available to Fleet-experienced Officers: Engineering Duty Officer, Public Affairs, Fleet Support, Recruiting, Space Command, Space and Electronic Warfare, Joint and Foreign Service, and staff positions.

HOW DOES AN OFFICER’S SALARY COMPARE TO CIVILIAN SALARIES?

Comparisons can vary from one career to another, but once you add salary, housing and other allowances, benefits, and education, the compensation is very competitive with civilian pay. Unlike most civilian job structures, you’ll receive built-in annual and incremental raises and promotions throughout your career.

HOW WILL MY EXPERIENCE TRANSFER TO CIVILIAN LIFE AFTER MY NAVY TOUR OF DUTY?

The combination of your degree and your Navy experience gives you an unbeatable résumé. Your technical and leadership skills, training, and experience in a military environment are highly valued and sought-after by civilian companies. Navy Officers find civilian employment in many different areas, including engineering (both nuclear and non-nuclear), management, finance, education and government service. In addition, as an Officer, you’ll be responsible for leading others right from the start. As your leadership/managerial skills grow and develop, your responsibilities will increase as well. By the time you leave (if you choose to leave), you will be well-positioned for management jobs.

For the Family

HOW WILL MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER BE AFFECTED WHEN HE OR SHE JOINS THE NAVY?

Your friend or family member will be the same person he or she was as when he or she left. However, expect him or her to return more disciplined and confident, with broadened horizons. You will be able to communicate with your friend or family member through mail and email and by phone. Navy personnel also get ample vacation and holiday time, so you’ll never lose touch. Of course, during primary training, your communication will be limited because of the busy schedule, and certain operations (such as submarine missions) have extended periods of time when Sailors are out of contact.

WHAT ADVICE SHOULD I GIVE MY FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER ABOUT JOINING THE NAVY?

The most important advice you can give is to encourage your friend or family member to talk to a recruiter and to anyone else who has served in the Navy. This is an important decision, and it is important to get this decision right. Help your friend or family member gather information and weigh the pros and cons to make sure that whatever path is chosen, it's the right one for him or her. Navy life is extremely rewarding for people who deal well with its culture, but at the same time, it is challenging in many ways. Encourage your friend or family member to think about how he or she reacts to discipline, physical stress and orders. These factors are part of Navy life and are important in building the type of Sailor who will succeed.

Serving as a Reservist

What do Navy Reservists Do?

The men and women of the Navy Reserve serve as a highly trained force available to meet the expanding needs of the Active Duty Navy. Meeting the same qualifications as those on Active Duty, Reservists provide the vital skills necessary to maintain national security and support our nation’s interests worldwide. Every day, you’ll find Reservists serving side by side with their Active Duty counterparts on station, on shore, in the air, at sea and on the drill deck. The roles and responsibilities of Reservists factor heavily into the greatest Navy force the world has ever seen.

WHAT IS THE BASIC RESERVE SERVICE REQUIREMENT (MONTHLY/YEARLY)?

Traditional Reservist service requires a minimum commitment of one weekend a month plus two weeks a year. Flexible drilling options can be arranged to meet these obligations. And there are also opportunities for additional service and pay.

HOW LONG WILL I BE OBLIGATED TO SERVE?

If you’ve never served in the military before, the Navy Reserve service commitment typically ranges from 2 to 8 years. If you have current or prior military experience, the Navy Reserve service commitment can vary depending upon a variety of factors. Therefore, it’s best to refer to the Qualifications & Commitment tab featured on the page that best describes you as someone who is Serving Now or has Served Before.

CAN I TRAIN CLOSE TO HOME?

Yes. Your typical monthly drill training will almost always be with the Navy Reserve unit located closest to you, unless you serve in a specialized field that is limited to operating at certain sites. See a map of locations across the country.

IS THERE A CHANCE OF BEING DEPLOYED?

Reservists in any military service branch have the possibility of being deployed. There is no formula – it depends upon the determined needs and available resources of the military at any given time. But be aware that if you're a current or former Navy servicemember (NAVET), you can receive guaranteed initial deployment deferment for periods of up to 2 years when you affiliate with the Navy Reserve.

DO CIVILIAN EMPLOYERS SUPPORT NAVY RESERVE SERVICE?

Yes. In general, civilian employers highly value the leadership, discipline and technical skills Reservists acquire through their military service. Beyond that, Reservists have certain employment and reemployment rights that are guaranteed by law. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) acts on Reservists’ behalf to foster solid working relationships between employers and the Reserve components of the military. Refer to the Employers page to learn more.

CAN I JOIN IF I'M A SINGLE PARENT?

Yes. Your recruiter will provide you with more information based on the number of dependents you have as well as other considerations. In addition, the Reserve supports your efforts with family services on many bases.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I'M A RESERVIST AND NEED TO MOVE TO ANOTHER PART OF THE COUNTRY?

You can. The Navy Reserve has training locations nationwide – see a map of locations now. Simply contact the Navy Reserve unit nearest to your new home within 30 days of when you wish to transfer.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BASIC BENEFITS RESERVE SERVICE PROVIDES?

Reserve benefits include 4 days’ basic pay for only 2 drilling days each month, 2 weeks’ paid Annual Training each year, and regular promotion and raise opportunities (same as Active Duty). There’s potential to receive a sign-on or affiliation bonus and the possibility of specialty pay in critical need areas. Plus, you can look forward to perks like advanced career/management training and educational assistance, low-cost life insurance and points toward retirement, tax-free shopping at military stores, and low or no cost recreational opportunities.

All this – while discovering the pride, purpose and satisfaction that only comes from serving your country, while expanding your knowledge and expertise, while enjoying adventure and camaraderie few will ever know.