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Military Services:  Navy Officer
Photo: collage of two saluting sailors, a female yeoman, airplanes in formation, ship, and the Navy logo.


The Navy operates throughout the world to help preserve peace. Navy cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, aircraft carriers, and support ships are ready to maintain the freedom of the seas. Navy sea and air power are available to assist in the defense of our allies or engage enemy forces in the event of war.

The United States Navy is a large and complex organization. Over 360,000 officers and enlisted personnel make up today’s Navy. Nearly 53,000 officers serve on active duty in the Navy. They may be in a variety of assignments on ship, submarine, and shore facilities or in the air as pilots or flight officers. They serve as nuclear power instructors, and special warfare officers. Others perform specialized duties in intelligence, engineering, law, medicine, and scientific careers. Between 5,000 and 6,000 men and women join the Navy as officers every year.

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A Navy officer must be a mature person capable of assuming a wide variety of duties at sea, in the air, and ashore. Applicants must be physically fit, at least 19 years old, and United States citizens. They must have at least a bachelor's degree. The major fields of study required vary depending on the officer specialty.

There are several ways to become a Navy officer. Commissioning programs are available for students still in college and for college graduates. Specialists in certain professional and scientific fields may qualify for a direct commission. Programs leading to a commission as a Navy officer include the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC)

The Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (NROTC) program offers tuition and other financial benefits worth up to $100,000 at 57 Units which include more than 140 of the country's leading colleges and universities. Two-year and four-year subsidized scholarships are offered. Participants receive a monthly cash allowance.

Two-year and four-year nonsubsidized NROTC programs are also offered. These are referred to as college programs and provide for monthly cash allowances during the junior and senior years.

U.S. Naval Academy

The United States Naval Academy (USNA) provides a free four-year undergraduate education program. The USNA program leads to a bachelor's degree in a wide range of major subjects and a commission as a Navy or Marine Corps officer. Students are paid a monthly salary while attending the academy.

Students must be single with no children and must serve on active duty for at least five years after graduation, depending on follow-on training and designation. Admission to the Naval Academy is made through nominations from United States Senators, Representatives, the President and Vice President of the United States, and the Secretary of the Navy.

Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Programs

The Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program is for college juniors and seniors pursuing a bachelor's degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics, or an engineering discipline. College graduates with a bachelor's or higher degree may also qualify for the NUPOC program. Cash bonuses are offered for joining and completing the Navy's NUPOC program.

The only Navy requirement is that the student maintain excellent grades in required subjects and earn a degree. While in the NUPOC program, the student can enjoy many of the same benefits received by regular Navy officers. Upon graduation from college, NUPOCs begin their naval officer training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola Fl.

Aviation Officer/Naval Flight Officer Programs

Aviation Officer Candidate (AOC) and Naval Flight Officer Candidate (NFOC) programs are for college seniors and graduates interested in becoming Navy pilots or flight officers. If qualified and accepted, they attend the Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.

Warrant Officers

The Warrant Officer Program is open to all enlisted Navy people with the rank of Chief Petty Officer or above and have completed at least 12 years of naval service. Warrant officers are senior to all enlisted Chief Petty Officers and junior to all Ensigns.

Limited Duty Officers

The Limited Duty Officer Program is open to warrant officers with more than two years of service as warrants and to enlisted people who are Petty Officers with at least eight years of naval service. If qualified, they earn a Navy officer commission because of their high quality and experience in a specialty, but are limited to duties of that specialty.

Direct Commission

Direct commission (appointment) may be attained by a professional person who is already established in his or her specialty field, but who is interested in the challenging and rewarding career and lifestyle of a Navy officer. The Navy has programs to help medical, dental, law, and theology students complete their professional training and earn commissions as Navy officers.

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Before receiving their first active-duty assignment, all new Navy officers go through a period of initial training. This training is designed to acquaint individuals with the Navy way of life, its rules, regulations, and responsibilities. The training also covers naval operations, organization, and administrative procedures. NROTC candidates and Naval Academy midshipmen receive this training as part of their college program. Other prospective officers are required to go to one of two schools - Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola Florida or Officer Indoctrination School (OIS) in Newport Rhode Island.

Each school consists of a full schedule of academic studies and rigorous physical training. OCS is a course for new surface warfare, nuclear submarine, aviation, engineering, supply, intelligence officers, aviation maintenance officers, and diving and salvage officers. OIS is a course for officers who have received a direct commission in the field of medicine or law.

Navy officers also go through specialized or technical training before their initial assignment. Initial advanced training after being commissioned an officer is usually at the Navy specialty school that pertains to the officer's major field of education or for which he or she qualified when entering the Navy. Here the new officers learn how to apply that specialty to naval operations.

For instance, cryptology officers go to the Naval Security Group orientation course; intelligence officers go to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence School; supply corps officers go to the Navy Supply School; civil engineer corps officers go to the Civil Engineer Corps School; and Navy chaplains go to the Chaplains' School. Pilots and naval flight officers receive their flight training and learn to operate the complex communications and weapons systems on Navy aircraft.

These schools may be several months to more than a year in length, depending on the complexity of the specialty and the advanced training needed. Other than the Navy aviation team, officers in the nuclear power program have the longest overall training period. After OCS, they go to Nuclear Power School for 24 weeks, then to a nuclear power training unit for 26 weeks, then to either the Submarine Officer Basic Course for 13 weeks or the Surface Warfare Officer School for 17 weeks before being assigned aboard a nuclear-powered vessel. The Navy's nuclear power training program is the broadest and most comprehensive anywhere.

Navy officers are also given short courses of special and refresher instruction to meet the needs of the service and their assignment. These courses usually are not more than six months in length. Specialized courses offered to Navy officers are in communications, basic and advanced electronics, civil engineering, transportation management, naval justice, and petroleum products and supply.

Navy officers are also provided an opportunity to attend one of the service colleges. These are considered necessary for higher command leadership. A naval officer should possess a thorough knowledge of the principles and methods of naval strategy and tactics and of joint operations with other branches of the armed forces. To achieve these objectives, courses are given at the Armed Forces Staff College, the Inter-American Defense College, the National Defense University, the Naval War College, and Foreign Service Colleges.

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Most college graduates begin their Navy officer career as an Ensign. After two years, they are eligible for promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade. Another two-year period makes them eligible for promotion to Lieutenant. After being in the Navy a total of nine to 11 years, an officer becomes eligible for promotion to Lieutenant Commander. A Lieutenant Commander must have 15 to 17 years of service to be eligible to become a Commander. A Commander must have been in the Navy 21 to 23 years to be promoted to Captain.

Promotion to the ranks of Lieutenant Commander and above are very competitive, and only the best officers are selected for advancement. A selection board evaluates the past performance of each eligible officer and recommends the best qualified for promotions.

Each Navy officer is given a new assignment, or tour, as it is called, every few years. Every effort is made to match personal desires with the needs of the Navy. Assignments may be in the officer's chosen field or in a different field where there is a need.

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Education and training are a continuous process throughout a Navy officer's career. As an officer's career develops, he or she may have the opportunity to take advantage of an advanced educational program. Presented below are some of the opportunities offered by the Navy in the professional development of its officers.

Postgraduate Education Program

The goal of the Navy's Postgraduate Education Program is to provide specialized education at the master's and doctorate level in technical and nontechnical fields of study. The program is conducted mainly at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The program is supplemented by using civilian universities for many courses. It also makes use of appropriate courses provided by other agencies of the Department of Defense.

Correspondence and Extension Courses

Correspondence and extension courses are encouraged for all Navy officers. Most of the courses are provided by the Naval Correspondence Course Center. Others are offered by the Naval War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, military medical and dental schools, the Defense Intelligence School, and the Naval Submarine School.

Officers may also enroll in courses given by other services and in graduate and undergraduate level education offered by colleges and universities.

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Navy officers who leave active duty for civilian careers can retain many of the benefits of a Navy career by joining the Naval Reserve Force.

The Naval Reserve Force is a team of highly trained people available in a national emergency to meet the expanded needs of the regular Navy. Most Reservists serve in a part-time status, consisting of one weekend a month and an annual two-week period of duty, called annual training (AT). These training periods can be taken on an individual basis or with a Reserve unit.

A Naval Reserve Force medical program works the same way for medical specialists who wish to serve their country and at the same time continue their civilian medical practice.

The Naval Reserve Force numbered more than 24,000 officers in mid-1986, and rose to approximately 47,000 in 1993.

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