Become a Naval Officer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a naval officer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in the military.

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Do I Want to Be a Naval Officer?

Naval officers work in a specific career field within the Navy, such as aviation, health care, 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.

Job Requirements

There is more than one path to becoming a naval officer, depending on a student's interests and career goals, although all require completion of a bachelor's degree program first. The following table contains the main qualifications listed by the U.S. Navy to become a naval officer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required
Degree Field College major will depend on career track desired.
Licensure and Certification None required
Experience None required
Key Skills Physical fitness, mental toughness, good at managing stress, able to communicate clearly, able to follow direction, team player, leadership skills

Step 1: Meet 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 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 3-5 year service commitment; however, more time may be required depending on the position.

Step 2: Consider Naval Options for College

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 enroll in a majors program to 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 4-6 weeks long each summer. Those who successfully complete the program earn a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Step 3: Complete Officer Training

OCS

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.

ODS

Officers who have recently received their commission attend five weeks of professional training at Officer Development School (ODS), also located at Naval Station Newport in Newport, RI. 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.

DCOIC

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.

Success Tips:

  • 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 OCS. Prior to arrival at ODS, officers will need to have memorized the following items: Sailor's Creed, Chain of Command, Code of Conduct, General Orders of a Sentry, Phonetic Alphabet, Ranks, Mission of the Navy, Marines' Hymn and Anchors Aweigh.
  • Keep living quarters clean. Officers are subject to have their rooms searched anytime. An officer must comply with the daily room standards.

Step 4: Consider Advancement

According to Navy Personnel Command, opportunities for promotion and the promotion process can vary depending on the staffing needs of the Navy; 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 test results.

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