Navy Officer Explained

A U.S. Navy change of command ceremony.
Cmdr. Terrence Frost (left) shakes hands with Cmdr. Matthew Erdner (right) during a change of command ceremony aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason. (Kyle Loree/U.S. Navy)

If you're a college graduate or current student thinking about serving your country, you should consider becoming a Navy officer. U.S. Navy officers are among the most respected men and women who serve our country. In addition, they earn great pay and benefits.

Your first question may be, "So what is an officer?" Simply put, Navy officers are highly educated, specially trained military leaders who manage the Navy's personnel, ships, aircraft and weapons systems.


Officers in the U.S. Navy are also paid well. In fact, the starting pay for a Navy ensign is about $37,000 a year. This is just their base pay; they also get allowances for housing and subsistence. In addition, many Navy officers get special pay such as sea pay, flight pay, hazardous duty pay and more. Check out the Military Pay and Allowances section to learn more.


Navy officers are also eligible for great benefits. The following are just a few examples of the great benefits you can earn:

  • Full medical coverage
  • Full dental coverage
  • Discounted travel
  • 30 days' paid vacation each year
  • Up to $4,500 a year in tuition assistance.
  • Up to $400,000 in life and injury insurance for only $25 a month.
  • Opportunities to earn advanced degrees at the Navy's expense.
  • Use of officer's clubs and other recreation facilities around the world.

Navy Officer Career Paths

The Navy can offer you several career paths if you are interested in serving as an officer. These options include:

  • Naval aviator (pilot)
  • Naval aviation (flight officer)
  • Naval special warfare officer (SEALS)
  • Submarine officer
  • Surface warfare officer
  • Law (JAG)
  • Public affairs
  • Health care
  • Dentistry
  • Civil engineering
  • Naval engineering

Becoming a Navy Officer

There are several ways to become an officer in the U.S. Navy. These include the U.S. Naval Academy, NROTC, OCS, direct commissioning and through the Seaman to Admiral-21 Program.

The eligibility differs from program to program. But in general, you must meet the following criteria to pursue a career as an officer in the U.S. Navy:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen.
  • You must not have reached your 27th birthday by June 30 of the year in which graduation and commissioning are anticipated.

    Note: Applicants with prior military service may be eligible for age adjustments for the amount of time equal to their prior service.
  • You must have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
  • You must have no moral obligations or personal convictions that would prevent you bearing arms and supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States.
  • You must be of good moral character.
  • You must be physically qualified by Navy standards.
  • And you must have qualifying scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT):
    • SAT: 530 critical reading, 520 math
    • ACT: 22 English, 22 math

Next Step

If you've decided that a career as an officer in the Navy interests you, then your next step should be to contact a Navy recruiter. A recruiter can give you more information about what it means to be an officer and explain the officer commissioning programs in greater detail. So get started today and have a Navy recruiter contact you.

Interested in Joining the Military?

We can put you in touch with recruiters from the different military branches. Learn about the benefits of serving your country, paying for school, military career paths, and more: sign up now and hear from a recruiter near you.

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