Answers to the Top Navy Questions

Navy recruits Battle Stations
Recruits assigned to the 57th Cardinal Company Special Recruit Division from St. Louis prepare to receive their Navy ball caps after completing Battle Stations, the final exercise before graduation. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Latrice Jackson/U.S. Navy)

We cover the common questions that someone interested in joining the Navy may ask in this list.

Navy Questions

Joining the Navy

Basic Training

Becoming an Officer

The Reserves



Next Steps

What can I do in the U.S. Navy?

More than 332,000 active-duty men and women serve in the U.S. Navy, the largest in the world today. Opportunities available to you range from serving on surface ships or submarines to working in the fields of electronics, engineering, computer technology, nuclear propulsion and aviation, to serving in special operations or intelligence while potentially traveling the world.

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What are the qualifications to join the Navy?

The following are the basic requirements for joining, and you must:

  • To enlist, you must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien.
  • Be between the ages of 17-34. Seventeen-year-olds need parental consent.
  • With very rare exceptions, you must have a high school diploma.
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
  • Pass a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.
  • Women are eligible to enlist in all occupational fields.

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What's the ASVAB?

The ASVAB is a test that measures your aptitudes. It consists of 10 short individual tests covering word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, general science, auto and shop information, mechanical comprehension, electronics information, numerical operations and coding speed. When you take the ASVAB before enlisting, you receive scores on each of these individual tests, as well as several individual test results that are combined to yield three academic composite scores: verbal, math and academic ability.

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What are some benefits of joining?

  • Steady income:  You are paid twice a month, on the first and 15th, based on your pay grade and service requirements.
  • Advancement:  You are promoted based on job knowledge, your performance, time in pay grade and service requirements.
  • Paid vacation:  You earn 2.5 days of paid vacation per month for a total of 30 days each year, up to 60 days. 
  • Training:  You choose your career path based on your aptitude, physical abilities, security clearance, motivation and determination.
  • Health care:  While on active duty, you will receive complete medical and dental care at no cost.
  • Life insurance:  Active-duty members select up to $200,000 in term life insurance for $18 per month.
  • Allowances:  You also may receive additional tax-free money for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) if government housing is not available; Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), if government food facilities are not available in the area you are stationed; and a uniform allowance (for enlisted personnel only) to help maintain your uniform.
  • Tax advantage:  Only your basic monthly pay is subject to federal or state income tax. 
  • GI Bill:  The GI Bill will help pay for college education or vocational training.  The Navy has three major financial programs offering money for college. Two of them, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Navy College Fund, let you earn up to $50,000 for college tuition and expenses to use after your tour of duty. While you're in the Navy, there's also the Tuition Assistance Program, where the Navy pays 75% of your college costs -- up to $2,500 for undergraduate courses and $3,500 for graduate courses each year. The Navy also offers scholarship programs such as NROTC, which let you finish college before you begin your naval career.
  • Tuition assistance:  While on active duty, you may continue your education and may be helped in defraying the cost of college-accredited courses.
  • Additional benefits:  There are exchange and commissary privileges, moving allowances, temporary lodging expenses, travel, survivor benefits, Veterans Affairs home loans and more.

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How long will I be at sea?

It depends. Normally ships will go to sea for 10 days to two weeks each month for training operations. Extended operations away from home port can last up to six months. This varies depending on the mission and type of ship. Ships on six-month deployments often spend part of the time visiting ports throughout the world.

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Can certain training schools or duty stations be guaranteed to me upon enlistment?

Yes. It will depend on your term of commitment, specialty and the needs of the Navy. Ask your recruiter for details.

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Does the Navy take people with prior service?

Yes. If you have served at least 180 days of continuous service and have no more then five years of broken service, you may be eligible to enter the Navy without attending basic training and at the rank of your separation.  If you're thinking about reaffiliation, click here to get more information.

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What if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Only U.S. citizens or foreign nationals legally residing in the United States with an Immigration and Naturalization Service Alien Registration Card (or "green card" -- INS Form I-151/551) may apply. Applicants must speak, write and read English fluently.

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Can the Navy help me obtain U.S. citizenship?

No. The U.S. military cannot assist foreign nationals in obtaining admittance into the United States. 

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What if I live overseas?

Regulations prohibit the forwarding of recruiting information through international mail, even to U.S. citizens living in foreign countries. Use our online form to get free information.

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How long is basic training?

Basic training or boot camp is an eight-week program.

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Where is boot camp?

It's held at Recruit Training Command in Great Lake, Illinois.

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What is boot camp like?

Intended to introduce recruits to military life and prepare them for the high operational standards of the fleet, recruit training in the Navy has become tougher in recent years. The Navy has sharply increased physical fitness training and has introduced "battle stations."

Battle stations is the culminating event for Navy boot camp. It starts at 10 p.m. with a call to general quarters and lasts until 9:30 the next morning. During this time, recruits must overcome 12 highly realistic crisis simulations such as one based on the sinking of the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Hundreds of sailors were trapped below deck when the ship capsized and sank. Rescuers had to go in through the upended engine shafts to save survivors.

For tips on how to prepare yourself physically and mentally for boot camp, see military fitness guru Stew Smith's articles.

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How do I become an officer?

There are a number of ways you can become an officer in the Navy. In almost all cases you will need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. The three most popular ways are through:

  • the Naval Academy
  • Officer Candidates School

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How do I apply to the Naval Academy?

To apply, you should have competitive Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and cannot have reached your 22nd birthday. Visit our service academy page for more info.

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What about ROTC?

You can also receive a commission in the Navy by joining Naval ROTC. The Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program offers tuition and other financial benefits at more than 60 of the country's leading colleges and universities. Two- and four-year subsidized scholarships are offered. Participants receive a monthly cash allowance. Two- and four-year nonsubsidized NROTC programs also are offered. These are referred to as college programs and provide for monthly cash allowances during the junior and senior years.

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What is Officers Candidate School?

Qualified graduates of regionally accredited colleges receive 12 weeks of basic naval science and indoctrination at Pensacola, Florida. Successful candidates are commissioned as ensigns in the Navy Reserve and serve on active duty as unrestricted line, restricted line or staff corps officers. Age limits and service obligations vary depending on the program. 

Are there promotions to officer rank?

Yes. There are several programs. Please check with your recruiter for current details.

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Are there opportunities for professionals in the Navy?

The Navy has special programs for health care, theological and law professionals. You might be able to join the Navy at a higher rank and pay. If you're studying in one of these professions, the Navy might provide you with educational assistance. Request more information online.

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What Reserve opportunities are in the Navy?

There are many opportunities in the Navy Reserve for enlisted personnel and officers. The Navy Reserve is interested in veterans, professionals and those with special skills and training. If eligible, you may qualify for advanced rank or pay.

Special programs are available for:

  • Medical careers
  • Intelligence
  • Construction forces (Seabees)

For more information on Navy Reserve programs, see the Navy Reserve section. You also can request more information on Navy Reserve opportunities.

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What are the qualifications to join the Reserve?

Qualifications vary on the type of program you are applying for. Generally, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien.
  • Meet exacting physical, mental and moral standards.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Have a qualifying score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
  • Pass a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.

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What if I have a problem getting time off from my employer to fulfill my military service obligations?

By law, as a member of the Reserve, you, upon request, must be granted a leave of absence to satisfy a requirement for military training. The Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires employers to provide Reservists with time away from their jobs to perform military duty. However, you must notify your employer that you intend to take military leave. You must be reemployed after completion of your military duty and return to your job within a reasonable time. You must be treated as though you had never left employment, including scheduled pay raises, promotions or credit for longevity or vacation. Your employer only has to hold a job open for 60 months if you accept voluntary orders.  For additional information, see the Navy Reserve home page.

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What does the Navy fly?

The Navy's air capability is primarily forward deployed aboard aircraft carriers. Being a naval aviator is a dangerous job. Besides being the first to deploy during international conflicts, landing aboard a carrier is said to be one of the most difficult skills to master. Naval aviators fly jet fighters, helicopters and other support aircraft. These include:

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How do I become a pilot?

Pilot training
Naval pilot training is available to commissioned officers of the OCS, U.S. Naval Academy or NROTC. Flight training commences at Milton, Florida, or Corpus Christi, Texas. Upon completion of primary flight training, students receive orders for one of four aviation fields: jet, prop (maritime), prop (aircraft carrier) or helo. After successful completion of advanced flight training, student pilots receive their wings and are designated as naval aviators. Active-duty obligation is seven years for prop or helo and eight years for jets from date of designation. Total time in training varies depending on what aircraft training pipeline a person is in.

Flight officer training
Naval Flight Officer training is available to qualified commissioned officers. After the completion of basic NFO Ground School, officers have the opportunity to specialize and receive advanced training in one of the following categories: antisubmarine warfare, electronic countermeasures (ECM) evaluation, radar interception, airborne early warning or bombardier/navigator. NFO wings are received upon completion of advanced training. Active-duty obligation is six years from date of designation as a naval flight officer.

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What is a Navy SEAL?

The SEALs -- an acronym for Sea, Air, and Land -- were created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to conduct unconventional and counter-guerilla warfare.

SEAL teams are located on the East and West coasts of the United States. Arguably, they are regarded as the preeminent defensive force in the world. SEALs operate some of the most sophisticated equipment available, from high speed gunner boats to laser-guided weapons.

SEAL missions are strictly classified and require the highest degree of precision. That's why SEAL training is some of the toughest in the world. SEALs receive training in:

  • Underwater navigation and warfare
  • Land navigation and warfare
  • Small unit tactics
  • Airborne training
  • Demolitions and explosives
  • Other specialty schools

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How do I become a SEAL?

To become a Navy SEAL, you will have to endure the toughest training in the world. If you think you have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL, visit the Special Operations Center to learn more about how to join the world's most elite fighting team.

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What should I ask my recruiter?

Navy recruiters must present an accurate picture of training. You should be aware of all aspects of the naval lifestyle. Be sure you fully understand the enlistment contract. You should ask about:

  • Details and qualifications for each specialty.
  • The current enlistment bonuses.
  • Films or videos about training and duties.
  • Ask to watch the video explaining boot camp.
  • Special enlistment programs if you have completed Junior ROTC or Navy Cadet training.
  • Overseas assignments, remote and long duty.
  • Haircut and grooming standards.
  • Off-duty education and educational benefits.
  • Guaranteed training programs.

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Where do I get more information?

Complete this form and more information will be sent to you, with no obligations or strings attached.

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