How to Become a Naval Officer

Navy commissioning ceremony
Navy Recruiting District Ohio Operations Officer Lt. Andrew Cook shakes the hand of Ens. David Sweeterman, an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, after his commissioning. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Phillip D. James Jr./U.S. Navy)

A Navy officer must assume a variety of duties at sea, in the air and ashore. Officers must be physically fit, at least 19 years old and U.S. citizens.

You must have at least a bachelor's degree. You can apply for officer programs before earning your degree and as young as 17. The major fields of study required vary, depending on the officer specialty.

Programs leading to a commission as a Navy officer include the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps and the U.S. Naval Academy. There are also direct commissioning programs for other qualified candidates.

Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps

The Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps 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 also receive a monthly cash allowance.

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

For more on military educational benefits, visit the education center.

U.S. Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy provides a four-year undergraduate education and leads to a bachelor's degree 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 U.S. senators, representatives, the president and vice president of the United States and the secretary of the Navy.

Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program

The Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program is for college juniors and seniors (and graduates up to the age of 31) pursuing a bachelor's degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics or an engineering discipline. College graduates with a bachelor's or higher degree also may qualify for the program. The only Navy requirement is that the student maintain excellent grades in required subjects and earn a degree. While in the program, the student can enjoy many of the same benefits received by regular Navy officers. Upon graduation from college, graduates begin their naval officer training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, Florida.

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 Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola.

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 professionals in certain fields can receive direct commissions as a Navy officer.

Need more information? Fill out this form and recruiters will be in touch with you about military career opportunities. Great information with no obligation.

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.

Story Continues