Navy ROTC Officer Career Options

FacebookTwitterPinterestEmailShare
Navy ROTC officer career options
Lt. j.g. Dirk Wooten guides midshipmen as they spray a fire hose during a training exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). Navy ROTC midshipmen are taking part in career orientation training, which shows options available to the future officers. (Seaman Apprentice Jesse Monford/U.S. Navy)

The Navy ROTC offers several career paths for young men and women interested in serving as officers in the U.S. Navy. These career options include:

  • Naval aviator (pilot)
  • Naval aviation (flight officer)
  • Naval special warfare officer (SEALS)
  • Submarine officer
  • Surface warfare officer

Naval Aviator (Pilot)

Naval aviation is renowned for the demands it places upon its flyers. The skills and concentration required to land a high-performance jet on board an aircraft carrier deck pitching in the black of night, or to track a submarine while flying at only a few feet above stormy seas, are linked not only to a solid academic background or to top physical conditioning. There is more to it than that. It requires a combination of talents and dedication that many people possess, but few are challenged to use to full measure.

Graduates of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) are selected for flight training during their final year of school. All are volunteers. They arrive at Naval Air Station Pensacola to begin the aviation preflight indoctrination (API) program. This course involves academic training in aerodynamics, engineering, air navigation, aviation physiology and water survival, as well as physically challenging practical applications of physiology and water survival training.

Upon completion of API, a student naval aviator (SNA) is assigned to one of five Navy training squadrons for primary flight training using the T-34C Turbomentor, a single-engine turboprop aircraft. Primary flight training includes the basics of contact, instrument, formation and aerobic flying. After successful completion of primary training, student aviators are selected for their community pipeline and move on to the intermediate phase. Selection is based on personal preference, individual flight performance and the needs of the service at that point and time. Student pilots will be selected for one of five pipelines: strike (tactical jets), E-2/C-2, maritime, E-6 or rotary wing (helicopter). Upon completion of their intermediate training, SNAs are awarded their wings and proceed to specific fleet readiness squadrons for specialized training in their aircraft, either fixed wing (including the F-14 Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, S-3 Viking, P-3 Orion, C-130 Hercules, E-2C Hawkeye, C-2) or rotary wing (SH-60 Seahawk, H-53 Sea Stallion, H-46 Sea Knight, H-2 Sea Sprite, H-3 Sea King).

Naval Aviation (Flight Officer)

Naval aviation is renowned for the demands it places upon its flyers. The skills and concentration required to land a high-performance jet onboard an aircraft carrier deck pitching in the black of night, or to track a submarine while flying at only a few feet above stormy seas, are not only linked to a solid academic background or to top physical conditioning. There is more to it than that. It requires a combination of talents and dedication that many people possess, but few are challenged to use to full measure.

Graduates of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) are selected for flight training during their final year of school. All are volunteers. They arrive at Naval Air Station Pensacola to begin the aviation preflight indoctrination (API) program. This course involves academic training in aerodynamics, engineering, air navigation, aviation physiology and water survival, as well as physically challenging practical applications of physiology and water survival training.

Upon completion of API, student naval flight officers (SNFOs) report to the NFO training squadron (VT-10) in Pensacola, Florida. VT-10 is the largest training squadron in the Naval Air Training Command, providing 14 weeks of intense training using the T-34C Turbomentor, a single-engine turboprop aircraft. Students learn visual flight rules and basic airmanship while accumulating an average of 22 hours of flight time over eight flights. Additionally, they go through an extremely extensive ground syllabus concentrating on navigation and aircraft electronic systems. Flight simulators are used extensively.

After the successful completion of primary flight training, SNFOs proceed to tactical navigation intermediate training, which may be continued at VT-86 in Pensacola, Florida, or at the 562nd Flight Training Squadron, which is the Air Force's joint training squadron at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. Training will include flight time in the T-34C; the T-39N, a multi-place twin-jet operated by civilian contractors; or the T-1A Jayhawk, a multi-place twin-jet used by the Air Force.

Those selected for training in the 562nd FTS will fly an average of 80 additional hours in the T-43A (a modified Boeing 737), developing skills in long range, over-water navigation using celestial, inertial and radio navigation. After 22 weeks, SNFOs are awarded their wings and proceed to fleet readiness squadrons to train for navigator slots for the P-3 Orion patrol plane, EP-3 Aries electronic reconnaissance aircraft, C-130 transport or E-6 strategic communications aircraft.

Those not selected to join the joint Air Force training squadron will remain in Pensacola at VT-86 for an additional 14 weeks of training, including 50 additional flight hours in the T-34C; the T-39N, a multi-place twin-jet operated by civilian contractors; or the T-1A Jayhawk, a multi-place twin-jet used by the Air Force. SNFOs who complete intermediate training will be selected for one of three training pipelines: Strike, Strike/Fighter or Aviation Tactical Data System.

Naval Special Warfare Officer (SEALs)

The newly commissioned officer from the NROTC program may elect to pursue a career in naval special warfare, which is the smallest of the unrestricted line communities. The special warfare officer concentrates on the development of skills in the areas of unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, coastal and river interdiction, and tactical intelligence collection. To enter this career area, the officer must meet the various physical prerequisites, volunteer for hazardous duty and request to be selected to receive Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

BUD/S training is a six-month course that is physically and mentally demanding. Both prospective SEAL officers and enlisted are required to complete the course successfully before being admitted to the SEAL community. It is designed specifically to provide the necessary basic physical and technical skills needed by the special warfare operator, and its requirements are sufficiently demanding so only those who are highly motivated will complete the course. In BUD/S training, officers receive instruction in the planning and conduct of all phases and forms of naval special warfare, including the various forms of hydrographic reconnaissance, land and underwater demolition, individual and crew served weapons, small unit tactics, land reconnaissance and various types of SCUBA.

Successful completion of BUD/S training signifies that an officer has attained the necessary skills to be assigned to a SEAL or SEAL delivery vehicle team, and this initial assignment marks the start of a SEAL officer's professional development. A first-tour SEAL officer can expect to be assigned as an assistant platoon commander, receiving advanced instruction that will expand upon the basic skills obtained during BUD/S training. Additional training in new areas such as parachuting and SEAL delivery vehicle operations also will be included. A new SEAL officer will receive pre-deployment training before a first deployment to a forward-deployed naval special warfare unit or with an amphibious ready group.

To some people, comfort is a warm spot under the covers or on a favorite couch. To a SEAL, comfort is more likely to be that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from a job well done, even if the job requires you to jump from a hot airplane into a cold ocean.

Submarine Officer

Midshipmen who select submarine warfare can look forward to a challenging career as a member of an elite, technically advanced, multi-mission community. Newly commissioned ensigns will find themselves serving onboard the most capable submarines in the world today.

Upon commissioning, every ensign selected for submarine warfare will attend one year of advanced nuclear power training, starting with six months of classroom training at Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, S.C. After NPS, you will have six months of practical, hands-on training at one of the Navy's two shore-based reactor training facilities (nuclear power training units -- NPTU) in upstate New York or Charleston.

Upon completion of Nuclear Power School and NPTU, you will be assigned to a submarine. Before reporting, you will attend a 12-week submarine officer basic course in New London, Connecticut. This period of instruction will provide you an opportunity to learn the theory and principles of submarine operation and control, the basic administrative responsibilities of a division officer, the theory of the submerged fire control problem and weapons systems, and the basic fundamentals of submarine operations and tactics. Some officers may attend the six-week strategic weapons system course at either the Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, Georgia, or Bangor, Washington.

Upon arriving at your first submarine, you will be assigned as a division officer. In addition to managing a group of highly trained enlisted submariners, you will begin your own personal submarine qualification program. The culmination of your qualification is the awarding of the coveted Gold Dolphins and your designation as "qualified in submarines.'' This is the first of many rewarding career milestones, which await you in the Silent Service.

The first shore assignment normally occurs after three years at sea and are normally about two years in length. Many junior officers going ashore will fill shore billets at Nuclear Power School, NPTU, Submarine School, and group and squadron staffs. Others will fill important billets at NROTC units, recruiting districts or will attend Naval Postgraduate School (NPGS). Other billets are available in such diverse areas as intelligence, overseas submarine staffs and major Washington area staffs including the Naval Military Personnel Command, Strategic Projects and OPNAV.

The submarine community is full of history and tradition as well as a strong commitment to the defense of the country and the support of its commitments around the world. The U.S. submarine force, an acknowledged symbol of military excellence, is poised to enter its second century of undersea dominance with the most highly trained people and advanced platforms in its history. Nuclear submarines, the product of American ingenuity and technological prowess, are a unique asset whose unprecedented contribution to deterrence, conflict prevention and war fighting will continue to be at the very foundation of our nation's security.

Naval Surface Warfare Officer

Surface warfare is the community within the Navy that involves the use of the surface fleet's ships for the missions of forward naval presence, sea control and projection of power ashore. Surface warfare officers (SWO's) are the men and women who, as junior officers only a year out of college, lead the sailors within the many specialized divisions of a ship's crew. Many of these young officers aspire to command their own ship someday.

SWO Afloat Assignments

SWOs can be stationed anywhere from Norfolk, Virginia, to Yokosuka, Japan. The Navy has many home ports for its surface fleet and will try to give you as much choice as possible as to where you will be stationed and what kind of ship you will serve on if you were to become a SWO.

The surface fleet consists of many different types of ships, each contributing in their own unique ways to the success of the Navy as a whole. The abbreviation for each subtype of ship within each main type is in parentheses.

Cruisers (CG) protect the fleet from airborne threats by using their advanced AEGIS radars and anti-air missile systems, and they also have the capability of striking targets ashore with their deck guns and long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Destroyers (DD/DDG) protect the fleet from surface and submarine threats; many also have AEGIS, as well as the capability to use their deck guns and Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike targets ashore.

Frigates (FFG) are small, tough convoy escort ships that provide anti-air and anti-submarine protection.

Aircraft carriers (CV/CVN) are home to more than 70 aircraft, ranging from F/A-18 strike fighters and F-14 interceptors, to S-3B sub-hunters, EA-6B radar-jammers and E-2C early-warning/command and control aircraft.

Amphibious ships (LHA/LHD/LPD/LSD) carry up to 2,000 Marines, along with their equipment, vehicles and supplies. The amphibious assault subtype, or LHA's and LHD's, double as small aircraft carriers that are home to various kinds of helicopters and the Harrier vertical take-off and landing jet fighter. The LHA's, LHD's and LSD's carry modern, high-speed Landing Craft, Air-Cushion (LCAC) to ferry Marines and their gear ashore.

Minesweepers ( MCM/MHC/MCS) detect and clear naval mines from areas in which other ships soon will be operating.

Patrol craft (PC) are small, speedy ships that patrol coastlines as well as insert and support SEAL special operations forces ashore.

Auxiliary ships (AE/AO/AOE/AS/ARS) keep the fleet supplied with fuel, ammunition, food and other crucial stores needed on long-term forward deployments.

SWO Shore Assignments

SWOs do shore tours, usually lasting no more than two years, between their sea tours. For example, after your division officer tours, you might have a staff job at the Pentagon or a Navy command, or serve as an instructor at SWOS, the Naval Academy or a NROTC unit. If you perform well in your shore tours, you can expect to be promoted in your following sea tours and command a ship's department. In other words, you will command all of the divisions that fall under a particular category, such as engineering, combat systems or operations. This tour lasts 36 months. Later, after another shore tour on a command's staff or at a military postgraduate school, you will serve as a ship's executive officer for three years. After the following shore tour and corresponding performance-based promotion, you will achieve the goal of all career SWOs: captain of your own ship.

The Role of the Junior SWO

As a junior SWO, you will command a division of sailors aboard one of the above types of ships. This division is responsible for a certain component of your ship, such as a specific electronic, weapon, or engineering system. Immediately after graduating from NROTC, you will report to your first ship as a division officer. You also will learn how to "drive" your ship as a "conning officer" and later as an "officer of the deck," control your ship's engineering plant as the "engineering officer of the watch," and then to "fight" your ship as the "combat information center watch officer" or "tactical action officer." You will have two division officer tours of 27 months and 18 months, respectively.

Surface Warfare Officer School

After learning the basics of shipboard life and attaining your "officer of the deck" qualification, you will complete a monthlong training course at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command (SWOSCOM) in Newport, Rhode Island. There you will be assigned a "wardroom" of other junior officers with diverse ship and billet assignments. By participating in seminars, exercises and simulators, you will learn from each other's experiences and broaden your SWO knowledge. Upon returning to your ship, you will be ready to complete your SWO qualifications and earn your surface warfare officer pin.

Surface warfare officers are assigned 45 months of initial sea duty to an afloat command split in a 27-month and an 18-month tour. During the spring semester of their senior year, midshipmen will have the opportunity to select one ship throughout the fleet for their initial division officer tour. Upon completion of their first tour, a surface warfare qualified officer will choose and transfer to another ship for their second tour.

SWO Nuclear Power Training

Some SWOs choose to take on additional responsibility and train to be nuclear engineers on aircraft carriers. During their senior year of college, candidates for surface warfare nuclear propulsion training must go first to Washington, D.C., and be personally interviewed by the director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion. If accepted into the program, they will follow a similar path to all other SWO's, except that their second sea tour will be a 24-month division officer tour aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. During the first tour aboard a conventional surface ship, they earn their surface warfare qualification. After the initial sea tour, they attend the six-month Naval Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C. Nuclear Power School is an academic environment where students are instructed in math, physics, chemistry and theory of reactor plant design and operation. After Nuclear Power School, they receive hands-on experience for six months at the controls of an actual nuclear reactor at one of the two nuclear power training units (also known as prototypes). Upon completion of prototype, they go on to the 24-month division officer's tour in the engineering plant of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Service Obligation

Your initial commitment after graduation from NROTC as a SWO is four years. Nuclear SWOs, due to their extra training requirements, incur a five-year commitment after commissioning or a 24-month CVN tour, whichever is longer. Acceptance of promotion to lieutenant commander or above incurs an additional service obligation for every promotion accepted.

Ready to Join 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.

ROTC Related Topics

Show Full Article