How to Join the Navy

Three Methods:Meeting the QualificationsEnlisting in the NavyFulfilling Your Commitment

Do you feel called to join the American Navy? Aside from providing the training and education you need to be in service to the United States, the Navy fosters personal development and leads to excellent career opportunities. To join, you'll need to meet several qualifications and make a commitment to service. Read on to learn what you need to know to get started.

Method 1
Meeting the Qualifications

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    Be in the right age range. To enlist in the Navy, you must be at least 17 but under 34 years of age. If you're not 18 years old yet, you must obtain parental consent. To become an officer, you must be at least 19 and no older than 35.
    • The age requirements vary according to specific positions; for example, some officer positions may require that you be older than 19 to apply.
    • In some cases, waivers are granted for certain positions that are in high demand, allowing people who are older than 35 to apply.
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    Meet the citizenship qualifications. In order to enlist in the Navy you must either be a US citizen or have a permanent residence visa. You may also have an Alien Registration Green Card with an established residence in the US. To become an officer, you must be a US citizen.
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    Have fewer than two dependents. In some cases the Navy will prohibit people who have 2 dependent children from enlisting. Single parents of one child may enlist, but they must complete a special application process.
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    Prove that you can meet your financial obligations. While the Navy doesn't require that you be free of debt to enlist, you may be asked to prove that you're in a position to make payments on time. If you have bad credit, be able to show that you're on the path to improving it.
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    Pass a drug and alcohol test. The Navy has a "zero tolerance policy" for drug and alcohol abuse, and you'll be required to pass a urine test to show that your body is clear of both substances. You will also have to answer questions regarding past use or abuse of drugs and alcohol.
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    Meet the requirements for legal and moral standards. The Navy seeks to enlist only those with high moral character. Your traffic record, criminal record, legal record, and character history will all be subject to review before you're accepted into the Navy.
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    Meet the educational requirements for your desired position. Decide whether you want to be an enlisted member or an officer. This distinction determines what type of job you'll do within the Navy and how much education you're required to have. No matter what, you'll need a high school diploma or GED.
    • To be an Enlisted member of the Navy you don't need a college degree. You must be qualified mentally, morally, and medically. You will be given a chance to take a practice test called the EST (Enlisted Screening Test) to test your mental ability and a medical exam to determine if you will are eligible and what specialized field you are qualified to work in aviation, nuclear, electronics, medicine or other general area of work in the Navy. #**Most of enlisted Navy jobs are very demanding and they generally have lower salaries than officers.
      • Enlisted members have to go through 8 weeks of boot camp (8 weeks versus 13 weeks for OCS).
    • To be an officer, you typically must be in college and enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Program (NROTC), the Naval Academy (USNA) or have a college degree in a Navy approved area (i.e. engineering, science, math, etc.) and get accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS), in addition to taking qualifying tests.
      • Officers get saluted, get paid more, and have more benefits (i.e. officer club privileges, officer's mess on carrier ships, better housing, etc.).

Method 2
Enlisting in the Navy

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    Contact a recruiter. Once you've determined that you meet the necessary requirements, get in touch with a recruiter, either in person or online.[1] He or she will give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding your specific situation and interests.
    • If you're not yet sure whether you want to join the Navy, you can still contact a recruiter, no strings attached, to ask questions.
    • When you speak with a recruiter, be sure to ask about the commitment that will be required for the type of service you want to do. Discuss the specific requirements of your field of interest, including the education you'll need.
    • The recruiter will provide you with an application or direct you to one that can be found online. When you submit your application, you'll continue working with a recruiter to set up a plan for enlisting.
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    Decide what job you want to do. The Navy is rich with career options for recruits, who can choose to pursue a career in engineering, construction, education, the arts, health, information technology, special operations, and so on. Deciding early on what path you want to pursue can help you achieve your goals in the Navy more quickly.
    • Recruits who wish to become officers, who serve in managerial positions in the Navy, will need to undergo more training than recruits who will serve as enlisted sailors, the workforce of the Navy.
    • The Navy often pays for undergraduate and graduate education to help members pursue jobs and careers.[2]
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    Sign up and make a service commitment. When you're ready to commit and you've passed the necessary medical and mental exams, you'll fill out paperwork and receive instructions regarding the first year of training. If you're signing on as an enlisted sailor, you will typically commit to at least four years of service; if you're signing on for an officer position, the commitment is three to five years.

Method 3
Fulfilling Your Commitment

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    Complete the first year of service. During the first year, you'll undergo primary training and begin learning about the job you wish you pursue. You'll spend time getting acquainted with the rules and culture of the Navy.
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    Complete your terms of service. As a member of the Navy, you may or may not spend time deployed on a ship. In some cases you may spend up to 6 months at a time away from your home base. At the same time, you'll work a specific job and gain expertise in your chosen field.[3]
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    Rise through the ranks. Many people in the Navy are eligible for a promotion after just 9 months of active duty. As you fulfill your service commitment, opportunities for promotion and advancement are often plentiful. After 3 to 5 years of commitment, many choose to stay in the Navy past their first enlistment.


  • While considering whether to join, it's helpful to do some exercise. It'll help you tremendously if you do join and it'll help you meet the Navy's physical fitness standards once you're in.
  • When asked if anything was verbally promised to you that is not in your contract, answer truthfully. If it's not in the contract, you will not get it.
  • Ask for a copy of your contract before you sign it, then get someone who understands legal jargon to look over it before signing anything.


  • Lying on your enlistment papers could result in fraudulent enlistment and could get you discharged from military service dishonorably, if you even get in.
  • Recruiters do have incentives for getting people in the service ($450/monthly recruiter pay) and could get advanced. The pay is automatic whether you join or not, whereas the advancement is based on how many people they get to enlist. Listen to what they have to say but be sure to compare what the people you have talked to have said about Navy benefits and life versus what the recruiter says. If it's too good to be true, ask for verifiable proof. For example, if you are a drug dealer don't think you can qualify for a job in the Nuclear Power Field, despite how the recruiter says you might. Remember that military recruiters are salesmen: they do care about making the sale and are prohibited from lying, but want you to join.

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Categories: Careers in the Military