Flag, US Navy1.0     Introduction

This article provides an outline of the recruitment and selection process for individuals wishing to join the US Navy as commissioned officers, i.e. not as enlisted personnel.

The US system for the recruitment and selection of US Navy Officers is highly diverse and flexible enough to meets the needs of the diverse population that is encountered in America. Although the recruitment and selection an individual goes through varies depending on their method of entry, the underlying principles of recruiting and selecting high quality candidates to be the officers of the US Navy remains constant

For background information on the US military recruitment and selection process as a whole look here. For individuals wishing to join the US military as enlisted personnel look here.

1.1     Who Does This Recruitment and Selection Process Apply To?

The recruitment and selection process described in this article applies to individuals who are interested in a career as a commissioned officer in the US Navy as a:

  1. US Navy Regular (Active Duty) officer: or
  2. US Navy Reserve officer.

2.0     A General Outline of the Officer Recruitment and Selection Process

Figure 1 provides an outline of the current US Navy recruitment and selection process for officer aspirants. Each stage of the officer recruitment and selection process is detailed in the following sections.

00,03a - Fig1, R&S Outline

Figure 1: Outline of the US Navy Officer Recruitment and Selection Process

3.0     Stage 1: General Eligibility

There are a number of eligibility criteria that must be considered before making an application to join the US Navy and these vary across the Service branches of the US Navy due to the nature of the job/role an individual may wish to undertake. The general principles are outlined below.

3.1     Age Criteria

Every job/role in the US Navy has a minimum and maximum age limit (Table 1). The minimum age can differ between jobs/roles and is specified within each job description. However, the earliest application is at least 19 years old when an individual applies, and under 35 years old when beginning basic training (although the maximum age is typically around 27 years of age). However, keep in mind that almost all male US Citizens and Permanent Resident Aliens living in the US, who are 18-25, are required to register with the Selective Service.

Table 1: Age criteria by Service branch in the US Navy

Service Branch

Age Criteria

Regular (Active Duty)






Service Academies


3.2     Physical Criteria

Due to the varying physical demands on service personnel in each Service branch, the physical criteria vary greatly. These differences can vary even within each branch of the Service. Generally speaking, potential service personnel should be in good physical condition, of appropriate weight and able to pass a standard physical screening prior to entry. For more specific information speak to a recruiter.

3.3     Educational Criteria

To become an officer in the US Navy individuals must have received a 4-year BS or BA degree from an accredited university and have strong grades.America's Navy

3.4     Nationality & Residency Criteria

Individuals who are US citizens may join the US Navy as officers. However, Permanent Resident Aliens (people who have an INS I-151/I-551 ‘Green Card’) may only join the US Navy as enlisted personnel. Properly documented non-citizens may enlist, however, opportunities may be limited.

For enlistment purposes, the US includes Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

Documents required include passport, Social Security card, birth certificate, driver’s license and educational qualifications.

Individuals can join the US Navy if they are a single parent. However, the US Navy will normally not allow individuals to join if they have more than two dependents under the age of 18.

3.5     Criminal Convictions Criteria

The US Navy applies medical, legal and character standards to an individual’s application, including traffic offense history, criminal history, citizen status and more.

Some kinds of offences and sentences can bar recruits from joining or re-joining; typically 2nd and 3rd degree misdemeanours and/or felony convictions are disqualifying. For more specific information speak to a recruiter.

The US Navy also has a zero tolerance drug/alcohol policy. Early in the officer recruitment and selection process, individuals will take two urinalysis tests. Individuals will also be asked questions about prior drug and alcohol use; obviously answer honestly.

3.6     Tattoos & Piercings Criteria

These are dependent on location and nature and will usually need to be declared and shown during a medical examination or to a recruiter. During the selection process individuals should remove piercings and not wear clothing with obscene images.

4.0     Stage 2: Meet with an Officer Selection Officer

Quartermaster Second Class Robert Baetz was one of 14 recipients nationwide to be named a National Officer Recruiter of the Year in 2013.
Quartermaster Second Class Robert Baetz was one of 14 recipients nationwide to be named a National Officer Recruiter of the Year in 2013.

After an individual confirms that they meet the general eligibility for service with the US Navy they will be able to meet with an Officer Selection Officer (OSO).

When an individual meets with an OSO, the OSO will be able help the individual fill out their application and conduct an initial screening. Individuals will need to provide their OSO with the following if they are applying as an officer candidate:

  • Medical records;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Social Security card;
  • Citizenship certificate (if applicable);
  • High school diploma;
  • Complete list of places the individual has worked;
  • Four character references;
  • List of all the places the individual has visited outside of the US;
  • List of all the places the individual has lived; and/or
  • Any information involving the police and drug use.

5.0     Stage 3: Decide on Method of Entry

An individual interested in serving as a commissioned officer in the US Navy has three options as outlined in Figure 2.

00,03b - Fig2, Method of Entry

Figure 2: Method of entry

5.1     Option 1: Programmes for College Students

The US Navy offers several scholarship programmes that can help individuals pay their way through school and allow them to enjoy a normal college life, and enabling them to focus on their studies before starting a career in the US Navy. Through these programmes, an individual will enter the US Navy in a leadership position as a commissioned officer. A commissioned officer is a member of the US Navy who has a degree from a 4-year college or university and who has gone through officer training. Officers in the US Navy have responsibilities that include anything from low-level management to the highest levels of command.

There are currently nine methods for college students to join the US Navy and attend college at the same time, and include:

  1. US Naval Academy;
  2. Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC);
  3. Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC);
  4. Civil Engineer Collegiate (CEC) Programme;
  5. Chaplain Candidate Programme Officer (CCPO);
  6. Health Professions Scholarship Programme (HPSP);
  7. Health Services Collegiate Programme (HSCP);
  8. Nurse Candidate Programme (NCP); or
  9. Financial Assistance Programme (FAP).

5.1.1  US Naval Academy

The US Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become US Navy officers. US Naval Academy students are midshipmen who train to be commissioned Officers on Active Duty in the US Navy while they are still in school. Students attend the Academy for 4-years and graduate with Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees. When their schooling is complete, they then begin their careers as commissioned officers in the US Navy.

There are a number of steps for admission to the US Naval Academy which prospective students should be aware of and also some basic eligibility requirements:

  • US citizen;
  • Good moral character;
  • At least 17 and not past 23rd birthday on 01 July of the year the individual would enter the academy;
  • Unmarried;
  • Not pregnant; and
  • No dependents.

Prospective students are advised to view the academy’s website.

The Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) is located on Naval Station Newport in historic Newport, Rhode Island. The mission of NAPS is to enhance midshipman candidates’ moral, mental, and physical foundations to prepare them for success at the US Naval Academy. The 10-month course of instruction at NAPS, lasting from August through May, emphasises preparation in English Composition, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, and Information Technology.

Demanding military, physical and character development programs complement the academic preparation to fully prepare students for the challenges of life at a service academy. As part of the physical development programme, NAPS offers a varsity athletic programme that competes against other preparatory schools, junior colleges and college junior varsity teams.

Prospective students are advised to view the academy’s website.

5.1.2  Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps

US Navy Recruiting Poster in WWIAnother method of entry to the US Navy during college is through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship programme. It not only pays for school but also provides leadership training while individuals are still in school. NROTC provides this money for up to five years of college and individuals can apply for the programme while they are still in high school or college.

Through NROTC, individuals enter the US Navy while they are still in college but still get to live the life of a normal college student. Commitments while still in school include weekly drills, summer programmes and opportunities to participate in community service projects. These activities help prepare individuals for their future role as a leader and life as a US Navy officer. ROTC programmes are offered at over 1100 schools, colleges and universities across the US.

Prospective students are advised to view the NROTC website.

5.1.3  Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Programme

The US Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) programme enables individuals to join the US Navy and one of the top nuclear programmes at the same time. For successful applicants the programme offers scholarship money to pay for their degree and provides a regular monthly income while still in school.

Through the NUPOC programme, individuals get to live the life of a regular college student while still in school, with no service obligations to the US Navy until they graduate. And, when they do graduate, individuals will start their career right away as a US Navy Nuclear Officer, with advanced training opportunities and leadership responsibilities.

This highly competitive programme offers career opportunities in any of four focus areas:

  • Submarine Officer: Nuclear Submarines;
  • Surface Warfare Officer: Nuclear Aircraft Carriers;
  • Naval Reactors Engineer; and
  • Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor.

Individuals applying for the NUPOC programme will go through a rigorous screening process and successful candidates will be put forward for an interview with the Director of Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C. which is composed of two parts:

  • Part One: The first part of the interview process focuses on technical questions from calculus, physics and other technical courses. The majority of the questions are from calculus and physics, and individuals may be asked questions from other topics in their major. This part of the interview process typically lasts 30-40 minutes and contains two to four major questions per interview.
  • Part Two: The second part of the interview process involves meeting with the Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion programme, an Admiral. During this interview, the Admiral will review an individual’s transcripts and the evaluations from their technical interviews, and the Admiral will assess an individual’s communication skills, interests and motivation for the programme. The Admiral personally selects all prospective Nuclear Officers.

US Navy NUPOC Study Guide

5.1.4  Civil Engineer Collegiate Programme

Engineering and architecture majors can join the US Navy while they are still in school through the Civil Engineer Collegiate (CEC) Programme.  The CEC programme offers money towards an individual’s degree and regular monthly income that includes food and housing allowances.

There are no service or drilling requirements while an individual is still in school. Once an individual graduates they will be commissioned as a US Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer and begin their professional responsibilities with the US Navy. As part of the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps, individuals can focus their work on any or all of the following areas:

  • Contract Management: Be the primary contact between US Navy and civilian contractors, managing contracts worth up to hundreds of millions of dollars. Handle every aspect of a project, from overseeing construction to resolving design problems to ensuring that payments are correctly processed.
  • Public Works: Assume responsibility for any of the hundreds of US Navy shore facilities – some as large as entire cities. Supervise and maintain utilities. Oversee construction and repair, manage budgets, approve public works plans, and provide services to visiting ships.
  • Construction Battalions: Command up to 600 enlisted workers (Seabees) in the construction of airfields, bridges, ports or buildings – all in support of both humanitarian outreach and military deployment.

5.1.5  Chaplain Candidate Programme Officer

Individuals thinking attending or are attending a graduate-level theological programme, then they may be eligible to enter the US Navy Chaplain Candidate Programme (CCP) as a student. Through this programme, individuals can be commissioned as a US Navy Officer while they finish their theological studies at an accredited seminary or graduate school.

As a Chaplain Candidate, individuals wear the US Navy uniform and receive pay and benefits while on their annual training and not in school. Individuals get to experience what it means to serve as a US Navy Chaplain first-hand.

5.1.6  Health Professions Scholarship Programme

If an individual is planning to attend, or is already in, medical school, dental school or a qualifying healthcare-related postgraduate programme, they can join the US Navy while they are still in school through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). The programme pays for tuition, offers monthly living expenses and a potential sign-on bonus. Includes amongst others:

  • Medical degrees;
  • Dental degrees; and
  • Physician Assistants.

The specifics of this programme depend on the individual’s specialty area, so it is important to check the official US Navy website for further details.

5.1.7  Health Services Collegiate Programme

Individuals can join the US Navy while they are still finishing medical school, dental school or a qualifying postgraduate school in the medical services. The Health Services Collegiate Programme (HSCP) provides individuals with a monthly salary while they are still in school. It also provides a housing allowance and additional benefits that can help support individuals and pay for tuition while they finish their graduate programme. Includes amongst others:

  • Medical degrees;
  • Dental degrees;
  • Physician Assistants;
  • Healthcare Administration; and
  • Occupational Therapy.

The specifics of this programme depend on the individual’s specialty area, so it is important to check the official US Navy website for further details.

5.1.8  Nurse Candidate Programme

Nursing students can join the US Navy while they are still in school through the Nurse Candidate Programme (NCP). The NCP offers money to help individuals pay their way through nursing school, a grant, a monthly stipend and health-care benefits.

The NCP has no drilling requirements and no service obligation until an individual graduates. Once graduated, individuals will begin the process of being commissioned as a US Navy Nurse Corps Officer and take on professional responsibilities right away.

5.1.9  Financial Assistance Programme

Resident medical and dental students can join the US Navy. The Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) is available to medical and dental students who are currently accepted to or enrolled in an accredited residency or fellowship programme.

5.2     Option 2: Officer Candidate School

The US Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) is the Navy’s main training academy for prospective Naval Officers.  The OCS is open to civilians who hold at least a 4-year college degree as well as qualified enlisted Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs).

Individuals who successfully complete the 12-week training programme receive formal commissions as US Navy Officers and assume the ability to command sailors.

OCS is designed to give individuals a framework for their role as a leader and manager. Individuals will learn tactics training, how to deal with mental and emotional stress, and how to give orders. By the end of the course, individuals will know how to lead.

The benefits of becoming an Officer rival those from the very best jobs in the civilian environment; however, an individual’s experiences as an officer will also signify to others that they have the fortitude to lead in any situation, no matter the environment or the stakes.

Further information on the US Navy’s Phase 1 initial training for officers can be found here (TBC).

5.4     Option 3: Direct Commission Officers

US Navy, WW1Direct Commission Officers (DCOs), known as Professionally Qualified Officers in the UK, are US citizens who have professional expertise in specific fields that are needed for military operations. The US Navy currently employs DCOs in eight fields:

  1. Aviation (Flight Support)
  2. Chaplain
  3. Civil Engineering
  4. Human Resources
  5. Information Professional
  6. Information Warfare
  7. Public Affairs
  8. Purchasing, Supply & Logistics

DCOs attend the Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course (DCOIC) delivered by the Officer Training Command in Newport. Those who earn a direct commission will receive the rank determined by their career branch and serve in the Regular Navy or Navy Reserve. DCOs conduct their initial officer training at the Officer Development School.

5.5     Transitioning from Enlisted to Officer Status

There are opportunities for certain enlisted personnel to make the transition to commissioned officer. Enlisted personnel, with the right qualifications, may be recommended by their commanding officers for officer training and the US Navy has transitional programmes designed to aid enlisted personnel make that transition. These programmes include:

  • US Naval Academy and US Naval Academy Preparatory School Programmes;
  • Officer Candidate School Programme;
  • Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program (MECP);
  • Medical Service Corps In-service Procurement Programme (MSC IPP);
  • Limited Duty Officer (LDO) and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Programmes; and
  • Seaman to Admiral-21 (STA-21) Programme.

Enlisted to Officer Commissioning Programmes Applications Administrative Manual (2009-12-14)

6.0     Initial Officer Training and Service Commitment

6.1     Initial Officer Training

Unless an individual is entering as an officer through one of the college options programmes described above, and they have never served in the military, the individual will need to attend an officer training course. Officer training is delivered by the Officer Training Command (Newport, Rhode Island). The type of course an individual undertakes is determined by their accession route and additional specialty schooling may also be required at a later date.

6.2     Service Commitment

Once an individual has been commissioned as an officer they will typically be obliged to serve an initial service commitment of three to five years (positions involving longer-term training may involve longer service obligations).

7.0     Useful Links

Listed are some links which the reader may find useful:


4 thoughts on “US Navy Officer Recruitment & Selection Overview

  1. I want to enter USA Navy but I would like to know how to do it so that I have completed the form and I would like to be told the papers I need so that I can fill it

    1. Hi Charles,

      1. To serve as an Enlisted Sailor, you must be a US citizen or, if you are a non-citizen, you may join the Navy if you entered the US on a permanent residence visa or have an Alien Registration Green Card and have 1) established a bona fide residence, and 2) established a home of record in the US.
      2. To serve as an Officer, you must be a US citizen.
      3. You can apply online here: https://www.navy.com/online-application.html.

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