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U.S. Navy Officer Military Ranks

In order to become an officer in the United States Navy, an individual must possess a number of qualifications, which include holding a minimum of a four-year degree, being in peak physical condition, and having a background void of any disqualifying discrepancies. If the potential applicant meets the prerequisite standards, then there are a number of different paths available for entry into the U.S. Navy as an officer.

One path available is through the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC). This program offers tuition and a variety of other financial benefits at colleges and universities across the country, and upon graduation, an individual receives a commission as an Ensign. Another path to commissioning is through graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Yet another way to become an officer in the Navy is by attending Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, FL. And finally, a professional, such as a doctor or lawyer, may receive a Direct Commission. Many of these individuals enter the Navy as a Lieutenant.

As stated earlier, an officer in the United States Navy is required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. To find schools that support your drive to earn a degree, click on the "Find A School" button below:

Navy Ensign (ENS)
Ensign (ENS)
Ensign (ENS) is the lowest rank for a naval officer, and most officers start at this rank unless he/she receives a direct commission. Following commissioning, an ensign may serve as a division officer on a ship or receive specialty training, after which the ENS reports to an operational unit. Division officers lead the enlisted personnel assigned to his/her division.
Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG)
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG)
The junior commissioned officer rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) is attained following two years of service. A LTJG will usually supervise NCO's and other enlisted personnel. Some LTJG's may be assigned to an aircraft or to staff duty, which usually does not require any supervisory duty.
Navy Lieutenant (LT)
Lieutenant (LT)
A Lieutenant (LT) may serve in a variety of roles depending upon the size of the ship to which he/she is assigned. Commonly a LT is in charge of a Deck Department, however, on a smaller vessel, a LT may fill the Executive Officer role.
Navy Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)
A Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) usually serves as a senior department officer on a larger ship or at a shore installation. A LCDR may be found as the commanding officer or Executive Officer of a smaller ship or installation.
Navy Commander (CDR)
Commander (CDR)
A Commander (CDR) is frequently placed in command of a frigate, a destroyer, a submarine, an aviation squadron or a small shore activity. In this case, a CDR may be referred to as "Captain" or "Skipper." He/She may also serve as the Executive Officer aboard a larger ship.
Navy Captain (CAPT)
Captain (CAPT)
The responsibilities of a Captain (CAPT) varies. A CAPT with a sea command may be in command of a ballistic submarine, an aircraft carrier, a carrier air wing, and other large vessels. For line officers, he rank of Captain usually leads to senior staff positions.
Navy Rear Admiral (lower half) (RDML)
Rear Admiral (lower half) (RDML)
A Rear Admiral (lower half) may be referred to as "Admiral." This officer may have similar duties to that of a Captain, however, they may be on a slightly larger scale and may include multiple vessels.
Navy Rear Admiral (upper half) (RADM)
Rear Admiral (upper half) (RADM)
A Rear Admiral (upper half) is the rank worn by an officer promoted from the rank of Rear Admiral (lower half). This officer may also be referred to as "Admiral." The roles are similar to that of a RDML.
Navy Vice Admiral (VADM)
Vice Admiral (VADM)
A Vice Admiral (VADM) may hold a variety of higher staff positions. For example, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy or the Surgeon General of the United States Navy are slots that are usually reserved for a Vice Admiral.
Navy Admiral (ADM)
Admiral (ADM)
An Admiral (ADM) is the highest rank in the United States Navy and it is generally a temporary rank. Since most of the positions held by an Admiral are assigned a term, the rank expires at the end of the position’s term. Obviously the leadership responsibilities for an Admiral have a very broad scope.
Navy Fleet Admiral (FADM)
Fleet Admiral (FADM)
The rank of Fleet Admiral (FADM) is reserved for war-time use only and is the highest appointment an officer in the Navy can receive.
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