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The Blue and Gold Book
F/A-18 taking off from an aircraft carrier
Navy Seals patrolling a river in a boat
Men keeping watch on surfaced submarine
Midshipman on the bridge of a ship
Marine helicopter near ship

Career Opportunities After Graduation

Graduation from the Naval Academy brings new opportunities for leadership, learning, professional advancement, travel and excitement. From the very first assignment as an officer in the naval service Naval Academy graduates will have more responsibility and challenge on the job than almost any civilian just out of college. Many of our recent graduates are leaders of sailors and Marines throughout the world on forward-deployed ships, submarines, squadrons, SEAL teams or in Marine units ..

Your service commitment begins at graduation, when you are commissioned as an ensign in the Navy or a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Nearly all physically qualified graduates are commissioned into the unrestricted line of the Navy or Marine Corps. There are limited opportunities for graduates to be commissioned in a restricted line or staff corps specialty such as: Supply Corps, Civil Engineer Corps, Information Dominance Corps, or Medical Service Corps.

Service Assignment

The career options available to Naval Academy graduates are the broadest offered by any of the nation’s service academies. You can:

  • specialize in surface warfare, with assignments aboard ships ranging from guided missile destroyers to amphibious ships deployed in expeditionary strike groups;
  • enter the submarine service, with duty aboard nuclear-powered attack, ballistic missile and guided missile submarines;
  • fly a variety of aircraft from helicopters and shore-based patrol planes to supersonic, jet fighters aboard aircraft carriers;
  • command infantry, armor, artillery or aviation units as a Marine Corps officer; and
  • lead the most talented and highly motivated sailors and Marines in the world, no matter what career path you embark upon after graduation.

You will be given the opportunity to state your career preferences early during your senior year. Actual assignment to your future community is based upon the needs of the Navy and Marine Corps, your overall record at the Naval Academy, and personal and physical qualifications.

Surface Warfare

Surface warfare officers serve in every type of surface ship in the Navy. When you are selected for surface warfare, you have the opportunity to choose the type of ship and home port of your first duty assignment. After graduation from the Academy, you report to your ship. Your first tour of duty lasts about 24 months.

A new ensign typically serves as a division officer, with responsibilities for leading 12 to 50 enlisted personnel and directing a portion of the ship’s equipment and operations. Typical positions include those of anti-submarine warfare officer, gunnery officer, communications officer and damage control assistant. In addition, you will work toward qualification as combat information center watch officer and officer of the deck, and eventually earn the right to wear the Navy Surface Warfare Officer insignia.

Nuclear Power — Surface

The Navy’s demanding and technical nuclear power training program is highly regarded world-wide. Those chosen for the program usually rank high in their class and have a solid background in scientific and technical courses, even though they may not have majored in these areas.

Midshipmen who are selected for surface warfare can join those choosing submarines in pursuing a sub-specialty in nuclear propulsion systems. If you are accepted into the nuclear power program, you report to Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C., for six months of schooling following your first division officer tour. You then train for six months at one of two nuclear reactor prototype sites before reporting to your second ship.

All aircraft carriers are nuclear powered and surface warfare officers alternate between these and conventionally powered ships as they advance in their careers.

Submarine Warfare

All of the Navy’s submarines are nuclear powered. Those assigned to the submarine service begin by studying Navy nuclear propulsion at Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C., for six months of schooling, followed by six months of training at one of two nuclear reactor prototype sites located in Charleston, S.C. and Ballston Spa, NY.

You then go to Navy Submarine School in New London, Conn., for the 10-week submarine officers basic course. Your first tour of duty with an attack, ballistic missile or guided missile submarines lasts about 36 months.

In a submarine, junior officers lead divisions of 10 to 20 sailors. You have responsibilities in a vital area of operations such as engineering, weapons or communications. You also stand watches and work to qualify as engineering officer of the watch, diving officer of the watch and officer of the deck — all steps towards earning the gold dolphins and designation as a Navy submarine officer.

Naval Aviation

Whether landing an F/A-18 Hornet on the deck of an aircraft carrier, conducting maritime surveillance in the Persian Gulf in a P-8 Poseidon or maneuvering an SH-60F helicopter in a rescue operation, naval aviators are constantly called upon to perform under pressure. When you are assigned this career path, you will undergo training as either a pilot or a naval flight officer (NFO). Pilots fly aircraft while naval flight officers serve in the cockpit as weapons systems officers, electronic countermeasures officers and tactical coordinators.

After graduation from the Academy, all those assigned to aviation report to Pensacola, Florida, for Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. Pilot trainees may either stay in Pensacola or move to Corpus Christi, Texas, for basic flight training. Depending on the aircraft type assigned after basic flight training, pilots may complete advanced training at several training bases throughout the Gulf Coast. NFOs complete all of their flight training in Pensacola or at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. Aviators receive their ‘wings of gold’ after 18-24 months for pilots and 12-18 months for NFOs. They are assigned to their first squadron after six to nine months of aircraft and mission-specific training in a fleet replacement squadron.

In addition to flying, naval aviators have significant leadership and management responsibilities beginning with their very first duty assignment. New officers typically are charged with leading a group of aviation enlisted personnel and overseeing their squadron’s operations, administration, personnel management and aircraft maintenance.

Marine Corps

Nearly 30% of each graduating class may be chosen for commissioning as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. After graduation from the Academy, you attend the Basic School, a 26-week course for officers at Quantico, Va. This school gives all Marine officers a common background in the tactical study of land warfare. Then you go on to advanced training in a particular occupational specialty based on your qualifications and preferences.

Marine Corps career fields include those in the two basic categories of ground and air. Ground career choices include infantry, armor, artillery, logistics, engineering, communications-information systems, financial management and military police. Aviation choices include pilot, naval flight officer, air command and control, anti-air warfare, aviation maintenance and aviation supply.

In their first assignments, Marine Corps second lieutenants are generally assigned as platoon commanders with leadership responsibilities for 35 to 43 enlisted Marines. You often have a role in a Marine air/ground task force, with Marine light infantry capable of opposing much more heavily equipped forces. Meshing of air and ground officers in these task forces and individual units gives officers the opportunity later to command combined units, not just within career specialties. Marine officers are assigned worldwide.

Naval Special Warfare

Special Warfare provides qualified officers the opportunity to be a member of one of the world's elite fighting forces. As a branch of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, Navy SEALs are known and respected around the world. Established April 16, 1987, Naval Special Warfare Command is the Navy’s special operations force and the maritime component of United States Special Operations Command. The NSW community is organized around eight SEAL teams, one SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) team, three special boat teams and supporting commands which deploy forces worldwide. NSW is postured to fight a globally-dispersed enemy, whether ashore or afloat, before they can act. NSW forces can operate in small groups and have a continuous presence overseas with their ability to quickly deploy from Navy ships, submarines and aircraft, overseas bases and forward-based units.

Restricted Line and Staff Corps Specialties

Midshipmen not physically qualified to serve in the unrestricted line but who can be commissioned as active duty officers may choose from a wide variety of alternatives and pursue a career. Restricted line and staff corps officers may choose careers in the fields of intelligence, information warfare, information professional, oceanography, medicine, civil engineering, supply and aviation maintenance. They serve aboard ships, with aircraft squadrons and at shore bases around the world. Graduating midshipmen who are accepted to medical school may be commissioned in the Medical Corps even if physically qualified to serve in the unrestricted line.

Assignments for Women

For female officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, many options are open to you to serve in assignments vital to our national defense. You may fly planes as a pilot or naval flight officer or serve on combatant ships as a surface warfare officer, or serve on a nuclear submarine. Women may also enter restricted line or staff corps specialties such as oceanography, intelligence, supply or civil engineering if not physically qualified for aviation, ships or Marine Corps.

You also may choose to enter the Marine Corps. Female Marine Corps officers can be assigned to all career fields available to male officers.

A very limited number of billets in medicine are available each year to both male and female graduates who are accepted for admission by an accredited medical school.

Career Choices of the Class of 2014

The members of the Class of 2014 chose the following service and warfare specialties to enter after graduation and commissioning:

  • Submarine warfare: 132
  • Navy Restricted Line and Staff Corps: 51 (including men and women not physically qualified for the unrestricted line duties above, elected specialization in aviation maintenance duty, cryptology, intelligence, supply corps, civil engineer corps and meteorology/oceanography)
  • Aviation
    • Pilot Training: 237
    • Naval Flight Officer Training: 80
  • Surface Warfare
    • Conventional: 191
    • Nuclear: 32
  • Marine Corps: 268
  • Medical Corps: 11
  • Special Warfare (SEAL): 28
  • Special Operations (diving, salvage and explosive ordnance disposal): 14

Pay and Allowances After Graduation

Typical Pay and Allowances for Junior Naval Officers

After graduation Midshipmen are promoted to the rank of O-1 (Ensign or Second Lieutenant).  The monthly pay and allowances as an O-1 for the Annapolis area is $4,996 (without dependents). Special pay and bonuses of up to $17,500 per year are added to many career fields such as nuclear training (Subs and ships) and Surface Warfare (ships).

Promotion to Navy Lieutenant (Junior Grade) or Marine Corps First Lieutenant normally comes two years after commissioning. The next promotion, to Navy Lieutenant or Marine Corps Captain, normally comes four years after commissioning. All of these figures, including cost-of-living increases, are subject to change. Download a complete pay chart.

After Your First Tour of Duty

By the time you complete your first tour of duty, you will probably have a pretty good idea about your career goals, and the Navy and Marine Corps will give you every opportunity to achieve them. You will have assignments to prepare you for advancement and eventual command of a surface ship, submarine, aircraft squadron, Marine Corps unit or an organization ashore.

Naval officers alternate between tours of duty with shore-based units and operational commands that deploy overseas in support of our nation’s maritime strategy. There is also opportunity for postgraduate study, advanced technical training in your specialty and coursework at military service colleges in leadership, management, tactics, strategy, and international relations.

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