In the U.S. Navy, ranks are comprised of three groups: Enlisted (E-1 through E-9), Warrant Officer (CWO-1 through CWO-5), and Commissioned Officers (CO-1 through CO-5), and Admiral ranks (CO-6 through CO-10; FADM.) The letter and number represent the rank title and paygrade of the Seaman. It’s important to note rank is different from the paygrade and signifies the level of job duties and leadership responsibilities, designated by the insignia shown on the Seaman uniform. Seaman can further advance their careers by continuing education and through command and specialty opportunities.
Learn about the ranks and insignia below:
Enlisted sailors are separated into three categories: Apprenticeships (E-1 through E-3), non-commissioned Petty Officers (E-4 through E-6), and senior non-commissioned Chief Petty Officers (E-7 through E-9).
Seaman Recruit (SR/E-1)
SR is the first enlisted rank upon entering the Navy and is considered an “apprentice in training.” In basic training, the SR immerses themselves in the military culture, learning fundamental skills needed for their future career in the Navy. The SR should expect to obtain an occupational field, otherwise known as a rate, which falls under five main categories: Seamen, Firemen, Constructionmen, Airmen, or Hospitalmen. The rate assignment further breaks down into specialty subcategories, such as Machinist’s Mate (MM), Sonar Technician (ST), or Hospital Corpsman (HN). These roles are defined as the SA pursues their studies.
Seaman Apprentice (SA/E-2)
Once a rate is assigned, a recruit becomes a Seaman Apprentice. SA is still considered a junior-enlisted rank, and the role is similar to that of the SR. The SR must begin studying at an A-School within their rating. Common labor duties continue. Promotion occurs when the sailor has completed six months of service (determined by job performance and standing record of exemplary service.)
Seaman is the third-lowest enlisted rank before promotable Petty Officer. All basic qualifications are met. Their competency around the ship means more job responsibilities which include essential maintenance and watchstanding.
Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3/E-4)
Sailors who reach junior Petty Officer have made it to the Fleet. The PO3 maintains regular job duties, but much of what is learned in training now shifts into leadership roles. PO3’s should be self-sufficient leaders and begin mentoring junior sailors. Qualifying for extra-duty assignments above the standard job specifications, called Collateral Duties, are key to progressing in their career. Collateral Duties can either be service-related or specialized-duties (e.g., command career counselor, command equal opportunity coordinator.)
Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2/E-5)
The PO2 is considered a mid-grade Petty Officer. They are proven to be self-reliant leaders and do not need much oversight from their seniors. 2nd Class Petty Officers mentor junior Seamen to ensure work performance, professional development, and training. Leadership skills improve with years of experience, and those who are selected for C-School obtain technical expertise in their rate, much like studying for certification.
Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1/E-6)
Petty Officer 1st Class is considered a high-grade Petty Officer. The PO1 has a leadership part in a Division team, a smaller group within a Department that consists of 5-50 sailors (e.g., Work Center Supervisor.) They delegate tasks and handle the most complex tasks. Some responsibilities include managing more significant resources, such as expensive technical equipment, repair shop personnel, and large duty sections.
Chief Petty Officer (CPO/E-7)
The Chief Petty Officer is considered the “ground level” leadership of the Navy. Sailors hold the same regard to Chiefs as they do with Officers. According to the Master Chief of the Navy (MCPON), the Chief Petty Officer utilizes skills to direct sailors towards accomplishing the Navy’s mission. They work in conjunction with the Division Officer, taking care of personnel and equipment issues.
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO/E-8)
At this rank, the Senior Chief commands with a higher level of technical and managerial expertise. They are considered the senior technical supervisor within a rating. An SCPO has more influence within the Chiefs’ Mess (a group of Petty Officers that work closely together), and are responsible for training new Chiefs.
Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO/E-9)
Master Chief is the most distinguished Petty Officer. They are also known as “Department Chief.” MCPO is highly credentialed in their expertise and holds the most authority in large Departments. As Master Chief, they must maintain unity, communication, and cooperation in the Chiefs’ Mess.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMC/E-9)
A Senior Enlisted Advisor rank. CMC is the leading Chief aboard ships or shore-based units, and act as a bridge between enlisted officers and the commanding officer. As the principal enlisted advisor to the commanding officer, the CMC is expected to create and enact operational and human resource policies.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON/E-9)
The MCPON is appointed by the Chief of Naval Operations and is considered the most senior Enlisted Senior Advisor. By and large, the MCPON serves as a representative to all enlisted members and their families in the U.S. Navy. Their duties adapt according to the needs of the Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Naval Personnel. Over the course of their two-year term, the MCPON travels to meet with service members and their families to address the concerns and issues of the fleet.
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ SEAC
The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the main advisor to the chairman and plays a pivotal role in decision-making for the enlisted joint force. The role was originally created in 2005.
Warrant Officers are highly-skilled specialists who are knowledgeable in their technical expertise. There are currently 27 designated specialties (e.g., electronic techs, software experts, pilots.) A Senior Navy Enlisted with the paygrade of E-6 and above is qualified to apply for the Navy’s Warrant Officer program. Service members have at least 14 years of considerable leadership and technical experience prior to applying for the program.
While deployed at sea, they supervise the maintenance of equipment and ensure communication throughout the chain of command. Other roles Naval Warrant Officers take part as an executive, Division and commanding officers.
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-1)
The CWO1 rank was retired in 1975 but reinstated in 2018 to establish the new cyber warrant officer position. A warrant is the only way a candidate can receive this rank. Once appointed, the service member commits to at least six years of service as CWO1.
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-2 through CWO-5)
This is the first rank newly appointed to a Chief Warrant Officer by commission from the President. A CWO2 must have a minimum of 12 years of active duty experience and 3 years in grade to be eligible. Enlisted rank determines the CWO pay grade. Generally, the SCPO will be appointed to CWO2. Master Chief Petty Officers will be appointed the pay grade CWO3.
Once accepted, the CWO attends an Officer Development School to ensure a smooth transition in their role. Advancement is dependent on vacancies and grade seniority or years of experience.
Commissioned Officers (CO)
Ensign is the first commissioned officer rank. Candidates receive this rank after completing their commissioning through the United States Naval Academy (USNA), Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) or Officer Candidate School (OCS). Majority of Ensigns attend schools to learn their jobs; others serve in the Fleet as Divisions Officers. Promotion can take anywhere from weeks to two years depending upon the ability to lead Division.
Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG/O-2)
Lieutenant, Junior Grade is the second-lowest officer rank. An LTJG may be in training for their specialty or serve in the Fleet as Division Officers. The LTJG maintains their role for two years before promotion.
Lieutenant is considered a third rank officer and may serve as Division Officer. They have substantial responsibilities such as tactical watch teams and casualty situations. The LT may assume charge of smaller ships, aircraft squadrons, submarines or ships. Some commands require the LT to act as Department Heads.
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR/O-4)
Lieutenant Commanders is considered a fourth rank junior officer.The LCDR serves as a Department Head or Executive Officer on a ship, aircraft squadron or submarine. LCDR’s on SEAL Teams serve as Executive Officers. Other potential assignments include Commanding Officer of a Minesweeper or Patrol Craft.
Commander is the fifth rank Senior Officer. Individuals of this rank may potentially command a Frigate, Destroyer, Fast Attack Submarine, Smaller Amphibious Ship, Aviation Squadron, SEAL Team, or shore installation.
CAPTs serve as Commanding Officers of Major Commands. Such commands include Aircraft Carriers, Amphibious Assault Ships, Cruisers, Destroyer Squadrons, Ballistic Missile Submarines, Carrier Air Wings, Submarine Squadrons, SEAL groups, and shore installations.
Rear Admiral Lower Half (RDML/O-7)
A Rear Admiral Lower Half holds one-star and is the first of the Flag ranks. While at sea, the RDML commands an Amphibious Group, Carrier-Cruiser Group, Carrier or Expeditionary Strike Group. Other assignments include serving as deputies to larger commands.
Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM/O-8)
A Rear Admiral Upper Half holds two stars. The RADM is responsible for commanding an Amphibious Group, Carrier-Cruiser Group, Carrier or Expeditionary Strike Group. They may also work as deputies to larger commands.
Vice Admiral (VADM/O-9)
A Vice Admiral holds three stars. The VADM commands fleets and may act as deputy for regional commands.
An Admiral holds four-stars and is the most senior Flag Rank. An Admiral can serve as Commander of Regional Commands, Joint Commands, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff and Chief of Naval Operations.
Fleet Admiral (FADM)
Fleet Admiral is the only rank appointed during a time of war. The last FADM to serve in the U.S. Navy was William D. Leahy. He retired in 1949 after World War II and was the last to achieve this rank.
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