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The Fleet


Q. What is the difference between officers and ratings?

Ratings form the majority of the workforce and fit into a hierarchy based on experience and supervisory capability.  Officers make up the management team, providing leadership and specialist knowledge.

There are different entry requirements for ratings and officers, and details can be found on the relevant job pages.

Q. Can women join the Royal Navy?

Women can join the Royal Navy and serve in all branches with the exception of the Mine Clearance Diver Branch, as a member of the Submarine Service or as a Royal Marines Commando.  These exclusions are for medical reasons.  Discrimination on the grounds of gender is not tolerated in the Royal Navy.

Q. Is there an ethnic/equal opportunities policy for the Royal Navy?

The Naval Service is fully committed to the application of equality of opportunity for all its employees within the framework of the law, irrespective of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation or social background. All serving personnel have equality of opportunity for employment and advancement based upon ability. The Naval Service makes every effort to accommodate religious and cultural requirements including dietary needs within constraints imposed by operations, health and safety and duty of care.

Q: I don't know if the Royal Navy is the career for me, can I try it out before I commit myself?

Yes, the Royal Navy run a 4 day Acquaint Course every week at the Royal Naval Acquaint Centre in HMS Caledonia, Scotland, for those who have passed the selection tests for entry . This will give you a taster of what life will be like during initial training and beyond when you join your first ship or submarine. It's also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the Royal Navy in a naval environment, and to be briefed in detail on your chosen branch. Attendance is free and your travel costs are paid for. See a Royal Navy Career Advisor for more details. Acquaint courses are also sometimes available for potential officer candidates, please ask your careers liaison officer for details.

Q. What is the Royal Naval reserve?

The RNR is a part time organisation, which complements the Royal Navy in times of war, conflict and in peacetime where there is a requirement by the regular service. Entry into the RNR is the same as for the regular service.

Q. Are there age limits for recruits?

The age limits for each branch are quoted on the relevant job page.  Rating/ Other Rank recruits must be within this age limit on the day of entry to HMS Raleigh/ CTC RM Lympstone, including the following birthday.  For example, recruits can join most branches between the ages of 16 and 36, including the 37th birthday.  Officer entrants must be within the quoted age limit on the first day of the month of entry to Britannia Royal Naval College/ CTC RM Lympstone.  The latest entry for the RNR is generally before your 40th birthday although ex-RN applications will be considered up to the age of 45. 
n.b. The Armed Forces (with the exception of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary) have a complete exemption, in terms of maintaining operational (combat) effectiveness, from the provisions of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. 

Q. How long do I have to join for?

All Royal Navy/ Royal Marines Ratings and Other Ranks join on a Full Career, which is for 18 years or to age 40, whichever is later.  There may be opportunities to extend service beyond the Full Career, depending on the needs of the Service and your wishes. If you want to leave the Royal Navy, you can submit 12 months’ notice two and a half years after the end of your initial professional training. The exact length of this training period depends on the particular job you do and the level of training it requires.

Officers join on an initial commission of 12 years, but you are able to leave either during training or when training is completed. A return of service of between three and five years is required dependant on branch (see individual job profiles).

Q. Would a criminal record stop me from joining?

Not necessarily. With reference to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 local Careers Office staff will advise individual applicants regarding spent and unspent convictions. The severity of the offence committed governs the time of the rehabilitation period, which has to be completed before an applicant can be processed for entry into the service.

Q. Can I change jobs (branches) once I join the Royal Navy as a rating or officer?

No, you are processed for the branch that you applied for.

An Officer will also be processed only for the branch of application unless there are shortage (mainly engineering and warfare) categories which may be offered as an alternative if the branch of choice is oversubscribed. There are very few opportunities to transfer once in the Royal Navy and no one should join with that expectation.

Q. How many do you recruit each year?

It varies. Around 500 Officers and 4,500 Ratings.

Q. Would physical injuries (e.g. sporting injuries) prevent me from joining the Royal Navy?

It depends on the scope of the injury; injuries that prevent or reduce mobility, depending on severity, may bar you from entry. Ask staff at your local Careers Office for advice. All entrants have to pass a medical examination to join.

Q. Does the Royal Navy offer work experience?

No, but we do participate in the Trident work experience programme.

Q. Will the royal navy help me pay my way through college/university?

Sponsorship is available for those taking A-Levels and university courses and who wish to join the Royal Navy when they finish. Candidates have to apply and complete the selection process to be awarded a sponsorship. There are more sponsorships available for potential engineering officers than other branches. See our sponsorship pages for more information.

Q. Are there any apprenticeships available?

Yes, the vast majority of ratings will have the opportunity to do an Apprenticeship programme.  There are two levels, equivalent to either GCSE or AS/A level, and they allow you to gain qualifications while being paid.

Q. What is the training like?

Hard at times, challenging and rewarding. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses which can affect their progress, but most people develop and learn a lot about themselves during training.  Friendships are also formed that can last a lifetime.

Q. How long will my training take?

It varies, depending on the job you are going to do. For a Rating, initial training takes eight weeks, and professional training can take between five weeks to four years. Training for Officers varies according to specialisation. For example, it takes two to three years to train as a Warfare Officer but up to six years for a nuclear engineer.

Q: What is the purpose of the initial careers office interview?

It provides you with a chance to find out more details about careers in the Royal Navy, including the Royal Marines. It also allows you the opportunity to tell us some more about yourself so that we are better able to help you to match your interests and abilities to particular employment areas.

Q: So, is it a job interview?

No, it is not a formal selection interview. Applicants for a Commission in the Royal Navy are formally interviewed at the Admiralty Interview Board.

Q: Should I prepare for this initial interview?

You should take the opportunity to familiarise yourself as fully as possible with details contained in our careers literature and the Royal Navy Internet site. If you subsequently have any questions, you will be able to ask the Liaison Officer at the interview.

Q: What documents should I bring to the interview?

You should bring with you your passport, NI Card and NHS Card as well as your original Birth Certificate and original Educational Certificates. You do not need to bring your written references or your personal statement.

Q: What is the next step after the initial interview?

Your eligibility, career options and the further selection process will be discussed fully during the interview.

Q. Once in the Royal Navy can I get any qualifications that may help me after my service?

Yes. Most of the Royal Navy's training courses attract the award of civilian recognised qualifications. The Royal Navysupports lifelong learning and issues everyone with a Learning Achievement Portfolio.  Grants and support are also available to help pay for external courses, which can be for anything up to degree level.

Q. I am married/have a partner... will you give me/help me with accommodation for him/her?

Married quarters are available after you have completed basic training, but only for married couples.

Q. Can I join and work locally?

No. You have to be prepared to serve anywhere in the world.

Q. I am underage... can you put me on a waiting list to join the Royal Navy or Royal Marines?

Yes, we will do this for you; however, we cannot process your application until you are at least 15 years 9 months when you must make a formal application. Why don't you talk to your parents/guardians and visit your local Careers Office? They would be pleased to see you and give you information about life and job opportunities in the service.

Q. Where can I get details of pay and conditions without committing myself?

There's lots of information on this website and you can always talk to your local Careers Office.

Q. Can I join with my... brother, sister, friend, husband/wife/partner and serve together?

Yes, by all means you can join together, but as a general rule personnel will not be employed in the same ship or unit as a spouse or near relative. We will try, wherever possible, to employ a husband or wife in nearby shore units, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Q. I am foreign... can I join?

To be eligible to be processed, at the time of application, a candidate must be a British citizen, or a citizen of a Commonwealth country, or a citizen of the Irish Republic. Also certain career paths are only available to British citizens. Asylum seekers are not eligible for entry into the Naval Service.

Q. I am disabled... can I join?

The Armed Forces require anyone who joins to be medically fit to serve worldwide. New entrants to the Armed Forces undergo intensive training, which is physically demanding and mentally taxing. New entrants must be of a robust constitution and free from disease or pre-existing injury to meet this challenge. If you decide to apply and your application is accepted, you will be required to pass a full medical examination. Your application will be rejected if you fail to meet the minimum acceptable medical standard for entry.

Q. If I change my mind, how quickly can I leave?

Normally not during the first four weeks but then at anytime up to the first six months after giving 14 days' notice. After six months you will be required to serve a minimum of 3½ years from the end of initial training or the age of 18, whichever is the later, though this can vary from branch to branch.

Q. Is there a package of benefits that comes with joining the Royal Navy?

The Royal Navy has a package of benefits that is rarely equalled today.  This includes a good pension, low cost accommodation, free medical and dental cover and a range of travel expenses entitlements.  Sports facilities are also available on most ships and all shore establishments, and are free to use.  Extra money and time away from your place of work is sometimes available for sport and adventure training as well as education and development courses.

Q. How long will it take to command my own ship?

It depends on your specialisation, ability and learning ability. Minor war vessels can be commanded by Lieutenants. You could achieve this within six years of joining as an Officer. Commanding Officers of frigates and destroyers are Commanders and Captains. Some are in their mid-30s.

Q. How easy is it to start a second career after you leave?

Your Naval career will have stood you in very good stead for civilian employment. Business and Industry recognise the high level of training, responsibility and management skills of service personnel

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