Royal Navy: FAQs
Q. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OFFICERS AND RATINGS?
Ratings in general do not require GCSEs or equivalent to join. Only Artificers (technicians), Communication Technicians and Nurses require GCSEs or equivalent to join. All Ratings have to complete a recruit test (see our page on the Selection Process). Royal Navy Ratings serve on ships or shore bases supporting the sea-going Fleet and Personnel.
Officers require five GCSEs to include English and Maths at C grade or better and a minimum of 140 UCAS points. After an initial interview at the local AFCO candidates attend a two-day Admiralty Interview Board to assess their officer potential. In general Officers' work is biased towards management and leadership.
Q: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS INITIAL 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 only those documents necessary to demonstrate your eligibility. These are your original Birth and Educational Certificates. You do not need to bring your passport, 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: 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 now run a 4 day Acquaint Course every week at the Royal Naval Acquaint Centre in HMS Caledonia, Scotland. 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 plus brief you in detail on your chosen Branch of Preference. Attendance is free and your travel costs are paid for. See a Royal Navy Career's Advisor for more 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?
Ratings may join at 16. The latest entry date is up to and including 33rd birthday for Royal Marines and 37rd birthday for the Royal Navy. Officers are eligible to apply at age 17, but must have a minimum of two A-Levels or equivalent. 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.
Q. HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO JOIN FOR?
Ratings join on an initial engagement, or Open Engagement, which is for a period of 22 years from the age of 18. If you wish to leave during the 22 years then you are allowed to give 12 months' notice at any time after serving two years 6 months. 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. CAN WOMEN JOIN THE RN?
Women can join the Royal Navy and serve in all branches with the exception of the Seaman Diver Branch and as a member of the Submarine Service; both exclusions are for medical reasons.
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 RN 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 RN?
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 an exacting medical examination to join.
Q. DOES THE NAVY OFFER WORK EXPERIENCE?
No, but Careers Officers can arrange acquaint visits.
Q. WILL THE RN HELP ME PAY MY WAY THROUGH COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY?
Sponsorship is available for those taking A-Levels and university courses and who wish to join as Officers. Candidates have to apply and complete the selection process to be awarded a sponsorship. There are many 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 Artificer (Technician) Apprenticeships. You will require GCSEs or equivalent to join. Completion of training attracts the award of an Higher National Certificate. Have a look at the Artificer pages on this website for more information.
Q. WHAT IS THE TRAINING LIKE?
Hard at times, challenging and rewarding. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Videos are available at your local Careers Office.
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. Professional training can take between five weeks if you want to be a steward to four years if you want to be an Artificer. Training for Officers varies according to specialisation. For example, it takes two to three years for a Warfare Officer but up to six years for a nuclear engineer.
Q. ONCE IN THE RN CAN I GET ANY RECOGNISED QUALIFICATIONS THAT MAY HELP ME AFTER MY SERVICE?
Yes. Most of the Navy's training courses attract the award of NVQs, in particular Artificers (Technicians) HNCs. The RN supports lifelong learning and issues everyone with a Learning Achievement Portfolio.
Q. I AM MARRIED/HAVE A PARTNER… WILL YOU GIVE ME/HELP ME WITH ACCOMODATION FOR HIM/HER?
Married quarters are only available for married couples. If you are married you will qualify for a married quarter after your basic training.
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 RN OR RM?
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 show you some videos of 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 3 years six months from completion of initial training or the age of 18, whichever is the later.
Q. IS THERE A PACKAGE OF BENEFITS THAT COMES WITH JOINING THE RN?
Yes, low cost living during training, pensions, reduced rail travel cost (Free Railcard), a number of free 'get you home' packages, medical and dental cover, good free sports facilities, agreed personal function standards. See our benefits page for more information.
Q. IS THERE AN ETHNIC/EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY FOR THE RN?
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 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. 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.
Q. Can I join if I am gay?
Yes you can!