Joining the military is a career goal for many people. Serving their country with distinction is a very valid goal, but a Navy officer is supposed to represent the best that the US Navy has to offer, so there are some strict requirements that must be met before you can become one.
The main difference between officer candidates and enlisted is that officers must have a four-year BA or BS degree from an accredited university, with suitable grades. In order to be commissioned as an officer, you must be between 19 and 35, with exceptions made in cases of extreme need for your field of expertise. You must either be a US citizen, a legal permanent resident, or have an Alien Registration green card and intent to remain in the US permanently. While the Navy.com website states these officer possibilities for non-citizens, it also states that if you are not a U.S. citizen that you should contact a Navy recruiter to confirm your ability to be commissioned as an officer in the Navy. (Source)
In most cases, you will not be allowed to enlist or join as a officer if you more than two of your dependents are under 18. A recruiter can get you more information on this, and how to join if you are a single parent. Certain moral standards are expected to be upheld by Naval personnel, and especially officers, so your driving record, criminal record, and other documents will be scrutinized before you are allowed to join.
There are two main ways to become an officer in the Navy. Officer Candidate School, or OCS, is a 12-week program held at Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island. This program prepares both new candidates and Naval enlisted for their careers as officers. However, if you join the Navy with a degree, you may be eligible to be immediately commissioned, and sent to Officer Development School (ODS) instead.
ODS is also located at Naval Station Newport, and is a five-week program in which commissioned officers study in their field, in order to become proficient in the area that they will serve. New officers will learn about the Navy, and what is expected of them during their time of service in either OCS or ODS.
There are several different ways in which to receive your bachelor’s degree and work towards becoming a Naval officer at the same time. If you are interested in being an enlisted member while working on your degree, there is the Naval College Program, which provides credit for training on duty, and may include things like classes offered aboard ship. There is also the tuition assistance program, which pays 100% of your tuition for classes taken while off-duty.
If you prefer to complete your degree before you serve, you can apply for an ROTC scholarship. In return for a certain number of years of service after you receive your degree, you can get up to $160,000 in tuition assistance, plus housing and food allowances, and even spending money. You will spend summers aboard a ship, learning your trade, and train while at school. When you graduate, you will commissioned as an ensign.
For those who are receiving a degree in an area of interest to the Navy, such as nursing, engineering, and nuclear propulsion, there is a chance to receive a Navy scholarship in return for a certain number of years of service, and not have to train while in school. These students get many of the same benefits as ROTC students, but do not have to participate in training until after graduation. In this program, you will also be commissioned immediately after graduating from college.
Joining the Navy is a big commitment, and it’s important to think about how it will change your life for the next several years. But it’s also an honor to serve under, and eventually become, one of the dedicated officers who have devoted their lives to defending our country.