Royal Navy Rating

The Job and What's Involved

The Royal Navy exists to maintain the security of the UK and its citizens. It also helps to create a peaceful environment in which the UK's foreign policy and trade can develop. Its activities include:

  • Involvement in conflicts and peacekeeping, both national and UN operations.
  • Humanitarian aid.
  • Anti-drugs patrols.
  • Search and rescue.
  • Patrolling UK fishing grounds and oil fields.
  • Oceanographic surveys and protecting the marine environment.
  • Helping the UK community.
  • Providing the nation's nuclear deterrent.

As a powerful frontline force, the Navy can undertake rapid deployment and sustained operations for both humanitarian work and important defence missions. It operates ships that range in size from aircraft carriers to patrol boats, submarines and ship-borne aircraft.

Royal Navy ratings operate technology, carry out repairs and put operations into practice. They work on ships or submarines or at Royal Navy bases in a variety of roles. Specialist branches include:

Warfare branch - which operates and maintains a ship's weapons, electronic systems and sensors. Ratings coordinate the ship's communications systems and undertake a range of seamanship tasks. Trades include air engineering technicians who service and maintain helicopters and fast jets, communications technicians, warfare specialists, hydrographic, meteorological and oceanographic specialists, communications and information systems specialists, seaman specialists, mine warfare specialists and mine clearance divers.

Engineering branch - which maintains and refits the Royal Navy's ships, submarines and aircraft. Trades include engineering technicians who specialise in either weapons or marine work.

Logistics branch - responsible for running a range of office, accounting, stores and catering systems. Trades include chefs, stewards and logisticians.

Medical branch - which provides a comprehensive healthcare service for Royal Navy personnel and their families. Trades include medical assistants, dental hygienists, dental nurses and Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) nurses.

Fleet Air Arm - which ensures that Navy aircraft are prepared for action. Trades include air engineering technicians, naval airmen, who specialise in either aircraft handling or survival equipment, and aircraft controllers who use sophisticated radar and communications systems to maintain the safe flow of air traffic.

Ratings based ashore generally work normal office hours from Monday to Friday. There may be occasional weekend and evening work.

Depending on their branch, ratings at sea work either normal office hours or a shift known as a watch. The watch system covers 24 hours for certain roles. There is often a relaxed working routine at weekends.

Ratings work in a range of environments including ships, submarines, aircraft and shore-based offices. When at sea, they share living quarters with colleagues and space is limited.

Ratings work all over the world, sometimes in dangerous conditions. They wear a uniform and use safety equipment according to their role.

Royal Navy ratings enter the service on a salary of £13,377 a year. Once qualified, able ratings may earn between £16,681 and £28,372 a year.

Leading ratings may earn between £27,051 and £32,531 a year.

Hydrographers, mine clearance divers, nurses and submariners are paid extra.

There are daily allowances for being at sea beyond a certain period.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 34,710 Royal Navy ratings. About 4,500 are recruited each year. All jobs are open to men and women, except mine clearance diving and working on submarines, which are open to men only.

Armed forces careers offices have details of vacancies.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry qualifications for many jobs, although GCSE's or equivalent qualifications may be an advantage. The following trades have minimum entry requirements:

  • Aircraft controllers and communications technicians need at least two GCSE's (A*-C) including English and maths.
  • Dental hygienists must be registered with the General Dental Council as qualified dental hygienists.
  • Dental nurses need a minimum of two GCSE's (A*-C), including English.
  • Student nurses must have at least 240 UCAS tariff points at AS/A level and have GCSE's (A*-C) in English, maths and a science (although registered nurses may apply for direct entry).
  • Divers must pass a one-week diving aptitude test.

Equivalent qualifications may be accepted for some specialisations.

Ratings must be at least 16 years old on entry. There is a different minimum age for some trades:

- 17 years for medical assistants and dental nurses
- 17 years six months for student naval nurses
- 18 years for divers and dental hygienists
- 21 years for direct-entry registered general nurses

It is possible to join most trades up to and including an applicant's 37th birthday. All candidates should apply at least six months before the age limit.

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens may join the Royal Navy, but certain trades are available only to British citizens.

Selection takes place at local armed forces careers offices. Applicants fill in a questionnaire and take tests of reasoning, English language, maths and mechanical understanding. At a later date, there is an interview with a careers adviser and, finally, a medical examination. All successful candidates must pass a pre-joining fitness test. They must also complete a security questionnaire.

All ratings join on a Full Career, which is for 18 years or to the age of 40, whichever is later. There may be opportunities to extend service beyond this time.

Two and a half years after completing their initial professional training, ratings can give a year's notice to leave the service. They may be released earlier, under certain conditions, if they are not suited to naval service.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

All new ratings undertake nine weeks' basic training at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall. This includes practical exercises, parade drill, physical and fitness training, personal weapons training, a swimming test and general naval training.

Ratings then have specialist training for their chosen trade, which often includes short periods at sea. Some trade training involves working for nationally recognised qualifications, including BTEC Awards, NVQ's and City & Guilds Certificates. The length of time before a trainee is drafted to a ship varies between trades.

Ratings may be encouraged to take other advanced qualifications as their careers progress.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A Royal Navy rating should:

  • Work well as part of a team.
  • Be able to live and work closely with other people.
  • Have self-discipline and the ability to react quickly under pressure.
  • Have a good level of physical fitness and be able to swim and tread water.
  • Be able to follow orders.
  • Be decisive and ready for responsibility.
  • Have practical skills and good coordination.
  • Have good communication skills, common sense and the ability to stay calm.
  • Be methodical and have a good memory.
  • Be prepared for combat and to work anywhere in the world.
  • Be prepared to be separated from family for long periods of time.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion for ratings is to leading hand, petty officer, chief petty officer and, ultimately, warrant officer.

People with the necessary qualifications and potential can apply for a commission as an officer.

Get Further Information

Further information is available at

Applicants can also visit any local armed forces careers office, or call 0845 607 5555.

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