Pros and Cons of Joining the Navy

A infographic on the things you should consider before enlisting in the Navy

Image by © The Balance 2018 

There are many things to consider when joining the Navy. Potential sea-duty is an obvious consideration, but so are the jobs you are qualified to do upon entry into the Navy. The Navy will spend significant time and money training and preparing you for a new career, but having a skill set going into the Navy can perhaps guide you toward your ideal job goals. For instance, language skills, college education, medical skills, and other skills obtainable in the civilian world can enhance the transition into the Navy in your favor. What do you bring to the table?

Getting to the Navy

Getting into the Navy is not an easy task. Aside from medical and physical standards, there are height and weight standards, criminal standards, as well as academic standards. The Navy requires a ​minimum ASVAB score of 35 to enlist in the regular Navy. Only a 31 is required for Naval Reserve, but you will need a 50 at least if you only have a General Education Diploma (GED). However, your chances of being accepted are much better if you score higher. The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a series of tests designed to determine for which Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) or job, a recruit is best suited.

Here are a few of the highlights to consider when thinking about enlisting in the Navy. 

Enlistment Incentives

Each branch of the military needs to ensure that their new recruits are bringing them needed skills and that they don't have too much of one skill and not enough of another. If any of the critical skills become scarce, the Department of Defense offers a financial incentive in the form of bonuses. These bonuses vary depending on manning level and any conflicts the U.S is involved in, but the Navy does offer enlistment bonuses when warranted. It's best to check with your recruiting office about the most current enlistment bonus options. Basically - what does the Navy need to most? If you fit the mold for that job, you are in luck, however, be wary of the recruiter who guides you to the job you have no interest in as the Navy will work hard to fill needed billets even with people seeking other jobs. 

Job Opportunities

The Navy has more than 80 enlisted jobs, which they call ratings. Job classifications are handled a little differently in the Navy than in the other branches of the U.S. military, with many ratings divided into sub-specialties, rather than breaking them out into separate jobs (as is common in the Army). These are called Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs).

Basic Training Pros and Cons

The Navy only has one location for enlisted basic training: the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Obviously, a Winter class at Navy boot camp will be frigid. Summers will be hot and humid typically. Spring and Fall will be mild so consider your departure date if possible.

However, even in the cold of the Winter and the heat of the Summer, much of Navy boot camp is conducted indoors, which makes sense when you consider that much of Navy life and duty is spent inside a ship or submarine. The recruit training command processes some 54,000 recruits through Navy boot camp every year. 

Get in Shape Before Boot Camp

Do not assume the Navy will get you in shape from a de-conditioned sedentary person. You need to have an ability to run (at least 1.5 miles without stopping), do push-ups and crunches, and have the ability to swim and tread water. If you fail any of the physical standards, you will get to spend any "free" time doing extra workouts early or late in the day. So arrive in shape!

During Navy boot camp, recruits will take their initial swim test, learn details about the Navy rank and ratings, and go through intense physical conditioning. They'll learn military drills, shipboard safety such as firefighting, and receive weapons training. It's intense and challenging, and Navy boot camp is not for everyone. Before you can depart for Navy basic training, you must pass an initial fitness assessment they give you are the recruiter's office. Once again, do not assume that the minimum standards on any fitness test is the peak you should strive to achieve. If your goal is the minimum standard, you will be borderline pass / fail and likely on a bad day, fail the test when it counts for your graduation or advancement. 

Assignment Opportunities

The Navy has some 51 major bases in the continental United States (CONUS). They also have bases in Hawaii, Bahrain, Italy, Cuba, Greece, Guam, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and England. Many Navy assignments are not actually to bases, but rather sailors are assigned to a ship or submarine, which considers the base its home port. Nearly all Navy bases are located in beach towns with access to large bodies of water (ocean, bay, gulf). If you like beach towns, you will like the Navy.

Where you are stationed will largely depend on your job, so get to know the specifics of each rating and where its sailors train. To that end, sailors work with Navy detailers, who are in charge of all assignments for a particular job community and rate range.

Typically, sailors rotate from a period of shore duty to a period of sea duty. The actual length of the rotations varies by job, but usually averages 36 months of shore duty, followed by 36 months of sea duty. The majority of Navy deployments are at sea on Navy ships and submarines.

Educational Opportunities

Everyone who enlists on active duty in any branch of the military is eligible for the G.I. Bill. Also, the Navy offers a college fund for recruits who enlist in jobs the Navy considers understaffed, adding money to monthly G.I. Bill entitlements. The Navy also gives tuition assistance for college courses taken off duty.

Courses offered on-base are by actual colleges and universities and generally give credit for military training, with flexible credit transfer policies. The Navy even brings along civilian college professors on some of the larger ships (such as aircraft carriers) to offer college courses while at sea.

Other Things to Consider - Cool Jobs!

Navy Special Operations - The Navy has the Navy SEALs, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Divers, and Rescue Swimmers. If Special Operations interests you, they are looking for people to fill these jobs.
Naval Nuclear Power - The Navy will teach you to be a Nuclear Engineer, and Nuclear trained to run the power plants that propel the submarines and aircraft carriers of the Fleet. If you are a math and science whiz kid, the Navy has a home for you.

Naval Air - There are most airplanes in the Navy than the Air Force! If flying jets, propeller planes, and helicopters on and off ships is something that excites you, there is training to enable you to gain those skills. 

There are some many other jobs that may spark your interest. From computer and technology, medical, legal, even business (supply/logistics), religious, and law enforcement, there is something for every interest in the Navy. Make sure you do your research and find out all the details of the jobs you are interested in undertaking. It is your career and a calling to serve your country - not a summer camp to do because you have no other opportunities. 

Watch Now: Which Branch of the Military Is Right For You?