Life as a rating

Joining the Royal Navy makes you a part of our specialist professional team. You will play a vital role in anything from combatting pirates off the coast of the Philippines and neutralising mines near Libya – to humanitarian efforts right around the world.

Your life in the Royal Navy

There is no doubt that life in the Royal Navy as a rating is challenging. You’ll be using your skills in some of the most demanding environments. But there are few jobs that are so fulfilling. And with your initial training at our on shore base, HMS Raleigh, you will develop all the skills you need to thrive at sea, on land and in the air.
Once you’ve passed your initial training you can then go on to choose from approximately 60 rating jobs in the six main branches of the Royal Navy: Warfare, Engineering, Logistics & Administration, Medical, Chaplaincy and Aviation. What’s more, you can join any of these branches as a Maritime Reserve – and combine the Royal Navy lifestyle with your civilian life. Find out more below.

life as a rating

Case study

Mine Warfare Specialist
Mine Warfare Specialist

Christopher is a Mine Warfare Specialist in the Combat Operations branch of the Royal Navy. He joined the Royal Navy because he wanted to see the world – and he relished a challenge. 

His advice to those thinking of joining? "Do your research and work out which job is going to be best for you."


I wanted to travel and do something where every day was different. Not just sit in an office.

Ratings Training

Find out what training you need to undertake to become a rating in the Naval Services.

View Ratings training

Eligibility & qualifications

What we are looking for

People who want a life of excitement and travel. Who know the value of teamwork. People who love a challenge. And who aren’t afraid of getting stuck in. Because in the Royal Navy we depend on each other to succeed in everything we do.


There are no minimum requirements for entering the Royal Navy as a rating. But to give yourself the widest range of opportunities it’s a good idea to have GCSEs (or equivalent).

You will need to pass the Recruiting Test (RT). This is a psychometric ability test which we use to assess specific academic ability and shows your ability to cope with the technical and academic aspects of training. There are four separate parts to this test which you will need to complete within a strict time limit. These measure general reasoning, verbal ability, numeracy and mechanical comprehension.

Career progression

Skills for life:

We give you all the specialist skills you’ll need to excel at your job. But you can also build on this knowledge throughout your career. And because you will have the chance to gain qualifications that are recognised and valued by both the Royal Navy and civilian employers – like NVQs, GCSEs, BTWC awards or even university degrees – you will develop an enviable set of transferrable skills.


Like all Royal Navy careers, where and how far you go during your time as a rating is up to you – and depends on your choices and achievements. To start off with you will join as an Able Rate. As you gain experience and have a bit more training under your belt, you could be promoted to Leading Hand. In this position you’ll often manage a small group of Able Rates. In general promotion is on merit. Excel at what you do and you could rise through the ranks to become a Warrant Officer 1. And if you have the commitment, skills and academic ability you could be chosen to become a Commissioned Officer at any point during your Royal Navy career.

Pay & benefits

Royal Navy pay compares well with similar civilian jobs. As well as your basic pay, you’ll also receive extra money when you’re promoted and when you’re away at sea. We also offer an excellent pension scheme, six weeks’ paid holiday a year and freemedical and dental care.  

Initially we will offer you a career for 12 years. For ratings, when you are first promoted your offer will be extended to 20 years or until age 40, whichever is later. For officers, you will automatically receive this same extension when you achieve a key point in your career path or by selection on merit. Everyone may have the opportunity to serve beyond this, depending what you would like to do and the needs of the Royal Navy.

If you would like to leave the Royal Navy you can send us your request one year before completing your return of service. A return of service is the length of time you must stay in the Royal Navy after you reach a certain stage in your training. Ultimately it will depend on the branch you join but the return of service is usually around 4 years.

Learn more about pay and benefits

Roles by branch

Fleet Air Arm


As part of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm you could be flying fast jets or helicopters, delivering air power and air support from sea and shore bases. As part of air operations support, on deck or on the ground, you could be offering vital support to some of the most challenging operations in military aviation. Whether behind the yoke or behind the scenes, you’ll be critical to the success of every mission.

Logistics and Admin


Protecting our nation’s interests at home and worldwide is a huge operation. The Logistics & Administration branch makes sure that our ships and submarines have everything they need to be operational for weeks – even months at a time. From food, to equipment, administrative support and even personnel, you’ll have to be switched on to do this job.



Whether on shore or on board our ships and submarines, during conflict or peacetime, you’ll need to keep the people around you fit, healthy and effective. Serving in the Medical branch of the Royal Navy gives you the unique opportunity to travel and practise hands-on medicine in sometimes extraordinary circumstances.

Royal Marines Band Service


In the Royal Marines Band Service you can combine your musical talent with a life of action and camaraderie.

Throughout your career with the Royal Marines Band Service you will be playing at a consistently high level – for heads of state, for royalty and foreign dignitaries. As well as taking part in our world famous marching band.

You will also receive one of the world’s most demanding and prestigious musical educations you could get. Because before you join one of our five bands, you’ll learn from some of the best civilian professors, as well as out own instructors, who’ve played with top orchestras.

Royal Marines Reserve


The Royal Marines Reserve is a part-time force of civilian volunteers, who give the Royal Marines extra manpower in times of peace and humanitarian crisis or war. You’ll be trained to the same standards as the regular Royal Marines, have to pass the same commando tests and, of course, wear the same coveted green beret.

Royal Naval Reserve


The Royal Naval Reserve is a part-time force of civilian volunteers, who provide the Royal Navy with the additional trained people it needs at times of tension, humanitarian crisis, or conflict.



The Warfare branch is our ‘fighting team’, or combat operations arm, that includes our ships, submarines and aircraft. But this branch also does much vital work in peacetime too, helping humanitarian and aid missions and patrolling waters. You’ll need to be cool under pressure and a confident seaman and navigator.

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How to join

Joining process


1. Find the Job role for you using our Role Finder Tool.
2. Check your eligibility.
3. Fill out your application online.
4. We'll book you in for the Royal Navy Recruitment Test (RT).
5. We'll then review the results with you and chat through the most suitable jobs.
6. Take the medical tests and the Royal Navy pre-joining fitness test. Take a look at our fitness programme .
7. Once you’ve passed all the tests, we’ll make you a formal job offer.
8. Join the Royal Navy.

Find out more about the joining process

Training Process


Initial Training

Your Royal Navy career begins with 10 weeks’ basic training at HMS Raleigh. It sounds like a ship, but in fact it’s a shore base near Plymouth. The discipline, teamwork, organisational, firefighting and weapon-handling skills you’ll learn here will stay with you right through your Royal Navy career. Find out more about HMS Raleigh.

Aim to get yourself as fit as you can before you arrive. You’ll be doing a lot of physical exercise, and you’ll find it much easier if you’re already in good shape. There’s also a swimming test, so if you can’t swim, make sure you’ve learned by the time you join us.

More about Initial Ratings Training.

Professional Training

To qualify as an Aircraft Controller you need to complete the 14-week Leading Aircraft Controller’s Course. However, for the newly qualified recruit this would be extremely challenging and so you will first receive a very thorough two-year training package that is designed to prepare you.

The training programme begins with the combined two-week Aircraft Controller Grading and Fleet Air Arm introduction course at the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton in Somerset. This is followed by a 13-week warfare course at the Maritime Warfare School in Fareham, Hampshire. After warfare training you will spend time in a warship at sea where you will strengthen your training and gain invaluable experience of working within a ship’s Operations Room.

Throughout this period you will be given extra training including the three week Helicopter Controller (Non-Tactical) course. You will also receive guidance and support from the Aircraft Controller Branch Training Manager and mentor who will monitor your progress throughout. When the mentor thinks you are ready, you will return to RNAS Yeovilton for the Leading Aircraft Controller’s Course.

If you do not successfully complete the course, you will be able to use the skills you have already learnt and continue your career in the Royal Navy by restreaming to the Warfare Specialist branch. Once qualified as a Leading Aircraft Controller, you will be assigned to a ship’s helicopter flight.

More about Lifelong learning


Current roles

Chef (Submariner)

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Warfare Specialist

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