Am I eligible to be a Rating?

Joining the Royal Navy isn’t for everyone. As a rating, you’ve got to have determination and a real sense of adventure. Before you can start the application process, you need to fulfil the eligibility criteria below. If you can do that, you can begin your Royal Navy journey. All roles within the Royal Navy are open to both men and women.


You need to be aged 16 or over to join the Royal Navy. If you're under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian. You can find out the age requirements for each job by using our Role Finder. 

You can join the Royal Navy if you’re aged 16 to 39, dependent on the role you choose. The shortest Royal Navy career is four years, but you can choose to serve up to 22 years and beyond, depending on the needs of the Service.

If you’re too young to apply, you can join the Sea Cadets. This is a great way to develop your leadership and teamwork skills, while gaining a valuable insight into life in the Royal Navy. You can find out more here.

Please note, if you are seeking re-entry to the Naval Service, you may receive a waiver if you are outside these age requirements. To find out more, call 0345 607 5555.


Each Royal Navy role has its own joining process, which includes a series of assessments, which include physical tests, multiple choice exams and a medical.

You need to be medically fit to deal with everything that life in the Royal Navy throws at you. Common conditions that may delay or bar your entry to the Naval Service include:

  • Asthma within the last four years (not including a single chest infection)
  • A break or joint strain that caused you to seek medical help
  • Any medical condition that requires regular prescription medication or review by your GP
  • If your BMI exceeds 28 or is under 18. There may be some exceptions to the upper BMI rate if your waist measures less than 94cm (This NHS calculator will help you determine your BMI)
  • Minimum height of 145cm (151.5cm for Aviators; 157cm for Submariners)

If you are concerned about your medical eligibility, please click here for more detailed medical advice. If your condition is not fully explained, speak to your Careers Adviser who can contact the Naval Service Medical Team. You don’t have to discuss the problem directly with the Careers Adviser, they can pass your contact details to the Medical Team to ensure complete privacy.

Nationality and residency

Some roles have stricter nationality and residency requirements than others for security reasons, but in general you can join the Royal Navy if you are:

  • A national of the United Kingdom or Ireland
  • A Commonwealth citizen who is applying from inside their own country must be 18.  If a resident of the UK you can apply at 16.  You must hold a current in date passport and it is the responsibility of individual applicants to ensure that they have permission to be in the UK and this permission is valid for the entirety of the recruitment process up to the point of entry (this does not apply to citizens of the Republic of Ireland, Malta and the Republic of Cyprus)
  • A dual Commonwealth or British national who is not required to complete national service (written evidence is required)
  • A British national living abroad

Criminal convictions

If you have a criminal record, you may still be able to join the Royal Navy, depending on the offence and type of sentence. However, if you’ve committed certain offences or served specific types of sentence, you might be permanently barred from entering or re-entering the Royal Navy.

You will be required to:

  • Complete a full Security Check
  • Declare all previous convictions, both spent and unspent
  • Undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if you're applying to the medical branch, gaining a suitability certificate where appropriate

You can get more information on our site by reading the PDF here. Alternatively you can get further details from your local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) or by calling 0345 607 5555.. Alternatively you can get further details from your local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) or by calling 0345 607 5555.

Tattoos and piercings

Most tattoos and piercings won’t prevent you from joining the Royal Navy, providing:

  • Tattoos are not visible on a front-view passport (e.g. not on your face, throat area or in front of your ears)
  • Tattoos are not offensive or obscene (see our policy for full details)
  • Any piercings can be removed. Flesh tunnels are a barrier to entry 

Tattoos on your hands are now acceptable if they follow the guidelines outlined above and as laid out in our tattoo policy. If you have any questions about your tattoos or the change in policy, please contact a careers adviser.

You will need to fill in a form describing your tattoos and must also show them during the selection process. You will also be required to remove certain body jewellery before taking part in any physical activity.


Eligibility criteria can vary slightly from role to role. To see the requirements for a particular job, and to find out what you can do with the qualifications you have, visit our Role Finder.