Shaping your career

Whichever level you join at, how you shape your career – and how far you take it – are all in your hands. Because the Royal Navy is only as good as its people, we give you everything you need to be the very best you can be.

We invest heavily in the training that will make you truly world-class in the role you choose. You’ll have a structured route through the ranks, with fast-track, on-the-job training as a constant feature. It takes hard work, discipline and determination; what you put in is what you’ll get out.

But looking good on paper is just the start. Being in the Royal Navy means a life of adventure, travelling the world, and doing a job and leading a life that are a million miles from the civilian world. It makes you well-rounded, worldly – and highly employable if you move on.

If you show potential and have the drive to work hard, you’ll have all the structure and support you need to progress quickly.

Use the tabs below to explore typical career progression and rank promotions for ratings and officers.

Officer ranks

Tom, Weapon Engineer Officer

Qualifying as an officer is just the start of my career. I’ve got a clear progression pathway, which means I can go to the next level as soon as I’m ready. I can see my earning potential too, which means I’m always motivated to learn and develop.

Ratings ranks

Kate, Warfare Specialist

The great thing about a career in the Royal Navy is that all promotion is on merit. It’s not just about experience, it’s about capabilities, so the faster I learn, the further I’ll get. Plus, If I show the right potential, I can go to officer selection at any point.


Typically, you’ll start your career as a Midshipman. All officers join the RN at this rank, on an average annual salary of over £31,000. 

Following 12 months of service and while you're working through your role-specific professional training, you’ll automatically be promoted to Sub-Lieutenant, with a salary of £38,703. Your training will be all-encompassing, covering the practical and theoretical elements of being an officer. We expect you to step up to the mark and take it in your stride, demonstrating an officer’s management and leadership techniques as you develop your own style in both. 

First Promotion: Providing you meet the standards we expect, you’ll be promoted to Lieutenant, with a salary of £47,679. With the right drive, attitude and work ethic, this usually happens after 30 months as a Sub-Lieutenant. 

Second Promotion: If you excel as a Lieutenant, you can work towards your next promotion, as Lieutenant Commander, with a salary of over £59,500. By now, you’re very much an integral part of naval command, using your extensive on-the-job experience to develop your team to the high standards you maintain in everything you do. 

Further Promotions: If you’re ambitious and driven, there’s nothing stopping you rising through the ranks to Captain, where you’ll be in command of a large vessel or hold a senior, strategic position on shore, with a salary more than £110,000. 

Beyond that, you can work towards becoming a Commodore, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral or even Admiral – the highest rank in the Royal Navy.


No matter which role you choose, you’ll start your career as an Able Rate. All ratings join the Royal Navy at this rank, on an annual salary of over £18,500 which goes up to £23,496 after six months. You’ll remain an Able Rate throughout your Initial Naval Training, and well into the role-specific training that follows it. 

First promotion: With dedication, determination and hard work, you’ll be promoted to Leading Hand, on a salary of £36,729. You’ll become a role model, mentor and manager to the Able Rates in your team, maintaining the high standards that are expected of you as you lead by example. Further professional training gives you the in-depth vocational knowledge that’s expected of more senior ratings. 

Second promotion: If you excel as a Leading Hand, you’ll work towards becoming a Petty Officer, on a salary of £41,415. While you’ll still be hands-on, you’ll take on a more managerial role, leading and developing your team of ratings, to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to excel, just as you will have done. 

Further promotions: If you keep up the good work and maintain the exacting standards that have got you to this point, you can be promoted to Chief Petty Officer and even on to Warrant Officer, on a salary of £56,383. This is the highest rank you can reach as a rating. At this level, you provide a crucial link between your officers and the ratings in the team that you lead. 

Become an officer: At any point during your time as a rating, you can apply to become a Commissioned Officer. If you have what it takes, you can climb the ranks to Captain, with earning potential of over £110,000.

Transferable skills for life

A future in the Royal Navy doesn’t just give you industry-leading qualifications and hands-on experience in your chosen role. It’s much more than that. What we do is unique, and the fact that you’re interested and reading this already sets you apart from most people.

Whether you join as a rating or an officer, you’ll have responsibilities appropriate to your role from the very start. While you’ll have all the professional support and training you need to do your job, we won’t hold your hand. You’ll be expected to perform in extraordinary, demanding circumstances, which will teach you a huge amount.

You’ll learn practical and professional skills like time management, leadership, teamwork and problem-solving, and how to deal with challenging situations. On a more personal level, your unique working environment will teach you a lot about people, yourself included, and communicating with them at all levels.

Crucially, all of this happens on the job, so your future is fast-tracked, on every level.

Qualifications, for life

Regardless of the role you choose, you’ll have a fast-track route to a wide range of vocational and academic qualifications. These go far beyond those that enhance your naval role, like the Basic Sea Safety Course, or the role-specific curriculum you’ll complete as part of your training.

You’ll also have the opportunity to work towards the qualifications you want, from NVQs or GCSEs, through to Masters Degrees, and everything in between. Not only that, you can gain industry-specific Charterships (in the Engineering or Logistics branches, for example) much more quickly than in an equivalent civilian role.

A future in the Royal Navy means you’ll get further, faster. How far you want to go is up to you.