Apprentice Seamanship (RFA)

Service:Royal Fleet Auxiliary

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

Becoming a Seamanship Apprentice in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is your opportunity to develop the skills needed for a successful career at sea. This is a civilian role, but the work you do on a daily basis is crucial to the efficiency of the Royal Navy. You’ll be integral to Replenishment at Sea (RAS) operations, transferring fuel and supplies to some of the most advanced warships in the world. This is no ordinary apprenticeship, for people who want to become extraordinary sailors.

If you have questions, talk to us

The role

  • You’ll start as a Trainee Deck Rating, where you’ll need to be ready for action anytime, day or night. Our vital operations don’t fit within the traditional 9 to 5, so you’ll need to work on a shift pattern and thrive on the adventure that comes with refuelling our warships at sea.
  • Use your skills as a natural team player to work side by side with your crewmates, while all the time learning about life as a sailor under the guidance of your senior officers.
  • Gain a solid grounding in all aspects of professional seamanship, learning new skills on the job, and gaining an in-depth knowledge of Royal Navy standards and equipment.
  • You’ll have crucial duties to perform as part of the ship’s company, including firefighting, first aid, and being a member of the damage control team.

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

  • Able Seafarer Deck Level 2 Apprenticeship 
  • Gain a Level 1 BTEC Diploma in Functional Skills Maths, English and ICT
  • MCA certification that is financially supported by the RFA

Skills you'll develop

  • Learn all about life at sea and what it takes to be part of a professional ship’s company
  • Become a complete seaman, with all the core skills you need for a successful career


Career progression

On completion of your Apprenticeship, you may be offered a full Company Service Contract as a Seaman Grade 1AT

What you'll need


  • Aged at least 17 years 6 months to apply, and 18 years to commence employment. There is no upper age limit
  • No qualifications are required for this role
  • Must be British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens. However, a number of career paths have nationality restrictions. Dual Nationality will be considered providing the first nationality is British. Note: Residency restrictions may apply
  • Need to have confidence with jumping into water and the ability to wade whilst wearing a life jacket

Skills and interests

  • A passion working on board ship
  • Great at working as part of a team
  • Happy working outdoors in all weather
  • A sense of adventure
Check Eligibility

Starting your career

Joining process

  • Apply – Fill in an online application form
  • Eligibility – We will request copies of certification to ascertain your suitability for the role
  • Defence Aptitude Assessment (DAA) – You will be asked to attend an Armed Forces Careers Office close to your home where you will conduct the DAA.
  • Sift – Your application will go forward for sift by a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who will check that you have the knowledge and potential to succeed in your chosen role
  • Training – If successful, you will be offered a place at HMS Sultan, HMS Raleigh, or HMS Collingwood, depending on your apprenticeship where you will begin your initial training
  • Interview - If you are successful at interview, you will be offered a contract

Initial training

As an apprentice you’ll combine real work with on and off the job training. You’ll complete 10 weeks training at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, including your MCA basic safety training, before embarking on your first phase of sea training. After this, you take leave, then return to HMS Raleigh for 4 weeks before your second sea phase.