Cadet Deck Officer (RFA)

Service:Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Hands on

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

As a Cadet Deck Officer in the in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), you’ll gain all the skills you need to provide logistical and operational support to the Royal Navy. You’ll earn a salary while undertaking a world-class Comprehensive Training Programme that ends with qualification as a Third Officer. That’s when you start making a key contribution to our Replenishment at Sea (RAS) operations, directly influencing the efficiency of our ships.

If you have questions, talk to us

The role

  • Through training you’ll develop the advanced seamanship and leadership skills you need to oversee the transfer of food and supplies to Royal Navy ships, all over the world.
  • Do one of the most hands-on jobs in the RFA, working alongside Royal Navy personnel to deliver vital operational support. That might mean deploying on a Fast Fleet Tanker, or taking part in counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.
  • Learn to perform key duties when the ship is in port, including acting as Officer of the Watch and Officer of the Day. You could be the first point of contact for a visiting VIP, or taking delivery of vital equipment and supplies.
  • Develop the first-class navigational skills that will influence every operation, whether you’re trying to locate a vessel in distress, or trawling the Indian Ocean for pirates.

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

  • Internationally recognised qualifications from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA)
  • A HND in Nautical Science or a Foundation Degree in Marine Operations

Skills you'll develop

  • The ability to lead and manage a team
  • First-class seamanship skills


Career progression

On completion of cadetship, you may be offered full company service contract, in which case you will start your career as a Third Officer.

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
  • 5 x GCSEs including Mathematics, English Language and either Physics or Chemistry or Dual Science at GRADE 4/c OR 9-4 Scottish equivalent
  • To be considered for a Foundation degree option A Levels or Scottish Advanced Higher qualifications are required but must include a numerate subject such as Mathematics
  • 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

Skills and interests

  • Great leadership potential
  • Strong teamwork skills
  • First-class communication
  • 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

  • Interview – On successful completion of the test you will be invited to Portsmouth for a Suitability Interview that will confirm that you’re ready for the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB). See how you can prepare here.

  • Admiralty Interview Board (AIB) – This stage is unique to officers and takes place in two parts. A Pre Recorded Interview (PRI) is an online assessment which assesses your motivation to join the Royal Navy as an officer and your awareness of the Royal Navy. The Group Planning Exercise (GPE) is the second stage of the AIB and is an online competency based assessment which will take place on a separate day to the PRI. It will be conducted in a virtual group environment and you will be assessed on your contribution to the team based on your individual performance

  • Training – If successful, you will be offered a place at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) Dartmouth where you will begin your initial training

  • Training part 2 ‐ You will go to an MCA Nautical college and commence your 3 year training programme. To find out more, please look here 

Initial training

You’ll begin your career at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth, developing your leadership, communication and teamwork skills. Your ten weeks at BRNC will give you an introduction to the Naval Service and you’ll get the chance to put your new skills into practice during exercises on the River Dart before being part of the passing out parade where your family and friends will have the opportunity to witness you completing the first element of your training.

From BRNC, you’ll join cadets from other parts of the Merchant Navy (MN) at one of the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) accredited training establishments to begin your three-year course. Depending on your qualifications, you can follow one of two academic routes, leading to either a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Nautical Science or a Foundation Degree (FD) in Marine Operations. Whichever route you follow you’ll also be working towards your Certificate of Competency: Officer of the Watch qualification which allows you to work on a MN ship. The training is phased so you’ll get the opportunity to spend plenty of time onboard ship shadowing qualified officers and working on your task book to ensure you gain full knowledge of ship systems and operations.

There's also a swimming test, so if you can't swim, make sure you learn by the time you join us.