Cadet Marine Engineer Officer (RFA)

Service:Royal Fleet Auxiliary

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

As a Cadet Marine Engineer Officer in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), you’ll learn how our ships work, and how you can provide the power that keeps them moving. We provide essential logistical and operational support to the Royal Navy, wherever they are in the world, but without you, that vital work would grind to a halt. As soon as you’re a fully fledged Marine Engineer Officer, you’ll play a pivotal role in Replenishment at Sea operations, getting your hands on some enormous mechanical systems in the process.

If you have questions, talk to us

The role

  • From the moment you join you’ll be training to become an Engineer Officer of the Watch, gaining all the skills you need to oversee your department’s work on our large-scale mechanical systems.
  • Work alongside your crewmates from the Logistics, Deck and Systems Engineering departments, gaining a broad knowledge of how the ship works, and how your role fits in to the wider ship’s company.
  • Gain hands-on experience as you maintain and repair everything from the hull, engines and power generation systems, to the water cooling and hydraulics. When you qualify you’ll be taking a managerial role, so knowing how everything works is essential.
  • Become experienced in working with a mix of diesel-electric, slow and medium speed diesel propulsion systems, as you work across the RFA fleet.

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

  • A defined path to becoming a Chartered Engineer
  • MCA certification that is fully supported by the RFA

Skills you'll develop

  • A wide and varied skillset in the field of mechanical engineering
  • The ability to lead and manage a highly skilled team


Career progression

On completion of reduced 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 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
  • A hands-on, common sense approach to solving problems
  • 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. Prepare by using our practice test

  • 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

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 provide 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 participating in 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) or a Foundation Degree (FD) in Marine Engineering. Whichever route you follow you’ll also be working towards your Certificate of Competency: Engineering 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. Our training is accredited by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) and forms part of the RFA’s defined route to Chartership.

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