Cadet Systems Engineer (ETO) (RFA)

Service:Royal Fleet Auxiliary

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

As a Cadet Systems Engineer Officer in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), you’ll learn all there is to know about the complex electronic and communication systems on board, and become a key player in our operations. Once you’ve qualified, you’ll cover all areas of the ship, leading a team of technicians, and taking responsibility for the complex equipment that we rely on every day.

If you have questions, talk to us

The role

  • Learn to work on everything from navigational aids, electronic and communication equipment, to PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) control and automation systems.
  • Interact with with experts from the marine engineering, deck and logistics departments, exploring the different disciplines and developing skills that will stay with you throughout your career.
  • Become a first-class electrical/electronic engineer and eventually act as mentor to the junior members of your team, providing advice and guidance as they tackle new challenges.
  • Gain the skills you need to become a navigation and communications systems expert, and make a crucial contribution to our Replenishment at Sea operations.

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

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

Skills you'll develop

  • An in-depth knowledge of Navy-specific engineering principles and MCA
  • The ability to lead and manage a highly skilled team


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
  • A technical 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. Find out more about this 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 practise during exercises on Dartmoor 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. You will study towards a Foundation Degree (FD) in Marine Electrics and Electronics as well as working towards your Electro Technical Officer (ETO) Certificate of Competency. 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.

RFA Vessels play an integral role within UK and Coalition Maritime Task Groups and are fitted with a variety of military equipment and systems. So in addition to your commercial training you will attend various training courses at Royal Navy training establishments. Our training is accredited by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) and forms part of the RFA’s streamlined 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.