Life in the RFA

Life at sea isn’t for everyone. It brings its own unique set of challenges. But just as unique are the rewards. If you can handle being away from home for four months at a time, you’ll get to see the world, meet friends for life, and embark on a career like no other.

As a civilian, you won’t be subject to the same levels of discipline as Royal Navy personnel, but you’ll still enjoy a structured career that offers a clear path to success – and a proper work/life balance. Here you can learn more about life in the RFA, and what you can expect from life at sea.

Life on board

When you’re on deployment, you’ll typically have your own cabin, complete with a bathroom that’s shared with one other crew member, or a private en-suite for officers. It’s not quite the home comforts you get on land, but the accommodation is spacious compared to many merchant navy vessels and gives you some personal space to relax and watch television. 

Some of our ships have internet, which means you can access things like emails and online banking. And even if you are on board a ship that has no internet connection, your Communications Team will always be able to help you contact home.

Work/life balance

Deck Officer

When I first started in the RFA I was worried about keeping everything stable at home. But I get paid more than before – and get my food free – so I’m actually better off. And my bills just go out of my bank as normal. I know that because I can check my internet banking on board.

Motorman Grade 1

I get three months off for every four months I’m at sea. My mates with families go home for some quality time with their kids. I try to use my time to see even more of the world. I’ve been all over Asia and spent time in New Zealand, and as long as I’m where I need to be for my next operation there’s no problem.

Marine Engineer Officer

Since I started I’ve used my time off to do intensive driving courses, so I can pass my test as soon as possible.

Social life and free time

An RFA ship is a very social place. You’ll make friends for life as you work alongside your colleagues in some really challenging conditions. And when you have some time to relax you’ll enjoy a range of on board activities, from socialising on a Friday night, to working out in the gym (there’s one on every ship).


Officer Cadet

On the day I started I was assigned a mentor who had been in the RFA for a while. It’s been great because I’ve always had someone to ask if I’m unsure of something, or just need a bit of help settling in.

Engineer Officer

I have to leave my family at home for four months at a time, which can be quite difficult. The Welfare Team is second to none, and they make being away a lot easier. It’s great to know my wife has someone to support her.

Logistics Officer

I have a young family at home so when it came to explaining to our sons what deployment was and what to expect, the support available was a massive help.