Royal Navy rating
Emergency Services and Military

Royal Navy ratings (or sailors) are the servicemen and women of the Navy. They serve in various trades in UK shore bases, or on ships and submarines.

Work Activities

The Royal Navy provides sea-based security and defence services for the UK and its allies.

Most of the different trades are detailed below.

Engineering branch duties include operating, maintaining and refitting ships, submarines and aircraft:

  • Marine engineering technicians maintain the systems that power the ships and submarines of the Royal Navy. They look after everything from the fuel and power systems of ships and submarines, to the water and air purification equipment needed for the safety of the crew.
  • Weapons engineering technicians maintain and operate complex communication, detection and weapon systems.

The Logistics branch provides the Navy with administrative support and back-up services, including catering and supplies:

  • Chefs work on ships, submarines and offshore
  • Stewards deal with food service, bar work and accommodation services
  • Supply chain logisticians order supplies, arrange for their safe delivery and keep records

Warfare branch ratings work in a number of areas, including warfare, mine clearance and communication. They do things like:

  • Operate sonar and radar equipment
  • Detect enemy electronic transmissions and signals
  • Use diving equipment to disable or destroy mines
  • Operate communications equipment

Warfare ratings roles include:

  • Communication technicians help to gather intelligence, and oversea the ship's communications networks and make sure that the different communications systems are working when the Royal Navy takes part in joint operations with other services.
  • Seaman specialists help to look after the day-to-day running, upkeep and safety of a ship, both above and below decks

Aviation Branch make sure aircrafts are prepared for action, and give navigation information based on weather and ocean conditions.

  • Aircraft handlers ensure that the Royal Navy's aircraft are able to take off and land safely. They make the preparations that secure the safety of the aircraft, the flight crew and everyone in the support team.
  • Aircraft controllers in the Fleet Air Arm monitor aircraft movement from base, using radar and communications systems.

Medical branch ratings provide a full range of health care services for Navy personnel and their families. They are based at sea and onshore.

  • Medical assistants can specialise in general service with commandos in submarines or in an operating department. Other medical trades include naval nurse and dental hygienist.

In the Royal Navy ratings will be on call 24 hours a day. Hours vary depending on operational requirements, and you will work on a shift system, including weekends and public holidays. You may need to work at short notice, and you should expect to work longer hours during military exercises or on operational missions.

Royal Navy ratings must be prepared to live anywhere in the UK and overseas. Living quarters on boards and submarines can be cramped. They will sometimes have to work in difficult, dangerous (and life-threatening) conditions.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for Royal Navy ratings

As a Royal Navy rating, you will need:

  • Excellent teamworking skills
  • The ability to make decisions and react quickly under pressure
  • The ability to follow orders and take responsibility
  • Practical and technical skills
  • Communication skills

On board ship, and especially on submarines, you need to be tolerant, adaptable, and live in close communities with colleagues.

For some trades, your colour vision and/or hearing may be tested.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of Royal Navy ratings

The rate of pay for a rating on completion of training is around £14,750 a year. After this, pay rates vary, depending on specialism and length service, but can go up to £48,000. Pay increases further with promotion.

See the Royal Navy website for information about the latest recruitment.


Qualifications and training required

You will need to be:

  • 16-36 years old
  • A British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen
  • In good health and physically fit
  • No shorter than 151.5cm

For many jobs in the Royal Navy, there are no formal entry requirements. However, specialist posts require GCSEs (9-4).

For Scottish students having passes at National 4 or 5, in English, Maths and science subjects will give you a wider range of options.

Check with the Royal Navy for full details.

Almost all areas of service are open to both male and female officers, except the Royal Marines, the submarine service and mine clearance, which are only open to men.

The selection process takes place at your local armed forces careers office, where you will complete a recruitment and fitness tests, plus a medical examination, and have an interview. You will also need to pass a security and reference check.

After this, you attend a four-day induction course, which allows you to sample life in the Royal Navy.

As a new entrant, you will take a ten-week basic training course at HMS Raleigh, near Plymouth. You will complete a range of activities, including a first aid course, physical challenges and handling weapons.

After basic training you will go on to specialist training for your role. Depending on the trade you choose, training can last from five weeks to four years.

There is a clear route of progression and promotion available to ratings in the Royal Navy. If you have the aptitude and ability, there are opportunities to become a commissioned officer.

Most ratings have the opportunity to do an Apprenticeship.

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