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In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks, called rates in the USN. Equivalency between services is by pay grade.

Rank categories[]

In the Navy pay grades for officers are:

Rank and promotion system[]

In the event that officers demonstrate superior performance, they are given an increase in pay grade. The official Navy term for this occasion is a promotion. Above the rank of Admiral is the rank of fleet admiral. The rank was held by four officers during World War II and not been held by any officer since. It is reserved for wartime use. The rank of Admiral of the Navy was an earlier equivalent to Fleet Admiral: it was awarded to only one person, George Dewey in 1899. Efforts to resurrect the rank in the 20th century (as an O-12 grade outranking fleet admirals) failed, making it very unlikely that it will be used again.

Commissioned officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), and a host of other commissioning programs such as the Seaman to Admiral-21 program and the Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer Selection Program.

Commissioned officers can generally be divided into line officers and staff corps:

  • Line officers (or officers of the line) derive their name from the 18th-century British tactic of employing warships in a line of battle to take advantage of cannon on each side of the ship. These vessels were dubbed ships of the line and those who commanded them were likewise called "line officers." Today, all United States Navy line and restricted line officers denote their status with a star located above their rank devices on the shoulder boards and sleeves of their uniforms. Officers of the Staff Corps replace the star with different insignias to indicate their field of specialty.[3] Line officers can be categorized into unrestricted and restricted communities.
    • Unrestricted Line Officers are the most visible and well-known, due to their role as the Navy's war-fighting command element. They receive training in tactics, strategy, command and control, and actual combat and are considered unrestricted because they are authorized to command ships, aviation squadrons, and special operations units.
    • Restricted Line Officers, on the other hand, concentrate on non-combat related fields, which include marine engineering, maintenance, meteorology and oceanography, and naval intelligence. They are not qualified to command combat units. However, in a shipboard environment, many unrestricted line officers fill these duties, such as the officers in a ship's engineering department. Because they maintain their general shipboard duties, instead of completely specializing in one career area, they maintain their command career path.
  • Staff corps officers are specialists in fields that are themselves professional careers and not exclusive to the military, for example health care, law, and civil engineering. There are eight staff corps: Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps, Chaplain Corps, Navy Supply Corps, Judge Advocate General's Corps, and Civil Engineer Corps. They exist to augment the line communities and are able to be assigned to both line and staff commands. (The exception to this is the case of Civil Engineering Corps officers, who serve as the officers for Seabee units. This requires them to serve in a command capacity for ground combatants when the Seabees are deployed to combat areas.)

See also Commodore (United States) - today a title, and formerly a rank.

Commissioned Officer Ranks[]

Commissioned Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy
Pay grade Special ¹ O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
Insignia US Navy O11 insignia US Navy O10 insignia US Navy O9 insignia US Navy O8 insignia US Navy O7 insignia US Navy O6 insignia US Navy O5 insignia US Navy O4 insignia US Navy O3 insignia US Navy O2 insignia US Navy O1 insignia
Title Fleet Admiral Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral
(upper half)
Rear Admiral
(lower half)
Captain Commander Lieutenant
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
NATO Code O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
  • ¹Awarded only in times of Congressionally declared war (inactive).

Commissioned Warrant Officer Ranks[]

Commissioned Warrant Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy
Pay grade W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2
Title Chief Warrant Officer Five Chief Warrant Officer Four Chief Warrant Officer Three Chief Warrant Officer Two
Abbreviation CWO-5 CWO-4 CWO-3 CWO-2

Officer Corps[]

Navy Officers serve either as a line officer (with a star above the stripes on the sleeve or shoulderboards), or in one of the staff corps:

Staff Corps Medical Corps Dental Corps Nurse Corps Medical Service Corps Chaplain Corps (Christian Faith)
Insignia USN Med-corp USN Dental USN Nurse USN Msc USN Chapchr
Designator1 210X 220X 290X 230X 410X
Staff Corps Chaplain Corps (Jewish Faith) Chaplain Corps (Muslim Faith) Supply Corps Civil Engineer Corps Judge Advocate General's Corps
Insignia USN Chap-jew USN Chap-mus United States Navy Supply Corps insignia USN Ce-corp USN Jag-corp
Designator1 410X 410X 310X 510X 250X

1An officer designator describes their general community or profession. The final (fourth) digit (X) denotes whether the officer has a Regular (0), Reserve (5), or Full Time Support (7) commission.

Not pictured: Chaplain Corps (Buddhist Faith)

The staff corps devices are also worn on the left collar of uniforms.

See also[]


  3. "Specialty Insignia - Staff Corps".
  4. 4.0 4.1 [1] 10 USC 5501. Navy: grades above chief warrant officer, W–5
  5. 5.0 5.1 [2] 37 USC 201. Pay grades: assignment to; general rules

External links[]

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The original article can be found at United States Navy officer rank insignia and the edit history here.