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How Do I Become a Navy Captain?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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If you want to become a navy captain, you must begin your quest in high school. Good grades are required to get into a top-ranked college, as most people who become a navy captain have a bachelor's degree and some even have master's and doctoral degrees. Once you have completed the college portion of the requirement, the next step to become a navy captain is to become an officer in the navy. The typical captain of a ship has more than 20 years experience as an officer in the navy, and the competition to become the commander of a naval ship is very intense.

While serving in the navy, you should volunteer for every extraordinary duty available. These tasks typically count as promotion points as well as become favorable entries on a permanent record that will be examined if you are ever in consideration to become a navy captain. You must also apply, be accepted to and complete an ensign training program. This is required of anyone who wishes to become a navy captain. Once successfully completed, you must be assigned to and serve in an operational career field.

You typically must receive exceptional fitness or service reports if you hope to become a navy captain. You must also work your way up through the ranks and into the executive officer (XO) position. This is the second-in-command position on any naval vessel and is where you will learn how to command a ship. Giving orders to the crew, handling all discipline and trouble with crew members will also be left to you as the XO. You will operate at the right hand of the captain and act in his or her stead with the crew while the ship is at sea and in port.

As XO, you should take every opportunity to inform those in command around you that your goal is to become a navy captain. It will only be at the recommendation of these high-ranking people that you will ever receive a command aboard a ship. By showing exemplary performance and attention to detail in every aspect of your day-to-day duties and proving trustworthy in good times and in bad, you may, one day, be called upon to command a ship and her crew. There are typically many times over the number of XOs in the navy than there are ships to command. You will have to rise above and beyond all others if you are to become a navy captain.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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