We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What Does a Navy Captain Do?

By C. Mitchell
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

In most militaries around the world, a navy captain is a senior-level officer who is in charge of commanding and organizing lower-ranking officers and enlisted personnel in sea-based missions. He or she is often the commander of a ship or submarine, but not always. Naval officers can have a wide range of different jobs. In addition to ship work, captains can be stationed on bases to organize training, teach in service academies, or perform legal or medical tasks. Their job duties are defined both by their captain’s rank and their professional expertise.

A navy is, by definition, a country’s maritime defense arm. Most navies are organized into two parallel tracks: enlisted personnel and officers. Both are hierarchical systems, with members assuming progressively more responsibilities and duties with each rise in rank. In almost all cases, captains are senior officers. Most of the time, a captain has served at least 15 years, and over the course of that time has gained extensive expertise in some aspect of maritime combat.

Traditionally, the title captain is given to anyone in command of a ship or sea vessel. This can make defining a navy captain’s job somewhat confusing, as many naval ship captains have not attained the officer’s rank of captain, or have in fact exceeded it. In battle and on larger war ships, command is almost always given to those with the rank of captain or higher. Smaller vessels, good will missions, and exploratory cruises are sometimes manned by lower-ranking officers or in alternating shifts between captains and other experts.

In most cases, there are more captains on any given ship than are needed to actually direct the vessel. Captains accompany navy units and direct their activities while on board. This often involves a lot of strategizing, battle planning, and analysis.

A navy captain is usually assigned to a certain division of the naval service. His or her specific job duties will align with that specialty. Some are trained in aviation, while others focus on strategy; still others have specialization in engineering, technology, or espionage. Each sector has devoted officers. At the captain level, officers serve as high-ranking directors, making plans and giving orders. Depending on the size of the unit, a navy captain may be the most senior officer, which makes him or her the de facto leader to which every member must default.

Not every navy captain is directly involved in combat operations. Most of the time, navies train officers in the law, in medicine, and in other civilian specialties such that military personnel and their families can have ready access to needed services no matter where they are posted. A navy doctor who has spent enough time in the service may attain the rank of captain, for instance. This will make him or her more senior, which often enables greater choice when it comes to posting locations, office hours, and other quality-of-life considerations. Navy professionals must respect rank, but are rarely in command-and-order situations they way they would be in combat.

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.
Discussion Comments
Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.