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U.S. Navy Ranks: List of Ranking

17 mins read
List of U.S. Navy ranks

The U.S. Navy is the most powerful Navy in the world. It was founded in October 1775 and established in 1798. It is responsible for supporting seaborne forces in combat naval operations, defending the country’s borders, and maintaining security at sea. Currently, approximately 341,000 sailors serve in the U.S. Navy with 59,000 reserves. Here’s an overview of the different Navy ranks.

What are the classifications of navy ranks?

U.S. navy ranks classification

These are the different navy rank classifications mentioned in the next section, so it’s important to familiarize them first.

Junior enlisted

Junior enlisted personnel makes up 53% of the enlisted population. Enlisted personnel is the lowest of all officers, with pay grades from E-1 to E-4. The senior enlisted personnel supervises them. Their equivalent Army and Marine Corps officers are the privates; seaman recruit in the Navy, and airman basic in the Airforce.

Noncommissioned officers (NCOs)

Noncommissioned officers undergo advanced military training and may serve as petty officers and corporals. Tactical noncommissioned officers’ duties include training leaders for cadet companies at the U.S. military academy, such as supervising and teaching ceremony and drill procedures.

Senior noncommissioned officer

Senior noncommissioned officers have a pay grade of E-8 to E-9. This includes all the chief petty officers. They are the front-line defense for the country, and most of them are former drill sergeants. Senior NCOs also serve as senior enlisted advisors or staff NCOs.

Senior enlisted advisor

Senior enlisted advisors are E-9s that serve as the principal enlisted to all levels of commanders from headquarters and battalions. In the Navy, the appropriate title for this commanding officer is the “master chief petty officer of the navy”.

Warrant officers

Warrant officers provide managerial and technical skills and perform important functions in supporting communications with the chain of command. Their pay grades in the Navy are from W-2 to W-5.

Junior officers

These officers in the armed forces are commissioned naval officers holding ranks equal to an army captain, naval lieutenant, or flight lieutenant.

Senior officers

Senior officers include commanders and captains. They may command an aviation squadron, frigate, destroyer, fast-attack submarine, small amphibious ships, and shore installation

Flag officers

This term is more common in the rank structure of the coast guard and the Navy. It is used to identify personnel who reached the ranks of rear admiral lower half, rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral.

List of the United States navy ranks

Here’s a listing of officer-level ranks in the United States Navy military service. Every position’s basic pay continually increases until they reach their maximum number of years and are expected to advance in rank.

1. Seaman recruit

  • Classification: Junior enlisted
  • Monthly pay: $1833 (E-1, pay grade)

Seaman recruits are the lowest of all the enlisted ranks in the U.S. Navy. Navy seamen are apprentices during training for their warfare community. They were once called “seaman third class”, the U.S. navy’s entry-level rank. They currently have no rank insignia; however, they had a single-bar insignia before 1996.

2. Seaman apprentice

Seaman apprentice rating badge

  • Classification: Junior enlisted
  • Monthly pay: $2,054.70 (E-2, pay grade)

Seaman recruits are the second lowest rank in the U.S. Navy. They don’t significantly differ from seaman recruits, and they mostly spend time studying and doing menial service labor. Its civilian equivalent is about GS-2 under the United States government general schedule payscale. After finishing basic training, they may advance to a seaman.

3. Seaman

Seaman rating badge

  • Classification: Junior enlisted
  • Monthly pay: $2,160.60 (E-3)

Although seaman fleet E-3s are still considered a low rank, they have already earned the minimum qualifications and are familiar with the fleet compared to their inferiors. They also have significant responsibilities within their Division, such as watchstanding and maintenance. Aside from that, they have started preparing to transition into petty officers. They take indoctrination courses led by the petty officers and study for first rating examinations. This will be easier for them with the help of their division officer to get promoted to the next rank.

4. Petty officer third class

Petty officer third class

  • Classification: Noncommissioned officer
  • Monthly pay: $2,393.40 (E-4)

Most third-class petty officers have onboarded on the fleet except for exceptional ones promoted while still in school or before graduation who spent extra two or three years at their school house.

  • They are the newest in this Division but are accountable leaders who can take charge.
  • They are responsible for repairs and maintenance of their Division’s equipment.
  • They can start attending advanced schools to continue studying their roles and get promoted to the next rank.

5. Petty officer second class

Petty officer second class

  • Classification: Noncommissioned officer
  • Monthly pay: $2,610.30 (E-5)

These midgrade petty officers are the most qualified in their in-rate watch stations and can repair and maintain their Division’s equipment. They guide the junior petty officers and seaman and take charge of daily tasks in the absence of their superiors. They should attend more advanced “C schools” to begin supervisory qualifications at this rank.

6. Petty officer first class

Petty officer first class

  • Classification: Noncommissioned officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $2,849.40 (E-6)

E-6 petty officers are the Division’s leaders. They delegate and supervise work to be done and take charge of the most complex and challenging tasks. Also, they guide junior petty officers and are responsible for their daily business activities; they have a share of primary Collateral Duties.

7. Chief petty officer

Chief petty officer rating badge

  • Classification: Senior noncommissioned officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $3,294.30 (E-7)

Chiefs are the true leaders of the Navy. These officers wear the same khaki uniforms and receive the utmost respect. They have the technical expertise and lead the sailors at their own rate. Good chiefs ensure that their sailors are emotionally and physically healthy and are continually advancing in their careers.

8. Senior chief petty officer

Senior chief petty officer rank insignia

  • Classification: Senior Noncommissioned Officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $4,739.10 (E-8)

Senior Chiefs are experienced compared to other chiefs. They usually work as department chiefs with department heads for engineering, supply, combat systems, and more. They have more control within the Chief’s Mess and are mainly responsible for training incoming chiefs.

9. Master chief petty officer

Master chief petty officer rank insignia

  • Classification: Senior noncommissioned officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $5,789.10 (E-9)

Master chiefs are the most experienced and exceptional of all chiefs. They may act as Department Chiefs and have the biggest influence while ensuring communication, unity, and smooth flow of operations in the Chief’s Mess.

10. Command master chief petty officer

  • Classification: (CMDCM) senior enlisted advisor
  • Monthly basic pay: $5,789.10 (E-9)

Command master chiefs (CMCs) are the sole leading chiefs of ships and shore-based units. CMCs have the same pay as master chief petty officers and are senior enlisted leaders who directly report to their commanding officers. On submarines, command master chiefs are referred to as the “chief of the boat”. They implement and formulate policies regarding welfare, morale, discipline, and training of enlisted Navy personnel.

11. Master chief petty officer of the Navy

Master chief petty officer of the Navy rank insignia

  • Classification: Senior enlisted advisor
  • Monthly basic pay: $5,789.10

The Master chief petty officer of the Navy is the Division’s senior enlisted personnel. He is also the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) main enlisted advisor. The CNO will appoint him as a spokesman to address the issues in the highest positions of the Navy. His duties vary from time to time as he mostly travels through the Navy to train, observe, and seek the opinions of sailors and their families.

12. Chief warrant officer 2

  • Chief warrant officers
  • Classification: Warrant officer (W-2)

Monthly basic pay: $3,872.10

Chief warrant officers and limited duty officers have warfare or technical expertise beyond the chief petty officer ranks. They also hold positions necessary for the Navy’s smooth operations.

13. Chief warrant officer 3

  • Classification: Warrant officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $4,376.40 (W-3)

Chief warrant officer 3 has the same responsibilities as chief warrant officer 4 and holds the same positions as division officers. This rank’s learning curve is insufficient to become a command officer as the command officer’s jobs are specialized.

14. Chief warrant officer 4

  • Classification: Warrant officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $4,791.90

Chief warrant officer 4 is the fourth and highest billeted warrant officer. They are technical specialists with authority in their expertise and are responsible for various positions to maintain the Navy’s smooth operations. Their pay starts at W-2 and ranks higher with performance and through time.

15. Chief warrant officer 5

  • Classification: Warrant officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $8,520.30

Limited duty officers (LDO) and chief warrant officers are warfare and technical experts and have equivalent positions to division officers. They are the most skilled and experienced of all warrant officers.

16. Ensign

Ensign rank insignia

  • Classification: Junior officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $3,477.30

Ensigns normally spend two years before receiving a promotion to lieutenant junior grade (LTJG). When fleet ensigns first arrive at their unit, they must work hard to earn their crew’s respect. They may spend a few weeks (e.g., surface warfare officers) to two years (e.g., pilots, SEALS, and submariners) in training.  In addition, they serve on naval vessels as division officers and lead seaman crews in divisions such as administration and engineering.

17. Lieutenant junior grade

Lieutenant junior grade rank insignia

  • Classification: Junior officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $4,006.50

A lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) is the second lowest officer rank. Officers in this rank spend two years before getting promoted to a full lieutenant. They have several months of experience in the fleet after being ensigns, and higher expectations are set for them because of their time in service. It also means their responsibilities are higher, which include holding more collateral duties.

18. Lieutenant

Lieutenant rank insignia

  • Classification: Junior officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $4,636.50

Lieutenants are expected to be completely qualified for warfare and demonstrate high leadership qualities as they are responsible when casualties arise. They take charge of tactical watch teams. They mentor junior officers and lead the training and direction of the crew members. When onboarded on a ship, they make emergency decisions in the absence of the command officer, such as sailing ships underway from the port in case of damaging storms.

19. Lieutenant commander

Lieutenant commander

  • Classification: Junior Officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $5,273.70

Lieutenant Commanders are referred to as “Lieutenant Commander” and should not be mistaken as “Commander” or “Lieutenant”. Their responsibilities include being the command officers of minesweepers and other smaller ships. In the case of larger ships such as destroyers, they may either be the executive officer or the department head. They are the future command officers and receive due respect from their crew.

20. Commander


  • Classification: Senior officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $6,112.20

Commanders are usually the captain of navy vessels, including destroyers, frigates, and submarines. They lead aircraft squadrons and small shore missions and serve senior officers aboard large naval vessels. Lieutenant commanders get promoted to this position.

21. Captain


  • Classification: Senior officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $7,332.00

Captains are the acting commanding officer of major commands, including amphibious assault ships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, carrier air wings, destroyer squadrons, SEAL groups, and other major shore installations. Also, in most militaries globally, they are the senior-level in charge of organizing and commanding lower-ranking officers and enlisted personnel in sea-based missions.

22. Rear admiral lower half

Rear admiral lower half

  • Classification: Flag officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $9,668.40

Rear admirals at sea oversee the operations of ship groups. For example, the carrier strike group’s commanders station on an aircraft carrier. They can communicate with the commanding officers of every ship within the group and direct all movements and planning. As flag officers, the rear admiral lower half can fly the rear admiral’s pennant over any base or ship he serves.

23. Rear admiral upper half

Rear admiral upper half

  • Classification: Flag officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $11,635.50

Rear Admirals, also known as rear admiral upper half, are responsible for the operations of groups of ships. They typically command Navy ship fleets, air wings, and submarines. Senior naval officers are the eligible candidates promoted to this position.

24. Vice admiral

Vice admiral

  • Classification: Flag officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $16,444.80

Vice admirals are usually either in charge of the Navy’s highest commands or act as deputies of combatant or geographic command. They are commissioned officers in the coast guard or Navy with a rank above a rear admiral and an insignia of three stars.

25. Admiral


  • Classification: Flag officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $16,974.90

Admirals hold the loftiest major combatant, geographic, or Navy commands. They are four-star flag officers in the U.S. Navy and is the highest rank attainable.

26. Fleet admiral

Fleet admiral

  • Classification: Flag officer
  • Monthly basic pay: $16,974.90

The fleet admiral is the highest in the Navy, with an insignia of five stars. The rank is only temporarily used during war times. Bull Halsey was the fleet admiral of the U.S. Navy during world war II, and there have been no active holders of this rank since 1945.

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