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U.S. Navy Officer Rank Structure

Updated on September 12, 2010
U.S. Naval Officer's Crest, worn on the Officer's Cover.
U.S. Naval Officer's Crest, worn on the Officer's Cover.

As promised in my U.S. Navy Enlisted Rank Structure article, here's the Officer's version.  Officers are considered generalists in what they do and are not specialized in what they do.  Instead of being a worker bee, they are tasked to supervise and oversee the behavior and command enlisted personnel.  Most officers receive their commission as an O-1 and progress through the pay grades.  Career progression is slower than the Enlisted ranks, but the income is superior to that of enlisted personnel, and the responsibilities surpass that of most enlisted personnel.

US Navy Officer Insignia Chart
US Navy Officer Insignia Chart

Officer Rank Structure

To begin with, I will not be discussing Warrant Officers in this hub. They will have their own hub with a chart for their insignia as well as a description of their role in the Navy.

The pay grades of O-1 through O-4 are considered "Junior Officers". In order, a Naval Officer will go from Ensign (O-1), to Lieutenant Junior Grade, Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Commander (O-4).

The Commander (O-5) and Captain (O-6) pay grades are known as Senior Officers, and are put in positions of commanding officer of ships and shore installations.

O-7 through O-10 are designated as "Flag Officers". Progressing from Rear Admiral (lower half, O-7), Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and Admiral (O-10). All Flag Officer pay grades are known simply as "Admiral".

Officers who have demonstrated performance above and beyond their pay grade or the call of duty are given a promotion, which results in an increase in their pay grade. Line Officers (or "Officers of the Line") come in two forms.

Restricted Line Officers tend to have a little more specialty than Unrestricted Line Officers. They are considered unqualified to command a ship or combat unit. In return, they may specialize in things such as Meteorology, Oceanography, or Naval Intelligence.

Unrestricted Line Officers have a primary role in commanding a war-fighting element such as a ship, aviation squadron, or even special operations units. Their primary training comes in the form of command and control, tactics, and strategy.

Finally, there are Staff corps officers, who are also specialists in a field. Their existence is to serve as an augmentation to the line communities. Staff Corps Officers can be assigned to either a Line command or Staff Corps command. The 8 Staff Corps that compose this category are as follows:

  • Chaplain Corps
  • Civil Engineer Corps
  • Dental Corps
  • Judge Advocate Corps
  • Medical Corps
  • Medical Service Corps
  • Navy Supply Corps
  • Nurse Corps


Officers have an inherited command over all enlisted personnel.  Despite this, there is a logical exchange of experience between the senior enlisted and junior officers.  Keep posted for more information regarding the Warrant ranks.

Also, be sure to check out my article on the U.S. Navy Enlisted Rank Structure.


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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      20 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      Interesting article. I have never known Navy ranks and this was helpful. From article:

      "Officers who have demonstrated performance above and beyond their pay grade or the call of duty are given a promotion, which results in an increase in their pay grade."

      Let me point out that promotion is tied to budget. As the budget shrinks or grows, promotions and retirements occur.

      What do the Chaplains do?


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