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US Navy servicemen at physical training during the US Navy Recruiting Command in October 2012.

Never Served

Joining the Navy for Those New to the Military

If you have no prior experience in the military, the prospect of joining America’s Navy will likely bring many questions. It may seem like a whole new world – and it is. A place filled with vast personal and professional opportunities. A path that can uniquely prepare you to lead a more promising and impactful life – whether as an Enlisted Sailor or Officer, or opting for full-time Active Duty service in the Navy or part-time Reserve Duty service as a Reservist.

Contacting a Recruiter is a logical first step to getting started whatever direction you decide to take. But even before that, you can begin looking into the opportunities on your own.

Below you’ll find key information related to becoming part of either the Navy (full-time) or the Navy Reserve (part-time).

BECOMING PART OF THE NAVY OR NAVY RESERVE
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Reserve Entry Requirements for New Servicemembers

Can I join the Navy Reserve? How many years would I be agreeing to serve? Here, get details on Navy Reserve qualifications and the typical Navy Reserve commitment for those who've never served before.

Start by reviewing the basics, and contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter if you have any questions.

Know the Basic Entry Requirements

If you’re new to the military, you will be expected to meet the following requirements:

Citizenship

You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. naturalized citizen or a legal permanent resident alien of the United States. Foreign nationals and aliens must legally immigrate first and then apply for and receive a permanent resident alien card, also known as a green card, prior to enlistment. The Navy Reserve cannot assist with the immigration process. To be eligible, you must enlist prior to the expiration date on your green card. To be a commissioned Officer in the Navy Reserve, you must be a native or naturalized U.S. citizen. You must also meet the mental, moral and physical standards for Navy service.

Age

The general age requirement for the Navy Reserve is that you must be between the ages of 18 and 39 and be able to have 20 years of total service by age 60.

Health and Height

You must pass a physical exam to qualify for entrance. The height requirement for both men and women is between 60 and 80 inches.

Education

For Enlisted personnel, the minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is required. For Officers, a degree from a four-year college or university is typically required.

Because qualification and commitment details relate to your specific background and interests, you should contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.


Know the Basic Obligations

Serving in the Navy Reserve traditionally requires a minimum of one weekend a month (drilling) and two weeks a year (Annual Training). Most of the training can be arranged to take place close to home so relocation is not required. In general, this is what to expect while serving in the Navy Reserve:

Drilling

Your regular training typically amounts to 16 hours each month at a nearby training site. There are hundreds of locations across the U.S. – check the map of Navy Reserve locations to find the site nearest to where you live. And note that you may be able to take advantage of flexible drilling options. This could involve fulfilling the annual commitment in a single extended mission or serving on weekdays if your civilian career makes weekend service difficult.

Annual Training

For at least two weeks each year, you will take part in advanced training that can take you across the U.S. or around the globe. This is typically a command exercise with your drilling Reserve detachment, but you may also have opportunities to pursue independent assignments that broaden your experience.

Service Commitment

Obligations in the Navy Reserve for those who’ve never served before typically range from two to eight years – with opportunities for additional service and pay. Some high-demand Officer programs may offer initial commitment terms as few as two years.

Enlisted Basic Training

If you’ve never served in the military before and are entering as an Enlisted Sailor, you will need to first attend Recruit Training – also known as Boot Camp.

Officer Training

If you’ve never served in the military before and are entering as an Officer, you will need to first attend Direct Commission Officer (DCO) School. Depending on your career field, you may also attend additional specialty schooling at a later date.

As a civilian looking to serve in the military for the first time, you bring skills and perspective that greatly diversify and strengthen the Navy Reserve. And what you take away from your service can serve you – personally and professionally – for a lifetime.

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

Service Commitment

The amount of time you are required to serve depends upon many factors, including your interests, your background, your pursuit of an Officer or Enlisted position, or whether you are taking advantage of Navy education opportunities.

IN GENERAL:

Enlisted positions typically require an initial service commitment of four years (positions involving longer-term training may involve longer service obligations).

Officer positions typically require an initial service commitment of three to five years (again positions involving longer-term training may involve longer service obligations).

The best way to confirm the specific service commitment that will apply to you is to contact a recruiter.

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Reserve Entrance Programs For New Servicemembers

Those with no prior military experience will enter the Navy Reserve through either an Enlisted or Officer program – depending on qualifications and the type of position sought. Enlisted programs are for those with at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Officer programs are typically for those with a four-year college degree.

Enlisted Programs

The Navy Reserve depends on Enlisted personnel to carry out a broad range of critical job responsibilities in more than a dozen different fields.

If you’re a high school graduate (in rare instances, GED certificates can be accepted) who is driven to do more and be more, you may be eligible to become an Enlisted Sailor in the Navy Reserve through the New Accession Training (NAT) Program. If you also have vocational/ technical training and/or professional experience beyond high school, you could qualify to enter through the Direct Procurement Enlistment Program (DPEP).

New Accession Training (NAT) Program

Whatever career area interests you, here’s how the NAT Program works:

Initial Active Duty for Training (IADT) Period: You will need to first attend Recruit Training – also known as Boot Camp – to prepare you for the Navy Reserve. From there, you will go on to receive more initial training – this time in your occupational specialty.

Selected Reserve (SELRES) Inactive Duty Training (IDT) Status: Within 30 days of completing all of your initial training, you will report to the Navy Reserve drilling location nearest your home. From this point on, you can expect to serve a minimum of one weekend a month and two weeks a year – with opportunities for additional service and pay.

For the NAT Program, a minimum eight-year enlistment is required – six years of IDT status in the Selected Reserve with the final two years being spent in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

Direct Procurement Enlistment Program (DPEP)

Civilian training and experience is highly valued in the Navy Reserve. DPEP allows you to make the most of yours and to potentially enlist at a higher pay grade – anywhere from E-3 to E-6 – depending upon your background.

To be eligible, you must meet all the basic entry requirements for enlistment, meet the program standards for your interest area and have documented proof that you have:

  • Completed qualifying postsecondary vocational or technical training at an accredited institution – with training comparable to the position you will be serving (enlistment at E-3 pay grade available)
  • Completed qualifying postsecondary vocational or technical training at an accredited institution and/or have one or more years of significant work and supervisory experience – with all the training and experience directly relevant to the position you will be serving (enlistment in critical-need areas at pay grades ranging from E-3 to E-6 available)

For the DPEP, a minimum eight-year enlistment is required – six years of IDT status in the Selected Reserve with the final two years being spent in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.


Officer Programs

If you're a college graduate who is interested in exceptional leadership and management opportunities, you may be eligible to become an Officer in the Navy Reserve through the Direct Appointment Program.

Direct Appointment Program

The Navy Reserve relies heavily on its Officer ranks for leadership at every level of operations and management. U.S. Navy Officers are some of the most respected men and women serving our country.

If you’re a student or graduate of a four-year U.S. college or university who possesses leadership skills and determination, you may be eligible to become an Officer in the Navy Reserve through the Direct Appointment Program.

As an Officer in the Navy Reserve, you will lead others who have pledged to defend our nation – an honor of the highest order. Officers must typically complete an initial commitment of eight years of service.

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

General Career Focus Areas for Officers

Direct appointment is available to U.S. citizens with professional expertise in the following fields:

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

Health Care Specialty Focus Areas for Officers

Positions in various fields of health care are some of the most highly sought-after careers in America's Navy. If you are a civilian physician, dentist, nurse or specialist, you can enter the Reserve as an Officer in the community associated with your profession – and you may be eligible for advanced rank and pay.

Professionals working in health care already know what it’s like to make a difference in the lives of others. By serving part-time in the Navy Reserve, you can add a new dimension to your own career as you proudly care for those who defend our country and serve global humanitarian causes. You’ll be able to take your medical expertise to new levels with experience in progressive academic, clinical and/or operational settings.

Learn more about working part-time in any of these areas of Navy Health Care in the Navy Reserve:

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

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Reserve Entry Process for New Servicemembers

The process of becoming part of the Navy Reserve is relatively simple and seamless. Recruiters will guide candidates through the process – helping you whether you qualify as an Enlisted member or as an Officer. Here, learn more about how to prepare and how the process works.

Process of Becoming an Enlisted Reservist

Your official Navy Reserve career begins at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Through MEPS, you’ll take an aptitude test and physical examination. Then you’ll select a Navy Reserve career and recite the Navy Oath of Enlistment.

Currently, there are 65 MEPS facilities located throughout the U.S. That means there's a location close to you. Your Navy Reserve Recruiter will schedule an appointment and provide additional details.

A Step-By-Step Guide to MEPS

Step 1: Undergo prescreening with your recruiter

During your initial physical screening, your recruiter will fill out a basic medical prescreening report and forward it to the medical personnel at MEPS. After review, they will give your recruiter the go-ahead to schedule your first visit to MEPS.

Step 2: Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test

You will have to take the ASVAB test to determine which careers you qualify for, based on your aptitude to be trained for those careers. There are commercially produced ASVAB information/study guides available.

Step 3: Gather together the necessary documentation

There are several standard documents you will need to bring with you for your first visit to MEPS. These include:

  • Social security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of citizenship (immigrants only)
  • Direct Deposit Form 1199 signed by a bank official; or the name, address and routing number of your financial institution along with your account number
  • If applicable: affidavit of support from parents; notarized copies of marriage certificate, divorce decree or separation order; notarized copies of birth certificates for your children under 18 years of age; and court documents and direct deposit forms, if ordered to pay spousal and/or child support
  • Name, social security number and military address of your spouse, if you are married to another servicemember in the Navy or any other military branch
  • Copies of your lease agreement or rental contract for any dependents residing outside of government quarters
  • Documentation of any ROTC experience and college transcripts

Step 4: Keep copies of your orders

Be sure to keep all copies of orders and documents issued to you by your unit recruiter and/or MEPS.

Step 5: Provide medical history and undergo physical exam

Your MEPS physical will begin with the medical history report. You’ll be asked questions about your current or past medical conditions, if applicable. Next, you’ll undergo basic blood and urinalysis testing, followed by hearing and vision exams. Your height and weight will be recorded, and you’ll perform simple flexibility tests. In the final step, you’ll talk to a doctor about your medical history.

Step 6: Select your career

After you’ve completed your medical history and physical exam, you’ll be sent to your Career Classifier to select a Navy occupational specialty. If you’re not sure what you want to do, take some time now to visit the career opportunities section of this site.

Step 7: Complete your pre-enlistment interview

The next-to-last step at MEPS is the pre-enlistment interview, where you will be asked questions about your background. If any additional testing is required for the career path you’ve chosen, it will be performed at this time.

Step 8: Take the Oath of Enlistment

After you’ve completed this interview, you and your Navy Recruiter will review and sign your enlistment contract before you take the Oath of Enlistment.

I,___________________________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the Officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me, God.

Questions? Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

 

How can employment and service work together?

There's important information that all potential Reservists, current Reservists and their civilian employers should be aware of.

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Process for Becoming a Reserve Officer

The process for becoming a Reserve Officer also involves the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). However, the specific steps that apply to you can vary depending upon a variety of factors, including your professional background and the specialty you will serve in.

Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

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Part Time

Reserve Training for New Servicemembers

Those who have never served before receive a comprehensive introduction and indoctrination into the Navy Reserve. The Navy Reserve training philosophy is fast-paced and high-energy. But it provides an essential foundation that all new members – Enlisted and Officer – must have.

The specific training you will undergo depends upon whether you are entering as an Enlisted Reservist or as a Reserve Officer.

Enlisted – It Starts With Recruit Training (Boot Camp)

As a Navy Reserve Enlistee, you will be required to attend Recruit Training (Boot Camp) in Great Lakes, Ill. This seven- to nine-week course will help transform you from a civilian to a Sailor, both mentally and physically. Be prepared to receive a great amount of information and undergo intense physical exercise in a short period of time.

Some specific aspects of Recruit Training that you will undergo include:

  • Physical training (PT), Physical Readiness Test (PRT) and a Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA)
  • Classroom instruction and tests on military bearing, protocol, customs and courtesies
  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defense (CBRD) Exercises
  • Basic Shipboard Firefighting
  • Navy Third-Class Swim Test
  • Reciting specific customs and traditions (including the "Sailor’s Creed," 11 General Orders of a Sentry and "Anchors Aweigh")

Learn more about what to expect in Boot Camp and check out the Standards, Transitions, Acknowledgements, Requirements and Training (START) Guide.

Preparing for Boot Camp

Before getting to your checklist of what to bring and what not to bring to Boot Camp, you may want to get a head start on your physical conditioning. To do that, we suggest a strength-training program that begins at least six months prior to your initial training. This will provide you with the physical strength and mental toughness to enter Recruit Training with confidence.

Suggested daily exercises include a combination of the following:

  • Walking and/or jogging
  • Rollerblading
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Crunches
  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups

Learn more about how to prepare yourself for Boot Camp and check out the Fitness and Nutrition Guide as a resource for your preparation.

Moving on to Specialty Training

Upon completion of Recruit Training, Reservists will typically go on to receive specialized training in their occupational specialty – referred to as "A" School – at any of various locations in the U.S. Additional apprenticeship training beyond that – referred to as C-School – may be also be associated with certain ratings specialties.

After all foundational training is complete, Reservists will begin to serve their basic commitment – typically one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

OFFICER – IT STARTS WITH DIRECT COMMISSION OFFICER (DCO) SCHOOL

To become a Commissioned Officer in any career focus area, you will be required to attend the 12-day Direct Commission Officer (DCO) Course in Newport, R.I.

Here, you’ll learn the basic history, traditions and structure of the Navy and Navy Reserve. You’ll receive leadership training that will introduce you to the role of an Officer. And you’ll be prepared to apply your leadership skills as well as your professional expertise in your respective field.

Learn more about the DCO Course – including details about the purpose of the program, the course curriculum, leadership training and more.

Contact a Navy Reserve Recruiter for details.

Enlisted and Officer – What’s the Difference?

All members of the Navy and Navy Reserve are Sailors, first and foremost. Beyond that, Sailors are classified as either Enlisted or Officer. Find out why and what it means.

Learn more about Enlisted Sailors
Learn more about Commissioned Officers