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Boatswain’s Mate

A United States Navy Boatswain’s Mate stands the lookout watch aboard the USS Carney aircraft carrier.

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The Boatswain’s Mate (BM) has a rich history of honored traditions. As a BM, you will supervise the maintenance of your ship inside and out, in addition to a diverse roster of other responsibilities:

  • Standing watch as lookout or Boatswain Mate of the Watch
  • Repairing, maintaining and stowing equipment
  • Training, directing and supervising ship’s maintenance personnel
  • Assisting as a search and rescue swimmer
  • Operating sound-powered communication equipment
  • Serving as a member of damage control, emergency and security alert teams
  • Participating in Navy ceremonies
  • Transferring supplies between ships while at sea
  • Operating small boats, tugs, barges and other small craft
  • Assisting with flight deck and amphibious operations
  • Serving as flight deck crew during helicopter operations
  • Supervising deck crew in cleaning, painting and maintaining the ship
  • Directing boat crews in landing and rescue operations
  • Teaching seamanship

Work Environment

Boatswain’s Mates serve primarily on ships and can expect to travel the world over. Your responsibilities are performed mostly outdoors and you can expect work of a physical nature. You will not spend your entire career at sea, you may work in a variety of different environments when you’re stationed on shore.

Training & Advancement

Upon completion of initial training at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes (known as Boot Camp), you’ll report for specialized training, including:

Boatswain Mate "A" School (5 weeks) in Great Lakes, IL, for training in basic general safety, watch standing, deck seamanship, underway replenishment and preventive maintenance.

Following “A” School, there may be additional opportunities for training before receiving your first assignment, such as amphibious training. After all training is completed, you may be assigned to a fleet unit or a shore station.

Promotion opportunities are regularly available but competitive and based on performance.

Advanced Training

Advanced training as a Boatswain’s Mate may also be available during later stages of your career. For those with further leadership aspirations and a college degree, Officer roles may be available, providing opportunities to lead and train others.

Post-Service Opportunities

Specialized training received and work experience gained in the course of service can lead to valuable credentialing and occupational opportunities in related fields in the civilian world, such as occupational health and safety, motorboat operation and more.

Education Opportunities

Beyond offering access to professional credentials and certifications, Navy technical and operational training as a Boatswain’s Mate can translate to credit hours toward a bachelor’s or associate degree through the American Council on Education.

You may also continue your education through undergraduate degree opportunities like the Navy College Program and Tuition Assistance and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Qualifications & Requirements

A high-school diploma or equivalent is required to become an Enlisted Sailor and a Boatswain’s Mate. You must also be a U.S. citizen eligible for security clearance.

Applicants for the BM rate possess good communication skills, including the ability to speak clearly. You should also be able to get along with others and work well as a team member.

Important personal traits for this role include resourcefulness and curiosity. You should have good use of your hands and maintain physical strength.

eral qualifications may vary depending upon whether you’re currently serving, whether you’ve served before or whether you’ve never served before.

Part-Time Opportunities

Serving part-time as a Navy Reserve Sailor, your duties will be carried out during your scheduled drilling and training periods. During monthly drilling, Boatswain’s Mates in the Navy Reserve typically work at a location close to their homes.

For annual training, you may serve anywhere in the world, including locations in the U.S., at bases overseas, or in areas where humanitarian needs are great.

Take a moment to learn more about the general roles and responsibilities of Navy Reserve Sailors.

Most of what you do in the Navy Reserve is considered training. The basic Navy Reserve commitment involves training a minimum of one weekend a month (referred to as drilling) and two weeks a year (referred to as Annual Training) – or the equivalent of that.

Boatswain’s Mates in the Navy Reserve serve in an Enlisted role. Before receiving the ongoing professional training that comes with the job, initial training requirements must be met.

For current or former military Enlisted servicemembers, prior experience satisfies the initial Recruit Training requirement, so you will not need to go through Boot Camp again.

For those without prior military experience, you will need to meet the initial Recruit Training requirement by attending Boot Camp in Great Lakes, IL. This training course will prepare you for service in the Navy Reserve and count as your first Annual Training.