Surface Warfare Officer

A United States Navy Surface Warfare Officer operates the most advanced fleet of ships in the world and commands the crew that works on them.

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Responsibilities

Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) are involved in virtually every aspect of Navy missions. As a SWO, you may be in charge of any number of shipboard operations and activities while at sea, working with or within any of these specialized forces:

Aircraft Carrier Forces: Provide and coordinate air, submarine and surface ship defense for aircraft carriers.

Cruiser-Destroyer Forces: Provide ship attack and defensive measures with a wide array of missile and fire power capabilities, providing anti-air, -submarine and -surface warfare support.

Amphibious Forces: Embark and transport vehicles, equipment and personnel for amphibious assault operations.

Combat-Logistics Forces: Provide combatant ships with fuel, ammunition, food and supplies, and provide repair, maintenance and rescue capabilities through Fleet Support Ships.

Mine Warfare Forces: Detect, identify and neutralize threats from hostile use of maritime mines.

You may also be interested in becoming a Surface Warfare Officer within the prestigious Navy Nuclear community where you will have the opportunity to work on some of the world’s most powerful nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

Work Environment

As a Surface Warfare Officer, you will work at sea and on shore, in a variety of environments. Sea duty could place you aboard ships within the fleet. Shore duty may involve a tour of duty at the Pentagon, a student assignment at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, or command and management positions at shore bases and stations around the world.

Training & Advancement

Those pursuing an Information Professional Officer position are required to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, RI.

Unless they have already been commissioned through the Naval Academy or ROTC, those pursuing a Surface Warfare Officer position are required to attend Officer Candidate School. Newly commissioned SWOs can expect an advanced training process that includes comprehensive training at sea and ashore.

Newly commissioned Surface Warfare Officers will be assigned to a surface ship, leading a team of Sailors responsible for a component of the ship – anything from electronics to weapons to engineering systems. In this setting, Officers are working toward full Surface Warfare qualification.

After completing these initial sea tours, Surface Warfare Officers may be selected to serve on high-level staffs, commands or strategic projects or they may be selected to work in recruitment. The ultimate goal for many: to one day command their own ship.

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

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 sector.

Education Opportunities

Wherever you are in your professional career, the Navy can help ease your financial burdens and advance your career with generous financial assistance and continuing education programs. Beyond professional credentials and certifications, Surface Warfare Officers can advance their education by:

  • Pursuing opportunities at institutions such as Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) or Navy War College (NWC)
  • Completing Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) at one of the various service colleges

Qualifications & Requirements

A degree from a four-year college or university is a minimum educational requirement to become a Commissioned Officer.

There are different ways to become a SWO. If you're a high school student or an undergraduate, you can enter through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) or through the U.S. Naval Academy. Those already having a degree attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), a 12-week Navy school in Newport, RI.

All candidates must also be U.S. Citizens.

General 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

There are part-time opportunities available as a Surface Warfare Officer.

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

For annual training, Surface Warfare Officers may serve anywhere in the world, whether on a ship at sea or at bases and installations on shore.

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.

Surface Warfare Officers in the Navy Reserve serve in an Officer role. Before receiving the ongoing professional training that comes with this job, initial training requirements must first be met.

For current or former Navy Officers (NAVET): Prior experience satisfies the initial leadership training requirement – so you will not need to go through Officer Training again.

For current or former Officers of military branches other than the Navy (OSVET), as well as for Officer candidates without prior military experience: You will need to meet the initial leadership training requirement by attending Officer Development School (ODS). This will count as your first Annual Training.