U.S. Navy Ranks and Insignia

Updated: February 9, 2023

U.S. Navy ranks are comprised of four groups: enlisted, warrant officers, commissioned officers and admirals.

A sailor’s letter and number represent their rank, title and pay grade. Sailors wear insignia on their uniforms that designates their rank. Ranks signify the level of each sailor’s job duties and leadership responsibilities.

Enlisted Sailors

Enlisted sailors are separated into three categories: apprentices, noncommissioned petty officers and senior noncommissioned chief petty officers.

Apprenticeships (E-1 to E-3)

Army Private E-1 (PV1) Seaman Recruit (SR/E-1)
The seaman recruit’s job is to learn the culture and basic skills needed in the Navy. The seaman will be assigned to an occupational field or rate. There are five broad rate categories: seamen, firemen, constructionmen, airmen or hospitalmen.
Army Private E-1 (PV1) Seaman Apprentice (SA/E-2)
A Seaman Apprentice continues their education, by attending ascension training (A-School) within their rating. They will also be tasked with some menial duties. Promotion to SA is generally automatic within six months of beginning their military service.
Seaman (SN/E-3)
By the time sailors have been promoted to seaman, they should have met basic qualifications and will be assigned responsibilities such as essential maintenance and watchstanding.

Noncommissioned Petty Officers (E-4 to E-6)

Petty Officer Third Class (PO3/E-4)
Petty officer third class requires leadership skills in addition to technical expertise. They mentor junior sailors and take on increasing leadership responsibilities. Those who are looking to advance will fulfill extra-duty assignments or collateral duties.
Petty Officer Second Class (PO2/E-5)
Those who are advanced to petty officer second class continue developing their technical skills through advanced training within their rating (C-School). They also continue to develop their leadership and mentoring skills for the increased responsibilities that come with this promotion.
Petty Officer First Class (PO1/E-6)
A petty officer first class mentors junior noncommissioned officers and plays a leadership role in their division team of 5-50 sailors. They also manage more significant resources and delegate tasks.

Senior Noncommissioned Chief Petty Officers (E-7 to E-9)

Chief Petty Officer (CPO/E-7)
As a senior noncommissioned officer, the chief petty officer has technical expertise and strong leadership skills. They are given more authority and are responsible for training and mentoring junior noncommissioned officers. They handle personnel and equipment issues, along with the division officer.
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO/E-8)
Senior chief petty officers typically serve as department chiefs or even as command master chiefs. They are relied on for their technical supervision and managerial expertise. They are responsible for training and supervision.
Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO/E-9)
The master chief petty officer serves as department chief and is responsible for maintaining communication and cooperation among the petty officers. They must also have significant technical expertise in their fields.
Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMC/E-9)
One master chief petty officer will be named command master chief petty officer, called chief of the boat on a submarine. They serve as the liaison between enlisted personnel and the commanding officer.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON/E-9)
The chief of naval operations (CNO) appoints the master chief petty officer of the Navy to a two-year term. The MCPON represents all enlisted members and acts as the senior enlisted advisor to the CNO and the chief of naval personnel.

Warrant Officers (WO)

Warrant officers are technical experts in one of the Navy’s designated specialties,such as electronic techs, software experts and pilots. Service members with at least 14 years of leadership and technical experience who achieve the pay grade of E-6 and above can apply for this program.
Warrant officers often serve as division and commanding officers. While deployed at sea, they oversee maintenance and repair of equipment.
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-1)
In 2018, the Navy appointed the first chief warrant officers since 1975, when the rank was phased out. The new chief warrant officers are part of a cyber warfare initiative.
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-2 through CWO-5) 
Once accepted into the chief warrant officer program, the service member enrolls in an officer development school. Promotion through the ranks depends on expertise, years of experience and available vacancies.

Commissioned Officers (CO)

Ensign (ENS/O-1)
To be commissioned as an ensign, candidates must graduate from naval officer training. Most ensigns will continue in school to receive specialty training for anywhere from several weeks to two years (for specialties such as submariners). Others may serve as fleet ensigns.
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG/O-2)
The lieutenant junior grade serves as a division officer in a fleet, leading a team in a specialized area, such as engineering. The LTJG may be promoted in about two years.
Lieutenant (LT/O-3)
Lieutenants are qualified in warfare and have strong leadership skills. They often serve as ivision officers and carry significant responsibilities, including mentoring junior officers. They may also be given command of smaller ships, aircraft squadrons or submarines.
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR/O-4)
The role of the lieutenant commander varies. They may serve as the commanding officer of a smaller ship, a senior department head on a larger ship or as the executive officer of a SEAL team.
Commander (CDR/O-5)
Commanders fill senior leadership roles, which vary depending on whether they are ship or shore-based. For example, they may command a frigate, submarine, SEAL team, shore installation or squadrons of aircraft.
Captain (CAPT/O-6)
Captains may command ships, including aircraft carriers, cruisers or ballistic missile submarines, as well as SEAL groups or shore installations.


Rear Admiral Lower Half (RDML/O-7)
A rear admiral lower half is a flag officer and holds one star. They may command a major operation at sea or on shore, such as overseeing an amphibious group or expeditionary strike group.
Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM/O-8)
At sea, these two-star admirals will command a fleet of ships, such as destroyers or submarines, or serve as deputies in larger commands.
Vice Admiral (VADM/O-9)
Vice admirals, who hold three stars, oversee the highest Navy commands. They may also serve as deputies for regional commands.
Admiral (ADM/O-10)
Admiral is the highest rank in the Navy and holds four stars. They serve in the highest operations in the Navy, such as command of a regional fleet. They may also serve in one of two special appointments: Chief of naval operations and vice-chief of naval operations.
Fleet Admiral (FADM)
Fleet admiral is a temporary five-star rank that is only appointed during wartime. There have only been four in the history of the U.S. Navy. The last to be appointed to the rank was William F. Halsey, Jr. in 1945.

Written by Tamila McDonald

Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for Veteran.com.