Navy Dads

United States Navy Commissioned Officers Rank and Structure



Commissioned officers in the Navy have pay grades ranging from O-1 to O-10, with O-10 being the highest; those with paygrades between O-1 through O-4 are considered junior officers and O-5 and O-6 as senior officers. Officers in the O-7 to O-10 range are called flag officers or "the admiralty." Promotion through O-8 is based on performance in an officer's current paygrade, which is recorded in "FITREPS" (fitness reports). Promotions to Vice Admiral (O-9) and Admiral (O-10) are based on assignment to specific positions and subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.


Above the rank of Admiral is Fleet Admiral, which was awarded to only four officers in World War II and is intended to be used only during a declared war. In 1899, a special rank called Admiral of the Navy was created for Admiral George Dewey, a war hero of the Spanish-American War, with the condition that it would cease to exist upon his death.


Commissioned officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), and a host of other commissioning programs such as the Seaman to Admiral-21 program, the Limited Duty Officer and Chief Warrant Officer Selection Programs, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, or receive Direct commissions via Officer Development School (ODS) or from its reserve component, the Direct Commission Officer School (DCO School).


Commissioned officers can generally be divided into line officers and staff corps; line officers can be further split into unrestricted and restricted communities. Unrestricted Line Officers are the warfighting command element and are authorized to command ships, aviation squadrons, and special operations units. Restricted Line Officers, on the other hand, concentrate on non-combat related fields, such as engineering and maintenance; they are not qualified to command combat units. Staff Corps officers are specialists in fields that are themselves professional careers and not exclusive to the military, for example: medicine, science, law, and civil engineering.


     Commissioned Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy


Fleet Admiral Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Rear Admiral (Lower Half)
Special O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7
US Navy O11 insignia.svg US Navy O10 insignia.svg US Navy O9 insignia.svg US Navy O8 insignia.svg US Navy O7 insignia.svg


Captain Commander Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Ensign
O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
US Navy O6 insignia.svg US Navy O5 insignia.svg US Navy O4 insignia.svg US Navy O3 insignia.svg US Navy O2 insignia.svg US Navy O1 insignia.svg


Chief Warrant Officer


Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) pay grades range from W-2 to the highest rank of W-5. United States Navy CWOs are officers whose role is to provide leadership and skills for the most difficult and demanding operations in a particular technical specialty. They occupy a niche that is not as well served by the line officer community, who tend to have a broader focus.

CWOs come from the senior non-commissioned officer ranks of the enlisted and receive their commission after completing the Chief Warrant Officer Program. They typically become CWOs in specialties that are most related to their previous enlisted rating. Like Staff Corps officers, CWOs wear special insignia above the rank devices on their shoulder boards and sleeves to indicate their field of expertise.



      Commissioned Warrant Officer Rank Structure of the United States Navy


Chief Warrant Officer Five Chief Warrant Officer Four Chief Warrant Officer Three Chief Warrant Officer Two
W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2
WO5 USN CWO5.jpg WO4 USN CWO4.jpg WO3 USN CWO3.jpg WO2 USN CWO2.jpg



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