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Positions & Ranks in the Navy

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The U.S. Navy has approximately 317,000 officers and enlisted sailors serving on active duty in a wide variety of jobs. With so many men and women, a defined chain of command and leadership structure is required. Every single officer and sailor in the Navy has a boss, supervisor or leader.

Navy Enlisted Structure

The Navy enlisted structure runs from E-1, or seaman recruit, to E-9, or master chief petty officer. Sailors in the E-1 to E-6 ranks are considered junior enlisted personnel, though paygrades E-4, E-5 and E-6 are non-commissioned petty officers holding lower-level enlisted leadership positions. Navy E-7 to E-9 chief, senior chief and master chief petty officers occupy positions of greater enlisted leadership and authority. Monthly pay in 2013 for Navy enlisted personnel runs from $1,516 for E-1s to $7,435 for very senior MCPOs.

Warrant Officer Structure

Navy chief warrant officers are commissioned officers holding a special position between the officer and enlisted ranks. Navy chief warrant officers run from W-2 at the junior paygrade to W-5 for those with the highest skills and most experience within their career fields. Navy warrant officers are former senior enlisted personnel from the E-7 to E-9 ranks and E-6 sailors eligible for selection and promotion to CPO. Monthly pay for Navy CWOs runs from $3,203 for W-2s to $9,223 for very senior W-5s.

Navy Officer Structure

Navy commissioned officers range from O-1 ensigns to O-10 admirals. Navy ensigns are the most junior officers while admirals are the sea service's most senior. Navy officers from O-1 to O-4, or lieutenant commander, are considered junior officers while O-5 commanders and O-6 captains are senior officers. Admirals are flag officers commanding many sailors, officers and Navy units and range from one and two-star rear admirals, three-star vice admirals and four-star full admirals. Officer pay runs from $3,619 up to $19,567.

Navy Enlisted Positions

In the Navy, your rank greatly influences your position as well as your authority and responsibilities. Navy sailors from E-1 to E-4 generally occupy more work-centered positions, though they also lead those in rank below them. Navy E-5 and E-6 sailors are mid-career professionals responsible for performance within their assigned work areas or units. Navy E-7 to E-9 chief petty officers are experienced professionals and frequently design and implement, and are held responsible for, many work processes.

Navy Officer Positions

Navy commissioned officers of all ranks are given position and authority not only over enlisted personnel but for overall performance within their units. Navy ensigns and O-2 lieutenants junior grade typically start out as division officers, with responsibility for those small units. Navy O-3 lieutenants are typically department head-type leaders while lieutenant commanders assume more executive-oriented duties, frequently as executive officers aboard smaller Navy ships. Navy commanders and captains frequently command ashore units and ships of all sizes, including destroyers and aircraft carriers.


Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

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