The decision to join a branch of the military can be a difficult one. In the civilian world, if you accept a job and don't like it, you have the option to quit at any time. However, when you join the Navy or another military branch, you are committing to serve for a set period of years. A local Navy recruiter is your best source of information regarding current qualifications for specific jobs, signing bonuses and enlistment criteria, but there are also questions you can ask for yourself.
Do You Meet the Minimum Qualifications?
Enlisted sailors can join the Navy at 17 if they have parental consent, or18 without it. They cannot be over the age of 34. Officer candidates must typically be between 19 and 35, although waivers may be granted for positions in high demand. Enlisted sailors can be U.S. citizens or legal alien residents, but officers must be citizens. The Navy typically will not accept any candidate with more than two minor dependents or a felony conviction. You must pass a thorough physical exam and be healthy enough to handle the demands of training, such as swimming and calisthenics. Officers must have at least a four-year degree. Enlisted sailors must have a GED and 15 college credits, or be high school graduates.
Does the Navy Offer the Job You Want?
You should determine where your interests lie, both during your time with the Navy and after. Not all branches of the military offer all types of jobs, and some jobs are unique to specific branches. For example, if your dream is to serve aboard a nuclear submarine, the Navy is your only choice. However, if you prefer a career as a musician, any branch can meet that requirement, including the Navy. Keep in mind that you must qualify for your chosen career. Enlisted sailors take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery prior to signing a contract, and scores on the ASVAB determine whether you qualify for specific jobs. If you join for a specific job, your recruiter should include that guarantee in your contract, along with any applicable bonuses.
Can You Meet Your Financial Obligations?
Before joining the Navy, you want to be sure you can meet your financial obligations on military pay. An officer typically starts at a pay grade of O-1 with a monthly base salary between $2,876.40 and $3,619.20, as of 2013. Enlisted sailors normally enter the Navy with a pay grade of E-1, earning $1,402.20 a month for the first four months and $1,516.20 thereafter. Those choosing civilian housing can receive allowances for food and lodging, and enlisted sailors receive a uniform allowance.
Can You Fulfill Your Commitment?
When you join the Navy, you sign a legally binding contract. Both you and the Navy make certain commitments in that contract. You agree to serve a specified amount of time in the Navy. The length of your commitment depends on factors such as the amount of time the Navy will need to invest in training you and whether you are joining as an enlisted sailor or an officer. Enlisted sailors must normally commit for at least four years, and officers normally commit for three to five years. However, depending on the job, you might be required to sign up for a longer time. Many jobs in the Navy require you to serve sea duty, meaning you will be absent from your family and friends for extended periods.