United States Navy officer rank insignia


In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service khaki, working uniforms (Navy Working Uniform [NWU], and coveralls), and special uniform situations (combat utilities, flight suits, and USMC uniforms when worn by Navy officers assigned or attached to USMC units), the rank insignia are identical to the equivalent rank in the US Marine Corps.

Commissioned officer ranksEdit

pay grade
Special grade[a] O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
Uniform insignia                                            
Title Fleet admiral Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Rear admiral (lower half) Captain Commander Lieutenant commander Lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade) Ensign

Warrant officer ranksEdit

US DoD pay grade W-5 W-4 W-3 W-2 W-1
NATO code WO-5 WO-4 WO-3 WO-2 WO-1
Title Chief warrant officer 5 Chief warrant officer 4 Chief warrant officer 3 Chief warrant officer 2 Warrant officer 1
Abbreviation CWO-5 CWO-4 CWO-3 CWO-2 WO-1

Rank categoriesEdit

In the U.S. Navy, pay grades for officers are:

Rank and promotion systemEdit

If an officer demonstrates superior performance and proves themselves capable of performing at the next higher pay grade, then they are given an increase in pay grade. The official term for this process is a promotion.

Commissioned naval officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, other Service Academies (United States Military Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, or United States Air Force Academy), Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), the since-disestablished Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), and a host of other commissioning programs such as the "Seaman to Admiral-21" program and the limited duty officer/chief warrant officer (LDO/CWO) selection program. There are also a small number of direct commissioned officers, primarily staff corps officers in the medical, dental, nurse, chaplain and judge advocate general career fields.

Commissioned officers can generally be divided into line officers and staff corps:

  • Line officers (or officers of the line) derive their name from the 18th-century tactic of employing warships in a line of battle to take advantage of cannon on each side of the ship. These vessels were dubbed ships of the line and those who commanded them were likewise called "line officers." Today, all United States Navy unrestricted line and restricted line officers denote their status with a star located above their rank insignia on the sleeves of their dress blue uniforms and shoulder boards of their white uniforms; metal rank insignia devices on both collar-points of khaki shirts/blouses; and cloth equivalents on both collar-points of blue NWUs. Officers of the staff corps replace the star (or the left collar-point on applicable shirts/blouses) with different insignias to indicate their field of specialty.[6] Line officers can be categorized into unrestricted and restricted communities.
  • Staff corps officers are specialists in fields that are themselves professional careers and not exclusive to the military, for example health care, law, civil engineering and religion. There are eight staff corps: Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps, Chaplain Corps, Navy Supply Corps, Judge Advocate General's Corps, and Civil Engineer Corps. They primarily exist to augment the line communities and are able to be assigned to both line and staff commands. One exception to this is the case of Civil Engineer Corps officers, who serve as both the Public Works Officers and Resident Officers in Charge of Construction (ROICC) at naval shore installations, and as officers for Construction Battalion (Seabee) units. This latter role requires them to serve in a command capacity for ground combatants when the Seabees are deployed to combat areas.

Note 2: See also Commodore (United States) — today an honorific title (but not a pay grade) for selected URL captains (O-6) in major command of multiple subordinate operational units, and formerly a rank (O-7).[7]

Note 3: The term "line officer of the naval service" includes line officers of both the Navy and the Marine Corps. All U.S. Marine Corps officers are considered "of the line," including Marine Corps limited duty officers, chief warrant officers, and warrant officers, regardless of grade or specialty.[8]

"Tombstone promotions"Edit

The Act of Congress of March 4, 1925, provided for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement, if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat, known as "tombstone promotions". Officers who received such tombstone promotions, or also known as "tombstone officer", carried the loftier title but did not draw the additional retirement pay of their higher rank. The Act of Congress of February 23, 1942, enabled promotions to three- and four-star grades. Promotions were subsequently restricted to citations issued before January 1, 1947, and finally eliminated altogether effective November 1, 1959.[9]

Any officer who served honorably in a grade while on active duty receives precedence on the retirement list over any "tombstone officers" of the same grade, while "tombstone officers" of the same grade rank among each other according to their dates of rank in their highest active duty grade.[10]

Officer designator devicesEdit

The Navy uses the term designator, instead of the term, military occupational specialty (MOS), to determine an officer's job specialty. Navy officers are designated as either as a line officer or as a staff corps officer. Unrestricted Line (URL) and Restricted Line (RL) officers wear an embroidered gold star above their rank of the naval service dress uniform while staff corps officers, and chief warrant officers wear unique designator devices.[11][12]

Type Line officer Medical Corps Dental Corps Nurse Corps Medical Service Corps Judge Advocate General's Corps
Designator1 1XXX 210X 220X 290X 230X 250X
Chaplain Corps
(Christian Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Jewish Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Muslim Faith)
Chaplain Corps
(Buddhist Faith)
Supply Corps Civil Engineer Corps Law Community
(Limited Duty Officer)
410X 410X 410X 410X 310X 510X 655X


1 An officer designator describes their general community or profession. The final (fourth) digit (X) denotes whether the officer has a regular (0), reserve (5), or full-time support (7) commission.[13]

The chief warrant officer and staff corps devices are also worn on the left collar of uniforms.

Timeline of changesEdit

This table shows changes in insignia based on the date they appeared in or were removed from uniform regulations or official orders.[14]

US DoD Pay Grade Special Grade O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
Title Admiral of the Navy
Fleet Admiral
Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Commodore Captain Commander Lieutenant
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
(March 1852)
No equivalent
      No equivalent     No equivalent
(July 1862)
No equivalent
(May 1863)
No equivalent
(Jan. 1864)
No equivalent
(Jan. 1865)
No equivalent
(Dec. 1866)
No equivalent        
(March 1869)
No equivalent                    
(May 1869)
No equivalent                    
(Nov. 1874)
No equivalent                    
(Aug. 1881)
No equivalent                    
(July 1897)
No equivalent
(May 1899)
No equivalent   No equivalent   No equivalent            
(Jan. 1905)
  No equivalent
(Jan. 1913)
(Sept. 1922)
No equivalent                    
(Jan. 1945)
Title Admiral of the Navy
Fleet Admiral
Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Commodore Captain Commander Lieutenant
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Reserved for wartime use only.


  1. ^ a b 10 U.S. Code § 571. Warrant officers: grades, the President may grant appointments of warrant officers in the grade of W-1 via commission at any time and the Secretary of the Navy may also appoint warrant officers in that grade via commission, through additional regulations.
  2. ^ 10 U.S. Code § 531. Original appointments of commissioned officers
  3. ^ Defenselink.mil
  4. ^ Defenselink.mil
  5. ^ "Public Law 333, 79TH CONG., CHS. 109, 110, 112, MAR. 22, 23, 1946" (PDF). LegisWorks.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 November 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2016. This law in 1946 provided that each of the 8 Five-Star officers at the end of WWII was permanently appointed as O-11, and whether retired or not would continue to draw full pay and allowances for the rest of their life, as if on active duty. The same benefit was provided for the serving Commandants of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard (both O-10, four-star General, and Admiral, respectively), who were in office on 14 August 1945. No provisions were made for these officers' successors to have the same benefits; only one more O-11 was appointed, General Omar Bradley was appointed in 1950 as General of the Army, and his benefits followed the model of PL 333. The grade of O-11 itself was temporary in that while Congress provided for appointments to serve in it, once the last appointed officer (Bradley d. 1982) died, there have been no further appointments to O-11.
  6. ^ "Specialty Insignia - Staff Corps".
  7. ^ 14 USC 271: Promotions; appointments (1985—Pub. L. 99–145 substituted "rear admirals (lower half)" for "commodores," repealing 1983—Section 4 of Pub. L. 97–417, Permanent Grades and Titles for Officers Holding Certain Grades on January 3, 1983. After 1985, the O-7 Commodore rank was replaced by O-7 "Rear Admiral (Lower Half)")
  8. ^ "United States Navy Regulations" (PDF). Chapter 10. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  9. ^ "14 United States Code 239 (repealed)". U.S. Govt. Printing Office. Retrieved 15 September 2016. Section 10(b) of Pub. L. 86–155 provided that repeal of this section and section 309 of this title shall become effective on Nov. 1, 1959.
  10. ^ United States Navy Regulations, 1920 with changes up to and including No. 19 1938 Article 1668(3)
  11. ^ U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 4102 - Sleeve Designs for Line and Staff Corps, updated 28 January 2011, accessed 22 January 2012
  12. ^ U.S. Navy Personnel Command, Officer, Community Managers, LDO/CWO OCM, References, LDO/CWO Designators Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, rout page updated 4 October 2011, accessed 22 January 2012
  13. ^ "Navy Full-Time Support (FTS) Program". Navy.com. Retrieved 16 September 2016. Navy Full-Time Support (FTS) – This program allows Reservists to perform full-time Active Duty service in positions that support the training and administration of the Navy Reserve Force. Members receive the same pay, allowances and benefits as Active Duty members. One advantage of FTS over regular Active Duty is that members typically serve for longer periods at any assigned locations, up to and including a full career on active duty (albeit as a reservist serving on active duty for the specific purpose of providing support and expertise to integrate the active and reserve components.
  14. ^ "U.S. Navy Officer Sleeve Rank Insignia Timeline". uniform-reference.net. Retrieved 12 April 2020.

External linksEdit

  • "Officer Rank Insignia". Bureau of Personnel Uniform Regulations. U.S. Navy. Chapter 4, Section 1. Archived from the original on 2 February 2007.
  • "Officers Rank". Rank Insignias. U.S. Department of Defense.
  • "Office of Information". U.S. Navy. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008.
  • "Official list of United States military rank insignia". defenselink.mil.