Navy Surface Warfare Officer

Description and Qualifications

USA - Inside the USS San Antonio
••• Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images


Age: At least 19 and less than 29 at the time of commission. up to 2 yrs for prior AD service.


  • BA/BS
  • 2 semesters of calculus and calculus-based physics required.


  • OCS (12 wks)
  • DIVO (6-10 months)
  • SWOS (4-6 wks)
  • Complete DIVO tour
  • Specialty School (3-7 wks)


  • Correctable to 20/20 (waivers considered).

  • required.
  • PRK and LASIK only waiverable.



Service Obligation

  • 4 yrs Active from the date of commission.
  • Total of 8 yrs Active & Inactive.

Special Info

  • $150/month sea pay starts on initial sea duty assignment.
  • $50,000 incentive pay to stay past initial obligation.
  • Applications will only be considered if available for OCS within 24 months unless applying for BDCP.

Program Description

  • Community Overview: Surface Warfare Officers are Navy officers whose training and primary duties focus on the operation of Navy ships at sea and the management of various shipboard systems. Their ultimate goal is to command a Navy surface ship. Navy systems such as the vertical launch system that fires surface-to-air and cruise missiles require the skills and expertise of people trained in high-tech fields. The Navy provides this training. Like all Navy officers, surface warfare officers are graduates of civilian or military colleges.
  • Specific job elements for the first tour: The primary goals of the Division Officer Sequencing Plan are to provide optimal readiness to the fleet and maximum development opportunities to the individuals. To this end, Division Officer tours are 42-month split tours designed to provide individuals diversity in their background and experiences. The first tour will be 24 months with the most important milestones of the initial sea tour being the achievement of the Officer of the Deck (Fleet) and Surface Warfare Officer qualifications. These qualifications are designed to be completed within the first 12 to 18 months. During the initial sea tour, officers may be assigned to multiple departments to provide a diversified background and facilitate Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) and Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) qualification. Development of seamanship, warfighting skills, and dynamic leadership are key elements in the initial sea tour. The second Division Officer tour lasts 18 months and will always be in a department different from the initial tour. During the second tour, Division Officers are expected to complete Engineering Officer of the Watch qualification and many will make progress towards qualifying as Tactical Action Officer. The second sea tour billets are designed to fill specific needs of the Navy commensurate with an officer's background. Additionally, follow-on sea tours provide professional benefits to the officer including additional qualifications and a more diversified background.
  • : 4 years active duty reserve, 4 years inactive reserve.
  • Training Pipeline following commission: Upon commissioning, officers who select Surface Warfare undergo 17 weeks of intensive instruction at the Surface Warfare Officers School Division Officer Course (SWOSDOC) in Newport, . The first 11 weeks of SWOSDOC are common for all Surface Warfare candidates and emphasizes the basics of shipboard management, combat systems, ship control, and surface ship fundamentals. The final 6 weeks of SWOSDOC are ship class specific and center of the engineering systems in that class. SWOSDOC is designed to provide the tools needed for a successful first sea assignment. After completing the SWOSDOC Core, you will be sent to a specialty school for instruction focused on the requirements of your first job. Specialty schools include Anti-submarine Warfare Officer, Engineering Division Officer, Damage Control Assistant, and Communications Officer. Most of these schools are in Newport and are from 3 to 7 weeks long. Total time in Newport is 23 to 26 weeks.
  • Locations of fleet assignments: The initial fleet assignments man take you to Norfolk, VA, Bremerton, WA, Pearl Harbor, HI, Yokosuka, Japan, or Mayport, Florida. The largest concentration of Navy shore billets is on the East Coast, mainly in Washington, DC, Newport, RI, and Norfolk, VA. Opportunities for shore duty include Naval Post Graduate School (NPGS), JCS/OSD Intern Program, and various instructor assignments. The Naval Post Graduate Schools offers technical and non-technical curricula and provides junior officers an excellent early opportunity to obtain advanced degrees. Individuals not assigned to NPGS are encouraged to work on advanced degrees during the "off-duty" time. First, shore tours are designed to further broaden a junior officer's background and expand their opportunities.
  • Special pay/bonuses: SWO's earn sea duty pay while on sea duty from their 1st day of duty at sea. SWO's also earn  and tax-free base pay while deployed to certain hot spots. Upon selection to Department Head, SWO's can earn a $50,000 bonus for signing on to complete a 36 month (typical) afloat department head sequence.
  • Academic/professional expertise: Candidates must be a graduate of the  (OCS), the U.S.  (USNA) or a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program at a participating college and receive commissions as Navy officers; successfully complete the Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) Division Officer Course; complete the SWO Personnel qualification Standard (PQS). That's the hands-on training and qualification program aboard ship during the first sea tour.

    Basic Eligibility Requirements

    A surface Warfare Officer candidate must:

    • Be a U.S. citizen
    • Be at least 19 and under 29 when commissioned (maximum age limit may be adjusted up to two years for prior active service)
    • Have a B.S. or B.A. degree from an accredited college or university
    • Have a qualifying score on the Officer Aptitude Rating Exam
    • Be physically qualified by Navy standards

    Closing Thoughts

    As an SWO you may be responsible for more than 300 people and millions of dollars of complex equipment during your initial tour. Many of the skills and much of the knowledge you acquired in college are put to immediate use. Once you're commissioned a Navy officer, educational opportunities from technical training to postgraduate school are available to further your professional growth. The pay is good. Promotions are regular and based upon performance.

    And as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) you'll face challenges that can lead you around the world and back again.