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In the United States, it means the lowest three enlisted rates of the U.S. Navy, followed by the higher petty officer ranks. The equivalent of the seaman is the matelot in French-speaking countries, and Matrose in German-speaking countries.
The term "seaman" is also a general-purpose for a man or a woman who works anywhere on board a modern ship, including in the engine spaces, which is the very opposite of sailing. Furthermore, "seaman" is a short form for the status of an "able-bodied seaman," either in the navies or in the merchant marines. An able-bodied seaman is one who is fully trained and qualified to work on the decks and superstructure of modern ships, even during foul weather, whereas less-qualified sailors are restricted to remaining within the ship during times of foul weather — lest they be swept overboard by the stormy seas or by the high winds.
There are 4 grades of seaman/matelot in the Royal Canadian Navy:
The rank of master seaman is unique because it was created only for the Canadian Navy. It does not follow the British tradition of other Canadian ranks. It corresponds to the rank of master corporal/caporal-chef.
Matelot 2e classe (seaman 2nd class), or apprentice seaman, and matelot breveté (able seaman) are designations of the French Navy. Matelots are colloquially known as "mousses".
United Kingdom 
In the Royal Navy the rate is split into two divisions: AB1 and AB2. The AB2 rating is used for those who have not yet completed their professional taskbooks. The rate of ordinary seaman has been discontinued.
United States 
Seaman is the third enlisted rank from the bottom in the U.S Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and other navies and coast guards. For the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard the rank and pay just above that of a seaman apprentice and below those of a petty officer third class. This naval rank was formerly called "seaman first class".
The actual title for an E-3 in the U.S. Navy varies based on the subset of the Navy to which the sailor, seaman, submariner, aviator, hospitalman, nurse, etc., has been assigned. Likewise, the color of his/her group rate mark also depends on his section of the navy.
- Those in the general deck and administrative community are "seamen". They wear white stripes on their navy blue uniforms, and navy blue (black) stripes on their white uniforms.
- Hospital corpsmen are now called "hospitalmen." They possess the only rating in this area of duty. They wear white stripes on their navy blue uniforms, and navy blue stripes on their white uniforms.
- Those in the ship's engineering and hull maintenance area are called "firemen", and they wear red stripes on both their navy blue and white uniforms.
- Those in the aviation area of the Navy are called "airmen", and they wear green stripes on both their navy blue and white uniforms.
- Seabees are called "constructionmen", and they wear light blue stripes on both their navy blue and white uniforms.
No such stripes are authorized to be worn on the working uniforms - NWUs (navy working uniform), coveralls, utility wear, flight suits, hospital and clinic garb, diving suits, etc. However, sailors with the rank of E-3 are permitted to wear silver-anodized collar devices on their navy service uniforms.
In October 2005, the dental technician rating was merged into the hospital corpsman rating, eliminating the "dentalman" title. Those who once held the rank of "dentalman" have instead become "hospitalmen".
Sailors who have completed the requirements to be assigned a rating and have been accepted by the Bureau of Naval Personnel as holding that rating (a process called "striking") are called "designated strikers", and are called by their full rate and rating in formal communications (i.e., machinist's mate fireman, as opposed to simply fireman), though the rating is often left off in informal communications. Those who have not officially been assigned to a rating are officially referred to as "undesignated" or "non-rates." In order to advance to the rate of petty officer third class, a seaman would have to submit a request every 6 months. However, advancement is not guaranteed because of the vast amounts of seamen competing for a promotion.
As with the Navy, the actual title for a E-3 in the U.S. Coast Guard varies based on their community. However, the smaller size of the Coast Guard limits the E-3s to only three options: seaman (white stripes), fireman (red stripes), and airman (green stripes). The Coast Guard does not possess its own medical corps, dental corps, pharmacy corps, or legal corps, but rather, it either draws the necessary services and experts from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, or Army, or it contracts for services by civilians. Likewise, the U.S. Marine Corps does not possess its own trained experts in these areas, but rather, it generally uses the corps of experts from the U.S. Navy, or else from the other two American Armed Forces (whichever one is available in the region) that have own corps of experts: e.g. medical, dental, legal, or nursing.
|United States enlisted ranks|
|Pay Grade →
Branch of Service ↓
|Air Force||AB||Amn||A1C||SrA||SSgt||TSgt||MSgt||SMSgt||CMSgt - CCM - CMSAF|
|Army||PVT||PV2||PFC||SPC - CPL||SGT||SSG||SFC||MSG - 1SG||SGM - CSM - SMA|
|Marine Corps||Pvt||PFC||LCpl||Cpl||Sgt||SSgt||GySgt||MSgt - 1stSgt||MGySgt - SgtMaj - SgtMajMarCor|
|Navy||SR||SA||SN||PO3||PO2||PO1||CPO||SCPO||MCPO - CMDCM - FORCM - FLTCM - MCPON|
|Coast Guard||SR||SA||SN||PO3||PO2||PO1||CPO||SCPO||MCPO - CMC - MCPOCG|
See also 
- United States Navy enlisted rates
- Comparative military ranks
- United States Coast Guard officer rank insignia
- United States Coast Guard enlisted rate insignia
- List of United States Coast Guard ratings
- Seaman (Admiralty Law)