History of United States Navy ratings

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The rating badge of a Chief Boatswain's Mate, one of the oldest United States rating still in existence

The History of the United States Navy ratings spans more than 200 years of U.S. history from the United Colonies of the 1775 era to the current age of the 21st century United States Navy. Navy ratings in America were first created in 1775, during the American Revolutionary War, for use by the Continental Navy. After securing independence, the fledgling United States was without an operational Navy for nearly in decade. In 1787, the first three frigates of the United States were formally launched, bringing about new regulations concerning enlisted seaman ratings[1]


Continental Navy[edit]

The structure, ranks, and enlisted ratings of the early Continental Navy were direct carryovers from the Royal Navy hierarchy of uniforms, ranks, and insignia. The first American naval ranks consisted of simply captain, lieutenant (navy), and midshipman. Shipboard warrant officer ranks, such as sailing master, boatswain, carpenter, gunner, and purser, were also copied from the British system.

The earliest form of U.S. Navy enlisted ratings may be traced to the petty officers assigned as assistants to the shipboard warrant officers. The oldest such ratings, still in use today, are boatswain's mate, quartermaster, and gunner's mate. The rating of armourer was also in use as an assistant to the gunner, as was the rating of carpenter's mate for members of the ship's carpenter's crew. Informally, the shipboard title of yeoman was also frequently used, even though this would not be an official rating of the United States Navy until 1835.[2]

The remainder of a Continental Navy ship's crew were simply referred to as "seamen", who were "signed on" to the ship for the duration of a campaign and "paid off" once the ship had returned to port.[N 1]

21st Century Navy[edit]

On September 29, 2016, the United States Navy announced a plan to discontinue the enlisted ratings system. Enlisted sailors are to be referred to solely by their rank (e.g. Petty Officer) and would hold a Navy Operations Specialty (NOS) instead of a rating.[3][4][5][6][7][8] In December 2016 the US Navy changed its mind and reinstated the ratings system with immediate effect.[9]


  1. ^ Not until the 1850s did the U.S. Navy adopt the practice of a permanently assigned ship's company


  1. ^ Howarth, Steven. To Shining Sea: A history of the United States Navy 1776-1991. New York: Random House, 1991
  2. ^ Naval Historical Society
  3. ^ "UPDATED: Navy Eliminating 241-Year-Old Rating System in New Enlisted Rank Overhaul". U.S. Naval Institute. September 29, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  4. ^ "Navy Announces Enlisted Rating Modernization Plan". United States Navy. September 29, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  5. ^ https://www.navytimes.com/articles/navy-scuttles-sailors-enlisted-rating-titles-in-huge-career-shake-up
  6. ^ Dan Petty. "Chief of Naval Operations Video Gallery". Navy.mil. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  7. ^ This story was written by Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs (2016-09-29). "Navy Announces Enlisted Rating Modernization Plan". Navy.mil. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  8. ^ This story was written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Charlotte C. Oliver and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jackie Hart, Defense Media Activity. "Personnel Changes on the Horizon". Navy.mil. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  9. ^ https://www.navytimes.com/articles/ratings-restored-effective-immediately-sailors-will-get-their-job-titles-back

External links[edit]