United States Navy officer rank insignia
In the United States Navy, officers have various ranks. Equivalency between services is by pay grade. USN commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia; on dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn whilst on service khaki, working uniforms (NWU and coveralls), and special uniform situations (combat utilities, flight suits, and USMC uniforms when worn by navy officers attached to USMC units) the rank insignia are similar (there are subtle differences in the size, shape, and design of naval services insignia) to the equivalent rank in the US Army or US Air Force.
Commissioned officer ranks
(junior grade) 
|Lieutenant||Lieutenant Commander||Commander||Captain||Rear Admiral (lower half)||Rear Admiral ||Vice Admiral||Admiral||Fleet Admiral1||Admiral of the Navy2|
|NATO Code||OF-1||OF-1||OF-2||OF-3||OF-4||OF-5||OF-6||OF-7||OF-8||OF-9||OF-10||Special Grade|
Commissioned warrant officer ranks
|Title||Chief Warrant Officer Two||Chief Warrant Officer Three||Chief Warrant Officer Four||Chief Warrant Officer Five|
In the U.S. Navy, pay grades for officers are:
- W-2 to W-5 for chief warrant officers. Chief warrant officers (CWO2–CWO5) are commissioned officers; a warrant officer (W-1) is not a commissioned officer. Warrant officers are "appointed" to their grade and have a probationary period assigned. The Army and Marine Corps currently appoint warrant officers to this pay grade.
- O-1 to O-10 for unrestricted line, restricted line, or staff corps officers:
- O-1 through O-4 are junior officers: ensign, lieutenant (junior grade), lieutenant, and lieutenant commander
- O-5 and O-6 are senior officers: commander and captain
- O-7 through O-10 are flag officers: rear admiral (lower half) (one star), rear admiral (two star), vice admiral (three star), and admiral (four star).
- O-11 was the temporary flag officer rank of fleet admiral (five star). It was awarded to four officers during World War II, and has not been authorized since. However, the rank of fleet admiral still remains listed on official rank insignia precedence charts and, if needed, this rank could be reestablished at the discretion of Congress and the President. All five-star officers are, technically, unable to retire from active duty. The last living fleet admiral in the U.S. Navy, Chester W. Nimitz, died in 1966.
Rank and promotion system
In the event that officers demonstrate superior performance and prove themselves capable of performing at the next higher pay grade, 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, 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 devices on the sleeves of their blue uniforms and shoulder boards of their white uniforms; metal rank insignia on both collarpoints of khaki shirts/blouses; and cloth equivalents on both collarpoints of navy working uniforms. Officers of the staff corps replace the star (or the left collarpoint on applicable shirts/blouses) with different insignias to indicate their field of specialty. Line officers can be categorized into unrestricted and restricted communities.
- Unrestricted line officers (URL) the most visible and well-known, due to their role as the navy's war-fighting command element. They receive training in tactics, strategy, command and control, and actual combat and are considered unrestricted because they are authorized to command ships, aviation squadrons, and special operations units at sea or combat aviation squadrons or special operations units deployed ashore.
- Restricted line officers (RL) concentrate on non-combat related fields, which include marine engineering, aeronautical engineering, ship and aircraft maintenance, meteorology and oceanography, and naval intelligence. They are not qualified to command combat units, but can command organizations in their respective specialized career fields. In certain shipboard environments, many unrestricted line officers fill what might be considered restricted line duties, such as the officers in a ship's engineering department. Because they maintain their general shipboard duties, instead of completely specializing in one career area, they maintain their unrestricted line command career path.
- 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 exist to augment the line communities and are able to be assigned to both line and staff commands. (The exception to this is the case of Civil Engineer Corps officers, who serve as the officers for Seabee units. This requires them to serve in a command capacity for ground combatants when the Seabees are deployed to combat areas.)
See also commodore (United States)—today a title for selected URL captains (O-6) in major command of multiple subordinate operational units, and formerly a rank (O-7).
The Act of Congress of March 4, 1925, allowed officers in the Navy, marine corps, and coast guard to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Combat citation promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred all the perks and prestige of the higher rank including the loftier title on their tombstones but no additional retirement pay. The Act of Congress of February 23, 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades. Tombstone promotions were subsequently restricted to citations issued before January 1, 1947, and finally eliminated altogether effective November 1, 1959. The practice was terminated in an effort to encourage senior officer retirements prior to the effective date of the change to relieve an overstrength in the senior ranks.
Any officer who actually served in a grade while on active duty receives precedence on the retirement list over any tombstone officer holding the same retired grade. Tombstone officers rank among each other according to the dates of their highest active duty grade.
Officer specialty devices
Navy officers serve 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 specialty devices.
|Type||Line officer||Medical Corps||Dental Corps||Nurse Corps||Medical Service Corps||Judge Advocate General's Corps|
|Supply Corps||Civil Engineer Corps||Law Community
(Limited Duty Officer)
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.
The chief warrant officer and staff corps devices are also worn on the left collar of uniforms.
- Badges of the United States Navy
- List of Naval Officer Designators
- List of United States Navy staff corps
- Naval officer ranks—comparison to other countries and explanation of NATO rank codes
- Navy Enlisted Classification
- Scrambled egg (uniform) shows differences in hats
- Staff (military)
- Uniforms of the United States Navy
- U.S. Navy Midshipman rank insignia can be found in the Midshipman article.
- U.S. Navy Warrant officer rank insignia can be found in the Warrant Officer (United States) article.
- United States Navy enlisted rate insignia
- Rank Insignia of Navy commissioned and warrant officers
-  10 USC 5501. Navy: grades above chief warrant officer, W–5
-  37 USC 201. Pay grades: assignment to; general rules
- "Specialty Insignia - Staff Corps".
- United States Navy Regulations, 1920 with changes up to and including No. 19 1938 Article 1668(3)
- U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 4102 - Sleeve Designs for Line and Staff Corps, updated 28 January 11, accessed 22 January 12
- U.S. Navy Personnel Command, Officer, Community Managers, LDO/CWO OCM, References, LDO/CWO Designators, rout page updated 4 October 11, accessed 22 January 12
- Chapter 4, Section 1: Officer Rank Insignia of the Bureau of Personnel Uniform Regulations
- Department of Defense Rank Insignias — Officers Rank
|United States uniformed services commissioned officer and officer candidate ranks|
|Pay grade / branch of service||Officer
|Army||CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA||GAS|
|Marine Corps||Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|Navy||MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM||AN|
|Air Force||Cadet / OT / OC||2d Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF|||
|Coast Guard||CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
|Public Health Service||[OC]||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RADM||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
Unofficial 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's AN insignia:
 Rank used for specific officers in wartime only, not permanent addition to rank structure
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
|United States warrant officer ranks|
|Public Health Service|||||||||||
|National Oceanic and
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
 Grade never created or authorized