navy nuke meme

5 Absolutely Worst Jobs In The Navy

Joining the US Navy can be a fun, fulfilling, and rewarding career choice.

At the same time, it can also be a miserable experience if you end up with the wrong job.

While most future enlistees dream of becoming a Navy SEAL or Naval Aviator, the simple truth is this…

The Navy is absolutely enormous.

For every SEAL or Pilot wannabe, there are about 70 other jobs that are required to keep everything running smoothly.

Many of them can be fun, but there’s a quite a few that might make you think a bit differently about your career choice.

Special Note: Because of recent ‘complaints’ about this article, I’d like to add that the below worst jobs in the Navy are my OPINION. There are good and bad things to every Navy rating, but the below are based on my experience talking to those who have worked in those fields.

If you get easily offended, you might want to click the back button!

5 Worst Jobs In The US Navy

5. Nuke (EM, MM, and ET)

navy nuke meme

Some of you who are already in the Navy might be shaking your heads a bit, but this article is mainly for civilians.

While this can be one of the best paying jobs in the Navy, it can also be one of the most challenging.

Being a “Nuke” on a submarine or ship is not only dangerous, but you can expect to spend the next 4 years of your career at sea in the bowels of the ship.

There’s no specific rating for ‘Nuke’, but the following ratings are considered ‘Nuke’:

It’s not uncommon to work 14 hour days, and you likely won’t get a shore duty assignment for several years.

There’s also a good chance you won’t see the sun for a good 3 months at a clip.

Related Article: Which Branch Of The Military Should I Join?

It can also prove to be very difficult to have a family and home life, so if you’e a single guy or gal this might be the job for you.

While it may be considered one of the worst jobs in the Navy by many, there’s one thing that may make it all worth it: the pay.

The average salary for a Navy nuclear engineer is $91,883, which pays better than most civilian jobs.

If you don’t mind being stuck in a dark hole for the next few years of your life, then Navy Nuke could be the way to go.

4.  Damage Controlman (DC)

navy damage controlman - worst jobs in the navy

While they say that damage control is everyone’s responsibility, the true heroes are the Damage Controlmen (DC).

They are the ones responsible for putting out fires, perform intermediate-level maintenance, and  perform emergency repairs to decks.

While the job can be interesting and even fun at times, there’s no doubt about it…

Sometimes it just sucks being a DC…

They are constantly running drills, constantly having to train other people, and if you’re stuck on a small ship, you always seem to be in search of a tool to help you with a problem.

The upside is that it can line you up for a job in firefighting in the civilian world, if you so choose.

At times it can be a fun job, but the vast majority of the time it’s just the worst.

Related Article: A List of ALL 512 Military Jobs in the US Military

3. Seaman (Undesignated)

When a sailor does not qualify for a Navy rating right away, they are considered undesignated and titled simply as a Navy Seaman.

navy seaman at work

After recruit training, enlistees take a three-week course on the basic theories of shipboard operations and evolutions.

Duties of an Undesignated Seaman include standing watches while in port or at sea, repairing, maintaining and stowing equipment when preparing to go underway and working in non-engineering positions aboard ships.

They participate in Navy ceremonies and take part in replenishment of supplies from ship to ship while at sea.

Seamen may attend Navy schools to learn about general damage control, firefighting on ships, preventative maintenance of equipment and the use of tools used in their prospective rating.

Most of the time men and women end up as undesignated is due to the overmanning of their sought-after rate.

Related Article: Pros And Cons Of Joining The Navy

2. Boatswain’s Mate (BM)

A Boatswain’s Mate is an enlisted sailor who trains, directs, and supervises personnel in ship’s maintenance duties relating to marlinespikes, decks, boat seamanship, painting, upkeep of the external ship structure, rigging, deck equipment, and life boats.

navy boatswain mate at work

They take charge of the working parties.

They operate and maintain equipment that are used in the loading and unloading of cargo, ammunition, fuel and general stores.

Boatswain’s Mates stand watch constantly at sea and in port as Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch (BMOW).

BMs have numerous responsibilities and duties that keep functions aboard ships continuously operational for the Fleet.

1. Hull Technician (HT)

Have you heard of the saying, “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it”?

Well, hull maintenance technicians are that someone.

navy hull technicians at work

Hull Technician’s keep the Navy’s ships in top condition and the metal worker duties pertain to all shipboard structures.

Metal working duty involve the use of many different metals, including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and brass.

They work indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather.

In addition to maintenance of shipboard structures, HTs are responsible for the plumbing onboard.

The ship’s marine sanitation system is another duty of an HT.

The duties are numerous and consists of physically demanding work, but this enlisted rating is one of the more important enlisted shipboard jobs.

Related ArticleNavy Engineman (EN): Career Details


Don’t let this list scare you off from joining the Navy.

There are plenty of jobs that need to be filled, many of which can be both fun and financially rewarding after your service is up.

Related Article: 10 Best Jobs In The Navy For Civilian Life

In any event, once you’ve spent enough time in the Navy, you’ll almost certainly be able to change jobs at some point.

Of course, that assumes that you do a good job and work hard.

Jacqueline P.
Worst Navy Jobs

Worst Navy Jobs

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Find out what the worst jobs you can have in the US Navy, including Hull Tech, Boatswains Mate, Damage Controlman, and more.
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16 Replies to “5 Absolutely Worst Jobs In The Navy

  1. As a former “nuke”, I got through enlisted Nuclear Power School (let’s not talk about the 10-12 hours days there) but then went to prototype where we were doing 12 hour rotating shifts (7 days 8AM to 8PM, etc.). After 3 months, I decided being stuck in a sub working 14 hours a day was not worth it so I “left” the program and thanked my decision every day for the next 7 years of my active time in the Navy. Yeah, being a “nuke” is a terrible job.

  2. I am forced to chuckle at a list like this, compiled by a career corpsman, (who in my day glamorously checked the crew for STD complaints).

    I joined to be trained as a Fire Control Technician. In A School, I foresaw a terribly boring future hitch, so I intentionally washed out for non-progress, to become the dreaded “Instant Boatswain’s Mate.” Two years were cut off of my six year hitch. When I was billeted to Pearl Harbor, I laughed all the way to the airport.

    Though hitting the fleet as an undesignated seaman was difficult, striking as a Boatswain’s Mate was the best thing that ever could have happened while I was in the Navy. I was a first cycle BM2 by year three, with a career sea pay bonus.

    With a seemingly inexhaustible supply of undesignated seamen to work with, being a BM2 on a smaller crew was like being semi-retired much of the time, even while at sea, doing mainly supervisory, safety assurance work and the more complicated maintenance responsibilities.

    UNREPS, armed roving patrol, VBSS, and being BMOW during GQ were the only troublesome disruptions to that routine.

    Karmic justice was in seeing all of those “advanced training” insta-crows I left behind stuck at E-4 forever as I blew by them due to high attrition in my rate.

    In the end, the Navy is what YOU make of it.

    1. LOL I was a Nuke who was medicaled out after 6 for mental heath issues…big surprise there. I was on limited duty on a cruise and was stuffed into the 3M office (my division was getting annoyed by me by then) and got to spend time with the Chief Boats of the ship. He said exactly what you said. That a guy who gets there who is smart and can work hard will advance as fast as anyone. As a Nuke E5 I was field daying and spent most of my day cleaning something.

      1. As an Army doctor I never saw anyone who “medicaled” out for on the job stress except for combat related PTSD.

        Every sailor, soldier, marine, airman had an undiagnosed mental illness, personality disorder BEFORE joining up. I always felt that most of these folks should have been able to seek psych services. But the military doesn’t work that way.
        I hope you get help. It wasn’t the job.

    2. IBM is the most pejorative term I heard at Pearl and Subic. Just slightly above HT.

      I wouldn’t be too proud of being an IBM.

      BTW I’m a US Army combat surgeon who taught both corpsmen and medics in Hawaii. While being in the second tier of enlisted rankings I was pleased that the HMs were excellent paramedics in the field. A BM may never see actual combat but these HMs were embedded with combat Marines in Afghanistan and serving submariners on 6 month deployments where they couldn’t surface to offload seriously injured or ill shipmates.

      So give us a break.

  3. You just gave up because you couldn’t make the grade. You didn’t leave the program. You either failed out, were kicked out for drugs, or went UA. Prototype was rotating 8 hour shifts not 12 as you claim unless you were assigned extra duty for your lack of performance!
    It was the hardest thing I ever did but well worth the effort in the end. I continued working in nuclear power and was able to retire comfortably at age 43.

    1. “couldn’t make the grade”. ….whatever. He made a good choice for himself. Well, I did make the grade. It took me a lot of extra hours and stress, but I got through and completed my six years as a nuke with an honorable discharge. I would not do it again or recommend it to others. Maybe when you left the navy, there was a good job market for ex-nukes, but things go in cycles. I don’t know when or where you went through prototype, but when I was there, staff worked 8’s and students did 12’s.

    2. My brother was in Rickover’s Navy too. Ended his career as a Rear Admiral.

      I loved every nuke I ever met. They and the Cyber Security units in both the USN and USAF were top notch intelligent and had great personalities! Always a delight to be around.

  4. Eh, I was a nuke for 21 years. Miserable long hours, hot machinery spaces, lots of underway time especially during the fuel crisis of the ’70s and ’80s (the fossil fuelers stayed pretty much tied up and we took their obligations). Seven 7 to 9 month deployments between ’74 and ’87 with two yard periods and a 3 year overhaul all out of home port mixed in. But, that was part of the job. The worst part were the complaining, whiner wussy nukes wah-wah’ing all the time about stuff they couldn’t change – they volunteered for it and couldn’t hack it.

  5. As former a HT, I didn’t realize my job was the worst in the Navy. I did start out in the Repair Department on a Sub Tender doing Shipfitter work, Lagging (insulation) and Asbestos rip outs but it wasn’t too bad. I went to C school and became a NonDestructive Testing operator and inspector working in QA. I missed out on the CHT (sanitation system) work. I eventually ended up in RadCon on shore duty teaching Radiation Workers.

  6. Being an HT is the greatest job in the Navy. Naming it the #1 worst job in the Navy is totally your opinion and should be stated as such. It is one of the hardest and it’s not for everyone. That’s why we are elite. The work ethic of an HT is second to none. The job teaches you technical and life skills like no other. To me, and almost all other HTs, it is the greatest job in the Navy! If the Navy told me I had to cross rate, I would get out tomorrow. Stop spreading false propaganda please.

    Yours truly,

    An 11 year Senior Chief

  7. I was an enlisted nuke for 6 years, and it’s my big regret in life. Nukes work the longest hours on the ship and always seem to get poked with the sh!t end of the stick. I stuck it out because I thought it would lead to great employment opportunities after the navy. Outside a very few industries, it doesn’t mean much. Most employers look at you as simply ex-military and not anything special. Veterans benefits are the same regardless of which branch or job you were in, so pick your branch and job by what experiences you want to have, not what “experience” you think looks good on a resume. Don’t get fooled by the big nuke bonuses; that’s just a bribe to keep people in a job they don’t want to be in.

  8. Went from seaman to BM2 in 4 years. Best rank in the Navy. Never a dull moment. Top side in the ocean air 24/7. It isn’t a cruise ship, everyone works(together). All the cruises were great. Ended up on PBR (Patrol Boat River). Not to bad a job, but no salt air in that brown river water. Created a lifetime of great memories.

  9. U.S. Navy is a HUGE exploiter of down and out young persons, whether they’re starving through high school in a trailer park with an alcoholic divorced mother or children of recent low-wage immigrants. My rating as a BM prepared me for a career as a janitor, which is what you essentially are as a BM on a Navy ship. Almost forgot to mention recent U.S. Naval Academy graduate officers who will work you almost to death in their race to become an Admiral someday.

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