If you have ever considered whether the Navy is a good option for your career, you probably wondered about the benefits and challenges that come with a life of military service.
A life of service is noble and selfless, but it is not for everyone. Some aspects may appeal to you, while others may not fit your needs or situation.
It is important to know what is expected before committing to the Navy.
Here is a list of the top pros and cons of serving in the Navy to help in your decision.
10 Pros of Serving in the Navy
Pro: Financial Job Security
If you’re looking for a career that provides stable income, the military is a great option. Pay is determined by a set scale based on rank and time in service. Additional financial incentives, such as skill-based or retention bonuses and hazardous duty pay may also be available. Even from the first day of enlistment, the military commits to paying its workforce twice monthly.
Pro: Travel the World
The Navy really is one of the best ways to get paid while seeing the world. Chances are that during a 4-year enlistment, you will deploy at least 1 time, often on a ship. Most ships stop at 4-8 ports during their deployment and some stop at even more. At each port visit, the Navy sets up tours and cultural excursions to help Sailors make the most of the opportunity.
Pro: Free Healthcare
The rising costs of medical care make healthcare benefits a huge draw in any career. Service members are able to enjoy free healthcare for themselves and family members listed on their record. This includes everything from hospital visits to routine check-ups and physicals. For those wanting to get care from civilian providers, a plan is available that allows for patients to choose their own doctor and pay a small co-pay.
Pro: Career Opportunities after Service
The Navy equips Sailors with a lot of specialized skills and training, which can be used to find rewarding careers after the military. Those with an active security clearance at the time of separating from the service are able to use that as a bargaining tool with potential employers to get higher pay or added benefits, since the new employer will not need to pay for the extensive background investigation that is needed with a new clearance.
Related Article: 10 Best Jobs In The Navy For Civilian Life
Pro: Free Housing
That’s right, FREE housing! For junior enlisted Sailors, this means accommodations on the ship or a small apartment-style room in the barracks. As Sailors become more senior, they are entitled to free housing on base or a housing allowance, BAH, that is based on the cost of living in the area they are stationed. Those with family members receive slightly higher BAH rates to account for their increased household expenses.
Pro: Pay for College
In just 90 days, Sailors are eligible to receive some financial compensation to be used for college classes, books, and living expenses. After 3 years of active service, the GI Bill will pay full tuition and provide a housing stipend for any public institution. In some circumstances, the GI Bill may be transferred to a spouse or child. Other education benefits, including tuition assistance and credits given for military training, are also available.
Pro: Paid Vacation
Sailors earn 30 days of paid vacation, or leave, every year—2.5 per month. Many military commands designate certain portions of the year, such as holidays and summer, for those with days saved to take vacations and spend time with family. Before and after deployments are other popular times to take time off. Many Sailors also take vacation time when they transfer from one command to another.
Pro: Tax-Free Shopping
The Navy Exchange, the equivalent of a mall, and the Commissary, or grocery store, are available to all military members to do their shopping tax-free. These stores frequently run special discounts that are only available to military members. The Commissary is also subsidized to keep costs down, especially in high cost-of-living areas and overseas. Shopping at the Navy Exchange and Commissary can be a great benefit to the military family’s budget.
Pro: Retirement Benefits
Very few companies are able to offer pensions today, but the Navy still has one of the best retirement programs available. Sailors who complete 20 years of active service are able to enjoy 50% of their monthly base pay in their retirement, as well as healthcare benefits. The Navy has recently started to offer a blended retirement system in which Sailors are eligible for contribution matching to a 401(k)-type account.
Pro: Opportunities for Promotion
With hard work and skill, every new recruit has the opportunity to advance within the ranks of the Navy. Advancement exams, written tests for each job specialty, are given periodically. Annual performance evaluations, advanced training, and awards are also considered at promotion time. If you are looking for a career that will reward you and offer promotions for your hard work and dedication, the Navy is a great option.
10 Cons of Serving in the Navy
The reliability of a paycheck is a great part of the Navy, but the actual compensation can be less than jobs with similar requirements and working hours out in the civilian sector. All Sailors are salaried, meaning that they receive the same financial compensation no matter how many hours they work. Under some circumstances, they are entitled to extra pay, such as when they are in extremely dangerous working conditions or away from family for a long time.
Con: Long Hours
A life of military service is exactly that—service. That means that long hours and hard work come with the job. This could mean 12+ hour shifts, being on-call all of the time, or spending months at sea. Anyone joining the Navy should expect to put in long hours, especially as they train to learn new skills and when on deployments.
Con: No Choice of Where to Live
The Navy does its best to take Sailors requests into account when looking at relocation, but the needs of the service always come first. This means that you may not receive your first, second, or even any of your top choices of assignment. The exception to this rule is for Sailors who have family members with disabilities that require specific care and are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program.
Con: Can’t Give “2 Weeks Notice”
If you are interested in just “trying it out” with the option to quit if you don’t like it, then the Navy is not for you. When you join the Navy, either through Enlisting or being commissioned as an Officer, you commit to a minimum service obligation. These obligations are usually 4 years or longer, depending on the amount of training the Navy provides (and pays for) as part of your contract.
Con: Extreme Working Environment
Some jobs in the Navy allow for comfortable, office-type work, but many do not. If you are unable or unwilling to work in extreme conditions, you may want to reconsider a military career. Whether it is long hours or hazardous physical locations, Navy workplaces are never boring. In some cases, special pay is authorized when the conditions could be considered hazardous or unusually dangerous.
Deployment, or prolonged missions away from a home duty station, are an inevitable part of military life. Many Sailors assigned to ships experience at least 1 deployment, often more, during every tour. These can range from just a few months to 6-9 months. During deployment, the pace of work is more intense and urgent. Communication with family back home can be less frequent or even restricted, depending on the mission.
Con: Need to be Disciplined
All military members must adhere to specific laws and regulations outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Failure to do so can result in withheld pay, loss of rank, or even jail time. Discipline is a huge part of military life, which is instilled in every new Sailor at boot camp. If you push back against authority, you will find the requirement to be disciplined and follow orders hard to do.
Con: Not a lot of Privacy
Sailors live in tight quarters, whether in barracks housing or on ships. This comes with a lack of personal space, time alone, and privacy. Expect to have others in your space almost all of the time. This includes leadership within your chain of command checking in on you with everything from personal finances to plans for time off, or liberty.
Con: Family Separation
All military members expect to spend time away from family during deployments but there are other circumstances that can take them away from home as well. Navy units need to complete training requirements to get ready for deployment, many of which must be done at-sea. So even the months leading up to a deployment can mean time away from family. Schools, training, and temporary duty assignments can also come up.
Con: Physical Fitness Requirements
The Navy has a strict set of physical standards, including weight limits, grooming standards, and physical fitness tests. Sailors take a Physical Readiness Test, or PRT, every 6 months. This consists of sit ups, pushups, sit-and-reach, and cardio (often a run). They must meet minimum requirements to pass. Fortunately, commands also have physical fitness leaders to help those who may be struggling to get and stay in shape.
There are numerous things to love about life in the Navy. There are also challenges that may be hard to overcome. The important thing to do is weigh the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line of an enlistment contract.
Think about what you and your family needs to decide if the Navy is the right place for you. If you are looking for a career dedicated to something larger than yourself, look no further than the Navy.
Ask questions about what to expect and what benefits you will be entitled to as a new Sailor.
Being informed is an important part of the process and can help you make the best decision.