Quartermasters in the original US Navy were responsible for such duties as monitoring the helmsman, heaving the log, and shooting azimuths, among other now antiquated, outdated duties.
Such is no longer the case.
In today’s Navy, the Quartermaster (QM) is a sailor who specializes in navigation.
They not only serve as the watch-to-watch representative of the ship’s navigator, whose primary responsibility is the safe navigation of the ship, they also advise the Officer of the Deck (OOD) on navigational matters, maintain the ship’s Deck Log, plots the ship’s position on the chart, obtains and plots fixes, and maintains a dead reckoning plot of the ship’s projected position.
The Navy QM rating should not be confused with the job of the quartermaster in the Army.
Logistics Specialist (LS) is the Navy rating dealing with logistics and supplies, equivalent to an Army quartermaster.
Quartermasters are one of the oldest rates in the United States Navy, and one of only four that are still ratings in the modern Navy, along with Yeoman (YN), Gunners Mate (GM), and Boatswains Mate (BM).
The Signalman (SM) rating was disestablished in 2003 and folded into the QM rating.
Related Article – Navy Yeoman (YN): Career Details
Quartermasters must obligate to a five-year active-duty enlistment.
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Requirements and Qualifications
To serve as a Quartermaster (QM) in the United States Navy, there are specific requirements which must be met:
- Must be a US citizen.
- Must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
- Must have normal color perception.
- Vision must correct to 20/20.
- Must have normal hearing.
- Must be able to meet all requirements to obtain a Secret security clearance.
- Must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Must have an Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score of VE (Verbal) + AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) = 96.
Training and Career Path
QMs, like all other Navy enlisted personnel, must successfully complete eight weeks of Navy Recruit Training, at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes).
The Quartermaster Class “A” Technical School is located in Great Lakes, Illinois and is nine weeks in duration.
At QM “A” school, sailors are taught the fundamentals of navigation and oceanography through classroom and group instructions.
Upon graduation, the new QMs must be able to conduct weather observations, operate electronic navigation equipment, determine compass and gyro error, keep logs and records, compute times of sunrise and sunset, compute tide and tidal current data, determine their ship’s position by visual and electronic means, and follow the nautical rules-of-the-road to prevent collisions at sea.
Related Article – Navy Boatswain’s Mate (BM): Career Details
What’s Life Like for a Navy Quartermaster (QM)?
Quartermasters assist the navigators and officers of the deck by standing watch, serving as helmsman, and performing bridge watch duties.
QMs also perform navigation and ship control duties.
Quartermasters routinely work on a variety of tasks on a day-to-day basis.
Their varied duties include:
- Maintain navigational instruments.
- Keep correct navigational time.
- Stow, use, correct, and procure oceanographic and navigational publications and oceanographic charts.
- Send and receive visual messages.
- Serve as petty officers in charge of propelled barges, tug boats, and other district craft and yard craft.
- In accordance with nation observance and foreign custom, render “Honors and Ceremonies.”
Quartermasters spend the majority of their workday on the ship’s bridge or in a clean air-conditioned electronic equipment space.
Much of their work is problem-solving and mental analysis.
While QMs mostly work as part of a team, individual projects are assigned, as well.
Navy Quartermaster (QM) Sea/Shore Rotation
Quartermaster is a sea-intensive rating. QMs spend about 40 percent of their time on shore duty and 60 percent of their time assigned to the fleet.
|Tour||Sea Tour||Shore Tour|
|First Tour||54 Months (4.5 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
|Second Tour||60 Months (5 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
|Third Tour||48 Months (4 Years)||36 Months (3 Years))|
|Fourth Tour||48 Months (4 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
|Fifth Tour||36 Months (3 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
|Sixth Tour||36 Months (3 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
|Seventh Tour||36 Months (3 Years)||36 Months (3 Years)|
How Much Are Quartermasters (QM) Paid?
Like all the other Armed Services, the Navy bases a sailor’s pay on their rank and length of service.
|Insignia||Pay Grade||Rank||Abbreviation||2020 Minimum Monthly Pay|
|E-4||Petty Officer Third Class||PO3||$2,263|
|E-5||Petty Officer Second Class||PO2||$2,468|
|E-6||Petty Officer First Class||PO1||$2,694|
|E-7||Chief Petty Officer||CPO||$3,114|
|E-8||Senior Chief Petty Officer||SCPO||$4,480|
|E-9||Master Chief Petty Officer||MCPO||$5,473|
|E-9||Command Master Chief Petty Officer||CMDCM||$5,473|
|E-9||Master Chief Petty Officer Of The Navy||MCPON||$5,473|
As are all sailors, QMs may be entitled to other forms of compensation including base allowance for housing (BAH), base allowance for subsistence (BAS), sea pay, etc.
Related Article: Navy Height And Weight Standards
The few reviews from current and former QMs gleaned from indeed.com vary, but mostly positive:
The Department of the Navy’s Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) website estimates that there are about 2,000 men and women serving as Quartermasters in the Navy today.
Civilian Career Opportunities
Opportunities for Quartermasters leaving the Navy exist with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) as well as opportunities with the United States Merchant Marines.
Sailors in the Quartermaster rating are encouraged to take full advantage of on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities, and educational opportunities offered and afforded to them during their naval service.
Related Article – Dishonorable Discharge: Reasons, Consequences, And More
The United States Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) also allows QMs to complete several of their civilian apprenticeship requirements while on active duty.
Several national certifications, federal licenses, and state licenses are obtainable by sailors in the Quartermaster rating.
Related Federal Occupations include:
- 1361 – Navigational Information Series
- 1370 – Cartography Series
- 1371 – Cartographic Technician Series
- 5782 – Ship Operating
- 9926 – Quartermaster
Note that these occupations may require additional experience, training, or education.
Young men and women considering the Navy, who possess a good working knowledge of arithmetic, an understanding of modern computing devices, and ablility to function well as a member of an integrated team, should consider the QM rating.
The rating will afford you not only the opportunity to serve your country and see the world, but will also teach you the skills and provide you the experience to face the civilian world after your life in the Navy.