navy quartermaster - qm rate

Navy Quartermaster (QM): Career Details

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for such duties as monitoring the helmsman, heaving the log, and shooting azimuths, among other now antiquated, outdated duties.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.

navy qm
QM3 David Butler scans the horizon for contacts aboard the USS Stethem (DDG 63). (Source: U.S. Navy / MC2 Harper)

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 ArticleNavy 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 A 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 ArticleNavy 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.

QMSN Ramses Jones observes the USS Arizona memorial from the signal bridge as amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) arrives in port Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (Source: US Navy / MC3 Votaw)

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.

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour54 Months (4.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour60 Months (5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years))
Fourth Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fifth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Sixth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Seventh Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)

Like all the other Armed Services, the Navy bases a sailor’s pay on their rank and length of service.

InsigniaPay Grade RankAbbreviation2021 Minimum Monthly Pay
N/AE-1Seaman RecruitSR$1,785.00
E-2Seaman ApprenticeSA$2,000.70
e-3 navy seamanE-3SeamanSN$2,103.90
petty officer third classE-4Petty Officer Third ClassPO3$2,330.40
petty officer second classE-5Petty Officer Second ClassPO2$2,541.60
petty officer first classE-6Petty Officer First ClassPO1$2,774.40
chief petty officerE-7Chief Petty OfficerCPO$3,207.60
senior chief petty officerE-8Senior Chief Petty OfficerSCPO$4,614.60
master chief petty officerE-9Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPO$5,637.00
command master chief petty officerE-9Command Master Chief Petty OfficerCMDCM$5,637.00
master chief petty officer of the navyE-9Master Chief Petty Officer Of The NavyMCPON$5,637.00

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

Job Reviews

The few reviews from current and former QMs gleaned from 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.

QM1 Clarence Ilijic, left, teaches QMSN Eden Boyd how to operate a Brandon Type Stadimeter on the USS Rushmore (LSD 47). (Source: US Navy / MC2 Gray)

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 ArticleDishonorable 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.

MCQM James Fox explains the concept of celestial navigation to Royal Australian Navy Sailors from the HMAS Canberra (L02) on vulture’s row aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (Source: US Navy /MC2 McCulloch)

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. 


Find A Navy Recruiter

Official Navy Careers Page

Navy Personnel Command Quartermaster (QM) Overview

Navy COOL Summary For Quartermaster (QM)

Navy COOL Quartermaster (QM) Rating Card

Navy Quartermaster (QM) Reviews –

Travis R.
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2 Replies to “Navy Quartermaster (QM): Career Details

  1. Photo shown with caption: QM1 Clarence Ilijic, left, teaches QMSN Eden Boyd how to operate a sextant on the USS Rushmore (LSD 47). The device the QMSN is holding in the photo is a ‘Brandon type stadimeter’ not a marine sextant. A stadimeter is used to measure the distance to an object of a known height.

    Master Chief Quartermaster (QMCM) (SW), US Navy (Retired).

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