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Careers / joining process
Careers / joining process



You need to be aged 16 or over to join the Royal Navy. If you're under the age of 18, you’ll need the consent of a parent or guardian. You can find out the age requirements for each job by using our Role Finder.

You can join the Royal Navy if you’re aged 16 to 39, dependent on the role you choose. The shortest Royal Navy career is four years. But you can choose to serve up to 22 years and beyond, depending on the needs of the Service.

If you’re too young to apply, you can join the Sea Cadets. This is a great way to develop your leadership and teamwork skills, while gaining a valuable insight into life in the Royal Navy. Find out more about the Sea Cadets.


Each Royal Navy role has its own joining process. This includes a series of assessments like physical tests, multiple choice exams, and a medical.

You need to be medically fit to deal with everything that life in the Royal Navy throws at you.

Common conditions that may delay or bar your entry to the Naval Service include:

  • asthma within the last four years
  • a break or joint strain that caused you to seek medical help
  • any medical condition that requires regular prescription medication or review by your GP
  • a BMI exceeding 28 or that is under 18. There may be some exceptions to the upper BMI rate if your waist measures less than 94cm (NHS calculator will help you know your BMI)
  • a minimum height of 145cm (151.5cm for Aviators; 157cm for Submariners)

Nationality and residency

For security reasons, some roles have stricter nationality and residency requirements than others. But in general, you can join the Royal Navy if you’re:

  • a national of the United Kingdom or Ireland
  • a Commonwealth citizen who is applying from inside their own country (age 18) or as a resident of the UK (age 16). You must also hold a valid passport
  • a dual British national who is not required to complete National Service (written evidence may be required)
  • a British national living abroad

Criminal convictions

If you have a previous criminal conviction, you may still be able to join. However, if you’ve committed certain offences or served specific types of sentence, you might be permanently barred from entering or re-entering the Royal Navy. You will be required to:

  • complete a full security check
  • declare all previous convictions, both spent and unspent
  • undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if you‘re applying to the medical branch, gaining a suitability certificate where appropriate

Get more information online from your local Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) or by calling 0345 607 5555.

Tattoos and piercings

Most tattoos and piercings won’t prevent you from joining the Royal Navy, providing:
  • tattoos are not visible on a front-view passport-style photograph (e.g. not on your face, throat area or in front of your ears)
  • tattoos are not offensive or obscene (see our policy for full details)
  • any piercings can be removed. Flesh tunnels are a barrier to entry

Tattoos on your hands are now acceptable if they follow the guidelines outlined above and as laid out in our tattoo policy. If you have any questions about your tattoos or the change in policy, please contact a careers adviser.

You will need to fill in a form describing your tattoos and must also show them during the selection process. You will also be required to remove certain body jewellery before taking part in any physical activity.

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flight deck handlers dressed in ochre kit with high viz banding relaxing after a busy session on the flight deck of HMS Prince Of Wales