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United States Navy Enlistment Eligibility

Basic Requirements for Navy Enlistment

Updated: January 19, 2018

Applicants wanting to enlist in the United States Navy must meet specific eligibility requirements to be considered qualified. The following information is segmented into the various types of things that are required, and each of those paragraphs have links to the specific pages that may answer your questions. There are a few hundred pages of information regarding enlistment eligibility available, not to mention the thousands of informative comments. Please ask any questions you may have on the most appropriate page, or use the “Contact Me” link to communicate privately via email. Please keep your comments anonymous as your privacy is paramount.

A short note to keep in mind as you read this and any attached pages: When filling out your application to join the Navy, all your historical information (residence, education, and employment) must be listed for at least the last seven years; however, any prior military service, health issues, police involvement (tickets, citations, arrests, etc), drug, alcohol, and financial information must be included since your date of birth. For example, if you are 25 years old, and you received a ticket for jaywalking at 12 years old, the ticket must be listed in your application.

So, first let’s talk about how old you have to be to join the Navy. The days of being 15 years old and lying about your age to get in are long gone. You have to be at least 17 years of age (17 with parents signed permission that is) and not older than 39 (if you have reached your 40th birthday, your ship has sailed as it were) for service in the active Navy; and for the Navy Reserve, you can be anywhere from 18-39 years of age for service in the Navy Reserve.

Update as of April 13, 2011: 17 year old applicants may enlist into the Delayed Entry Program but may not ship prior to their 18th birthday, unless their 18th birthday will occur no later than 60 days from date of shipping. All other notes regarding enlistment of 17 year old applicants still apply.

You need to be a United States citizen, permanent resident alien, or U.S. non-citizen national and possess a Social Security Card. You can’t join if we can’t tax ya! (Detailed citizenship requirements)

Non-prior service applicants must be a High School Diploma Graduate (DoD Tier I) and be able to achieve a minimum of a 35QT composite score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). If you do not have an approved Tier I credential, then a Tier II credential, like the General Education Diploma (GED) may be used, but a minimum ASVAB score of 50QT is required. Tier II applicants must be advised that the openings available for Tier II credentials are very limited.

English doesn’t have to be your first language, but you must be proficient in reading, speaking, writing, and understanding English to enlist.

You can have no more than one dependent although dependency waivers may be granted if you have more dependents when you can prove that you are a financially responsible human being. Note: If you’re single, you must not have physical custody of a dependent if you are processing for enlistment in the active Navy.

Whether you are enlisting or seeking a commission, you must pass a physical examination. This isn’t your everyday physical and it must be completed by a doctor at the Military Entrance Processing Station (good ol’ MEPS). You must be within the Navy height and weight standards. The physical not only checks your current status but reviews your past medical history as some ailments can cause long term issues that you may not feel any effects from today. Some disqualifying medical conditions can be waived and some are normally disqualifying altogether.

You can not be under civil restraint to include, but not limited to, probation or incarceration nor have a pattern of minor convictions or any non-minor misdemeanor or felony convictions; although, Conduct Waivers may be granted depending on number and severity – your personal conduct and accomplishments are just a couple of the factors used to determine your waiver (remember: if you get to the point where a waiver interview will be conducted, be respectful and polite!). Special circumstances for domestic violence charges and convictions.

You can not be a substance abuser to include prescription drugs, alcohol, and/or illegal drugs. The Navy has a zero tolerance when it comes to drug usage, it is a ONE strike and you’re OUT.

Keep in mind this post is very general and is intended to give you a basic overview of enlistment requirements. Make sure you discuss any and all information with your Recruiter and ensure ultimately the information is documented in your enlistment application.

Note: Effective immediately (January 19, 2018), the maximum age for enlistment to the active duty Navy has been increased to 39 years of age for non-prior service applicants.

2,270 Responses to “Basic Requirements for Navy Enlistment”

  1. NCCM(Ret) says:


    You cannot join with a work permit; you must have your green card in hand before you can apply.

  2. Tina. says:

    I’m talking to the navy recruiter and I want to be a HM but he said I’m over qualified because I have a nursing degree from Indonesia. I told him I don’t care I can start at the bottoms I just want to be in the medical field. Is this true if you have a foreign degree you can’t be a hm. Thank you Tina!

  3. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Your recruiter is correct. Licensed physicians, dentists, nurses, or graduates of a medical, dental, or nursing school in any country are ineligible for the Hospital Corpsman rating.

  4. Babs says:

    Do non prior service applicants join FTS or you have to be at least E2 in the reserves or active?

  5. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Although not common, applicants are offered FTS ratings at enlistment that they may qualify for. The reason they are not common is because there is not, comparatively, a lot of FTS billets.

  6. Shawn says:

    I want to enlist in the navy, 22 years old. I graduated highschool rather early due to it being an online course(Broady academy, in texas). I have the diploma and all the surrounding universities accept it, would there be any sort of issue trying to enlist with an online graduate diploma? Would I be better off just completing a GED before I talk to a recruiter?

  7. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Bring your current education credentials to your recruiter so they can be evaluated. If your diploma does not meet the criteria for a Tier I education, it may already qualify as a Tier II (same as a GED).

  8. Alejandro. says:

    I would like to enlist in the navy but I’m 30 years old, I don’t know if I can apply.

  9. NCCM(Ret) says:


    As the article states, for active duty, you must be in boot-camp before your 35th birthday.

  10. Alvin says:

    Hello everyone, I’m 22 years old & I’m interested in joining the Navy, I’ve always had an interest in the Navy since I was 15. Is it worth it joining the Navy in 2018? Also I have a passion for music and one of my goals is to become a recording artist and own my own record label one day. Will I be able to pursue my dreams in music while being in the Navy?

  11. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I am a little bias, but I think it is always a good time to join the Navy. Many Sailors indulge themselves with music while serving in the Navy. From my generation as an example, MC Hammer comes to mind.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I want to join this year. I am 28 years old, a single mother and I think I am right on the 57 inch heigh mark. Would I have to give my mother temporary custody of my son? And would my height be an issue?

  13. NCCM(Ret) says:


    You must give up full and complete custody if you plan to join active duty, and you cannot attempt to regain custody until the end of your first enlistment. You do not have to give up custody to join the Reserve.

    If you are less than 57 inches tall, you would be ineligible with no waiver authorized.

  14. Chase says:

    I received an intent to distribute or aquire a dangerous substance charge as a juvenile and successfully completed all court requirements. Would that disqualify me?

  15. NCCM(Ret) says:


    With an adversely adjudicated trafficking related drug charge, you are not eligible for enlistment in the armed forces.

  16. NCCM(Ret) says:

    To all. Effective immediately, January 19, 2018, the maximum age for active duty non-prior service United States Navy applicants has been increased from 34 to 39 years of age. The applicant must be able to ship to boot-camp before their 40th birthday.

  17. Barry says:

    I am looking to join the Navy but I have had a few run ins with the law. For example:Minor consumption/False Information/assault 5th degree/Disorderly conduct/Obstruction of the legal process. Will these hinder me in my pursuit?

  18. NCCM(Ret) says:


    As long as none of the charges were not originally charged as a felony at the time of arrest, a waiver may be possible if otherwise fully qualified (specifics of each charge and arrest notwithstanding).

  19. Barry says:

    No felony charges. My main concern is still be eligible for HM or MA?

  20. NCCM(Ret) says:


    No. You are ineligible for both HM and MA because you have an alcohol related offense — no program waiver authorized.

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A Navy recruiting blog that delves into the military enlistment process and benefits of service. This is NOT an official United States Navy or government web site. The opinions expressed are my own, and may not be in-line with any branches of the government or military.

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Unless otherwise noted, content written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET).

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