Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: August 3, 2008
Updated: August 4, 2019
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 31QT 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.
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 increased to 39 years of age for non-prior service applicants.
Note: Effective immediately (February 26, 2018), the minimum ASVAB score required for enlistment to the Navy has been decreased from a 35QT to a 31QT.