Naval rating

The term rating or rate carries different meanings depending on which navy is being discussed.

Royal Navy

In the Royal Navy, A rating or rate is a military rank that is not conferred by commission or warrant. It may refer to the rank, or may be used as a synonym for an ordinary sailor. A rate is the equivalent of a military rank, held by a person below the ranks of Warrant Officer. A person who holds a rate is known as a rating.

In the age of sail, when civilians were frequently pressed into service in the Royal Navy, seamen were rated as "Landsman", "Ordinary", "Able", "Petty Officer", etc. by their captains to designate their ability and responsibility. Some men were given specialist rates, e.g. Surgeon's Mate, Gunner's Mate, Captain's secretary, etc.

Although generally commissioned officers were senior to warrant officers and warrant officers were senior to ratings, the method of appointment of men on a ship did not always reflect their seniority. For example, in those days the ship's cook was appointed by warrant, while Midshipmen were rated.

Today, Royal Navy ratings have two rates, a substantive rate that indicates their seniority, and a non-substantive rate that indicates their specialisation. For example, a Leading Rate who is a Radio Operator will be titled "LRO Smith"

The substantive rates today are:

Senior Rates -

Junior Rates -

The former Ordinary Rate is no longer used.

In the age of sail, there was also a system of rating ships by the number of guns carried.

United States Navy

In the U.S. Navy enlisted personnel are classified according to rating, which is the naval term for Military Occupational Specialty. Sailors obtain a rating either through attending a naval 'A' school (basic vocational/technical training) or through on-the-job training. All sailors that have a pay-grade of E-1, E-2, and E-3 belong to a general apprenticeship field. These fields all have a general rate abbreviation. These rates and abbreviations are Seaman (SN), Fireman (FN), and Airman (AN). A sailor that is an E-1, E-2, or E-3 is considered a "striker" when a considerable amount of training or experience towards a rating is achieved. Once training for a rating has been completed, an abbreviation that represents the rating trained is added to a sailors general rate abbreviation.

If an Airman (AN) completes training for the rating of Aviation Electricians Mate (AE), his general rate abbreviation becomes AEAN. He will be formally known as an Aviation Electricians Mate Airman. If a Seaman completes training for the rate of Boatswains Mate, her general rate abbreviation will be BMSN and she will be formally known as Boatswains Mate Seaman.

Rating and rate are often confused with each other. Rating always refers to the specific occupation a sailor belongs to, while rate involves pay-grade. For example, if a sailor is called a "radioman" he is being called by his rating. If a sailor is called BM3, he is being called by his rate. A rate also only applies to pay-grade E-4 and above (Petty Officers or higher). A sailor who holds the rate of BM3 is a Boatswains Mate Petty Officer 3rd class. An OSC is an Operations Specialist Chief. A rate reveals a lot of identification about a sailor.

U.S. Navy Ratings and their Abbreviations

Rating Abbreviation
Aviation Boatswain's Mate AB
Air Traffic Controller AC
Aviation Machinist's Mate AD
Aviation Electrician's Mate AE
Aerographer's Mate AG
Aviation Storekeeper AK
Aviation Structural Mechanic AM
Aviation Ordnanceman AO
Aviation Support Equipment Technician AS
Aviation Electronics Technician AT
Aviation Warfare Systems Operator AW
Aviation Maintenance Administrationman AZ
Boatswain's Mate BM
Builder BU
Construction Electrician CE
Construction Mechanic CM
Cryptologic Technician CT
Damage Controlman DC
Disbursing Clerk DK
Illustrator-Draftsman DM
Dental Technician DT
Engineering Aide EA
Electrician's Mate EM
Engineman EN
Equipment Operator EO
Electronics Technician ET
Electronics Warfare Technician EW
Fire Controlman FC
Fire-Control Technician FT
Gunner's Mate GM
Gas-Turbine System Technician GS
Hospital Corpsman HM
Hull Maintenance Technician HT
Information Systems Technician IT
Interior Communications Electrician IC
Intelligence Specialist IS
Journalist JO
Lithographer LI
Legalman LN
Master-at-Arms MA
Machinist's Mate MM
Mineman MN
Machinery Repairman MR
Mess Management Specialist MS
Missile Technician MT
Musician MU
Navy Counselor NC
Operations Specialist OS
Postal Clerk PC
Photographer's Mate PH
Personnelman PN
Aircrew Survival PR
Quartermaster QM
Religious Programs Specialist RP
Ship's Serviceman SH
Storekeeper SK
Signalman SM
Sonar Technician ST
Steelworker SW
Torpedoman's Mate TM
Utilitiesman UT
Yeoman YN


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