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:
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.
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.
|Aviation Boatswain's Mate||AB|
|Air Traffic Controller||AC|
|Aviation Machinist's Mate||AD|
|Aviation Electrician's Mate||AE|
|Aviation Structural Mechanic||AM|
|Aviation Support Equipment Technician||AS|
|Aviation Electronics Technician||AT|
|Aviation Warfare Systems Operator||AW|
|Aviation Maintenance Administrationman||AZ|
|Electronics Warfare Technician||EW|
|Gas-Turbine System Technician||GS|
|Hull Maintenance Technician||HT|
|Information Systems Technician||IT|
|Interior Communications Electrician||IC|
|Mess Management Specialist||MS|
|Religious Programs Specialist||RP|