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Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer

OFFICER | Full Time

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Naval Combat Systems Engineers maintain combat systems in ships and submarines. They are responsible for the leadership and wellbeing of a large team of highly trained technical professionals who perform the systems analysis, fault-finding and maintenance of equipment to ensure peak performance.

The primary role of the Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer is to provide technical expertise, advice and leadership for the operation and maintenance of the following naval combat systems:

  • Above water and underwater warfare systems and its ammunition
  • Above water and underwater sensor systems
  • Navigation systems
  • Communication systems
  • Command and control systems
  • Data processing systems
  • Electronic warfare systems

Work environment

Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers are employed in the ships and submarines of the Forces Naval Fleet and at shore-based establishments.

Marine Systems Engineers serve as the Head of the Combat Systems Engineering Department. They deal with the challenges associated with life at sea while leading a large number of personnel. In shore-based establishments, Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers are employed throughout Canada, primarily in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Victoria, British Columbia; the National Capital Region; and abroad. The range of employment is wide and involves the challenges of understanding present and future technologies. In addition, they are employed in staff, training and administrative positions requiring engineering expertise.

Career Overview




McCALLUM: Missiles, guns and torpedoes are my responsibility.

SOWA: We make sure the ship is combat capable.

SOWA: The Canadian Navy maintains a presence throughout the world as much to prevent conflict as to be prepared to end it through force.

But when it finally comes down to that, Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers, ensure that the vessels of the Canadian Navy are ready to fight.

I’m Lieutenant Navy Marie Sonya Sowa from Waterford, Ontario and I’m a Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer in the Canadian Navy.

And I’m Lieutenant Commander Eric McCallum from Ottawa - I’m the Combat Systems Engineering Officer on the submarine HMCS Cornerbrook.

McCALLUM: We lead the other members of the Combat Systems Engineering Team.

SOWA: As a team we’re responsible for the operational readiness and maintenance of Naval Weapons Systems, communications, radars & sonars.

CSEOs must be engaged leaders, be able to manage resources and have the technical expertise necessary to be responsible for the multitude of combat systems aboard modern warships.

We also design and apply new weapons technologies to ensure the survivability of the ship and its ability to respond in tactical situations.

It’s an outstanding platform to be working on as an engineer.

McCALLUM: This occupation allows me to see this complex and sophisticated equipment perform as intended in the real world.

SOWA: On top of all that, we’re an integral part of the Emergency Response Team, performing important damage control tasks while the ship is at emergency or action stations to ensure that it can still fight.

Whether it’s working down below in the operations room or working up top on weapons systems, it’s a new adventure and a new challenge every day.

By enrolling in the Regular Officer Training Plan, or ROTP, you can get started right after high school by earning your Bachelor’s Degree at the Royal Military College of Canada, or any other accredited Canadian university.

McCALLUM: Or if you’re already in the process of obtaining an engineering degree, you may be eligible for the Direct Entry Officer Plan.

Preference will be given to applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in either Electrical or Computer Engineering, but other Engineering or Science degrees will be considered.

SOWA: Under either entry plan, all candidates will be required to attend the basic military officer qualification course.

This is where you'll fine tune your natural leadership abilities, and learn the regulations and customs of the Canadian Forces.

And after that, you’ll be off to the Naval Officer Training Centre in Victoria, B.C. for the Naval Environmental Training Program, or NETP - four weeks of which will be spent on board a minor war vessel where you’ll earn your sea legs.

You’ll attend the next phase of your training at the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

This is when you begin to apply all of your education and engineering skills to the maritime environment.

You’ll receive detailed instruction in the theory, application, operation, maintenance and management of the Combat Systems Engineering department and its personnel.

Upon completion of this phase of your training you’ll be assigned to your first ship for a period of one year to consolidate all of your skills, knowledge and training.

McCALLUM: My first posting was onboard a ship where I learned the ropes to become a combat systems engineering officer. I was then posted to a submarine as the head of the Combat Systems Engineering Department.

SOWA: When you’re working onboard a ship, you’re a part of the crew, and with that comes additional responsibilities, such as ship evolutions, leading the Boarding Party or being a part of the ship’s Dive Team.

I became a ship’s team diver to combine both fitness & academics so that I could have a better life balance.

The Canadian Navy deploys regularly to reassure our friends in the global community as well as to deter those who might wish us harm.

As an officer in the Canadian Navy, you’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to be a part of that global community, and to build relationships with colleagues from all over the world.

I’ve personally have had the opportunity to travel to many locations from Hawaii to San Diego, San Francisco, Mexico, Alaska. I’ve travelled a lot on the West Coast which is where I was posted.

Of course we also patrol domestic waters and support Search and Rescue operations when we’re at home.

McCALLUM: Once you’ve completed your work on a ship or submarine, you can progress onto project management or research & development.

SOWA: You’ll be offered opportunities for engineering specialization through fully funded post-graduate education in Canada or abroad.

There is an on-going need for Naval Combat Systems Engineers with a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering or Guided Weapons Systems, or specialized skills in things like Radar Systems Analysis, Electronic Warfare or Underwater Acoustics.

McCALLUM: If you choose to work as a Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officer with the Canadian Navy, you’ll have a chance to work with a dynamic team and satisfy your sense of adventure.

SOWA: If you have a leadership ability, enjoy math & science, and love emerging technology, then this might be the job for you.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • No directly related civilian jobs


After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Naval Combat Systems Engineering Officers attend several courses held at the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The first course, Naval Engineering Indoctrination, lasts 11 weeks and introduces the systems, equipment and personnel of the two engineering departments of the Fleet. This course includes seven weeks on board a major warship.

The next course, Naval Combat Systems Engineering Applications, lasts 28 weeks and provides detailed instruction in the theory, application, operation, maintenance, personnel and management of Naval Combat Systems Engineering. On completion, officers join the ships of the Fleet for one year in order to consolidate their skills and knowledge of Naval Combat Systems Engineering.

Naval Combat Systems Engineers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Computer software management
  • Guided weapons systems and ammunitions
  • Radar systems analysis
  • Electronic warfare
  • Digital and satellite communications

As they progress in their career, Naval Combat Systems Engineers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Combat systems engineering
  • Weapon system engineering
  • Underwater acoustics
  • Naval architecture

Entry plans

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Regular Officer Training Plan

Due to the requirement for CAF officer to obtain a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a bachelor degree program in the Royal Military College System. Recruits will receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working in the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In rare instances, based on the needs of the CAF, candidates may be approved attend another Canadian University. A determination will be made on a case by case basis. If you are applying for this program, you must apply to the CAF and it is recommended to apply to other Canadian universities of your choice should you not be accepted for ROTP.

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.