Full Time | Part Time | NCM

Naval Communicator

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Naval Communicators establish and manage all external voice, radio-teletype and data circuits, and provide real-time tactical information in support of operations.

Naval Communicators establish and maintain communications with national and allied networks over radio frequencies required for mission coordination, using tactical line-of-sight, long-range and satellite communications. It is also their responsibility to advise Command on tactical signaling and ship maneuvering, encoding/decoding of signals and dissemination of tactical and maneuvering signals. Their primary duties include:

  • Radio-teletype
  • Computer networking
  • Satellite, tactical voice and visual communications
  • Classified and unclassified computer networks
  • Computer-based message processing network
  • Radio communication control systems
  • Cryptographic and satellite equipment in support of high speed data and imagery exchanges




I’m Leading Seaman Jake Cotter from Toronto, Ontario, a Naval Communicator serving on board HMCS Halifax.

And I’m Master Seaman Kareem Negm originally from Cairo, Egypt. I’m a Naval Communicator currently working as an instructor at the Canadian Forces Fleet School, Esquimalt.

NEGM: As Naval Communicators or Nav Comms, we’re right in the centre of the fast-paced action on the bridge and in the Communications Control Rooms of Canadian destroyers and frigates and in submarines.

COTTER: Nav Comms combine expertise in the latest computer and satellite messaging technologies with traditional naval communication skills, such as signalling by flaghoist, flashing Morse code by lights and over-the-air voice operations.

The communicator on the bridge is just one part of the job. When you’re up there, you’re handling the voice circuits with the other ships, which means that you’re on the radio with them, passing the orders, from your officer of the watch out through the circuit to the communicator on the other ship who passes it to their officer of the watch. When stuff happens, you don’t have the time to sit back and look up in the book and try to figure out what’s the right thing to do. You have to know what the correct signal is, right now, especially if something emergency happens – there’s a man overboard at sea or there’s a fire on board or there’s something – there’s simply isn’t time to look it up. You’re just picking up the radio and calling it.

The environment in the CCR, the communications control room, is different. This is where we work the radios. It’s also where we do most of the IT – the information technology stuff on board, so there’s always something going on in here and it’s very technical. And sometimes you’re here for 7 hours and it feels like 7 minutes.

NEGM: In this day in age, the emphasis has been more on the new communication methods, so a lot of IT, a lot of computers, a lot of new technologies that enable us to communicate better, communicate faster.

COTTER: I like to say that as Nav Comms, we’ve got the coolest tools in the sandbox. Combine that with the Navy lifestyle and the world travel and this is one great job.

COTTER: Everything that comes through the ship comes through you. Whether it’s the satellites or the radios or the flashing light, if anyone’s talking – you’re there.

I love the IT aspect as well. The fact that we are the first ones to access all the new technologies that come along yet we still maintain those traditional naval signaling methods like signal flags and flashing lights. On any given day, you can go from Morse code to satellites -- and that’s really cool.

With our communications and IT expertise, we easily backfill into Army deployments, for example, in Afghanistan and anywhere else they need us. There are also opportunities for specialty training in everything from advanced computer networking technologies, to cryptographic equipment, to SCUBA diving.

NEGM: It’s not necessarily that you’re living an adventure every single day of being in the Navy, but you’re definitely in situations that a lot of people in their regular day-to-day jobs don’t find. For instance, it’s not every day that you get to be part of a boarding party and get to search a dhow. It’s not every day that you get to dive on a warship looking for a mine, for instance.

NEGM: To serve as a Naval Communicator, you don’t have to be a computer geek or radiohead going in. After your basic military and naval training, you’ll head out to Esquimalt, B.C., for the training you’ll need in radio theory and computer skills and how they fit into the Navy mission.

COTTER: The Naval Communications Course covers everything from Communications and IT Security to fleet manoeuvring at sea.

You also have to know how to do Officer-of-the-watch manoeuvres and ship manoeuvring aboard and flaghoist, and Morse code and you also have to be comfortable with computers, so you’re always learning new stuff.

COTTER: When you leave Fleet School, you’ll be assigned to a ship stationed in either Esquimalt or Halifax. The first posting as a Naval Communicator lasts two to three years. It’s your first taste of life at sea.

NEGM: You’d go through a one-in-two watch system, so you’d work 7 hours, and then you have 7 hours to yourself which you’d sleep, do laundry, watch movies, send emails home and then you’d go back to work for 5 hours and then have another 5 hours off.

COTTER: On board a warship, Nav Comms don’t just spend all their time wearing a headset. You’re also part of the ship’s damage-control organization and like all sailors, we do our share in cleanup teams. You may also be assigned to take part in search and rescue situations, force protection, boarding operations and mid-ocean replenishment operations.

When you sail, even as a brand new ordinary seaman, you can find your ship going to the Persian Gulf, you can find your ship going to a NATO which means you’re going to all sorts of ports all over the world and now increasingly, what most people are finding is that they’re going out and they’re going on a ship that’s going on anti-piracy patrols. So right after you just finished your course, suddenly you’re out there and you’re saving lives.

COTTER: Every so often, I’ll be on the bridge at sea doing firings where they’re firing off the main gun and I’m thinking to myself, Wow, I actually get to be here and I’m actually being a part of this and it seems so amazing.

NEGM: Within my first few years, I did two Gulf deployments: one to the Persian Gulf and then the other one to the Gulf of Aiden and all the stops along the way which included most of Asia and Middle Eastern countries as well. I’ve also been to Hawaii and, of course, down south to California, so definitely the travel is there.

COTTER: The only thing that I really regret is that I, after I got out of school, I spent so much time sort of kicking around from one nothing job to another. If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time – not to mention the fact that the money is excellent.




Work environment

While on board ships, Naval Communicators experience the unique adventures and challenges that come with work at sea, such as rough waters and shift-work. They work primarily in the Communications Control Room, Operations Room, on the bridge and the flag deck.

As with all sea-going personnel, Naval Communicators work with their fellow shipmates in out-of-occupation duties such as watchkeeper or sentry, act as a line handler for replenishment at sea, and as a ship-hand for entering and leaving harbour. They participate in Search and Rescue events and man-overboard emergencies, act as a member of the ship’s emergency response team for security watches, and routinely perform ship maintenance and repairs. If necessary, a Naval Communicator may serve as a member of the Naval Boarding Party in order to inspect the cargo of suspect vessels and detain the vessel’s crew during inspections.

When employed ashore, Naval Communicators work in office-like conditions in a high-security environment, typically a restricted-access communications facility. They may work in a wider variety of duties such as providing communications support to ships and shore establishments, performing duties to assist in the communications flow in Naval Radio Stations, or employed as instructors in Recruit, Leadership or Communication Schools.

Basic Military Qualification

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Basic occupational qualification training

Naval Communicators attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School in Esquimalt, British Columbia, for approximately 29 weeks. Training includes:

  • Communications security
  • Information Systems Security
  • Basic communication procedures, such as:
    • Basic radio theory and computer skills
    • A Plus and Network Plus Curriculum
    • Keyboarding and Message processing
    • Frequency Management
    • Operating Radio Communication Equipment
    • Fleet Maneuvering

Available specialty training

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

  • Maritime semi-automatic exchange basic operator
  • Military aeronautical communications
  • Naval boarding party
  • Basic submarine qualification
  • Ship’s team diver
  • Instructional techniques
  • Ship’s coxswain

Available advanced training

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

  • Computer operation (message handling)
  • Local area network administrator
  • Advanced cryptography
  • Communications policy directive planning and implementation
  • Tactical communication plan preparation and execution
  • Communications security
  • Information systems security
  • Frequency management
  • Advanced fleet tactical manoeuvring
  • Leadership and management courses

Specific Navy training

Naval recruits attend the Canadian Forces Fleet School either in Esquimalt, British Columbia, or Halifax, Nova Scotia, for approximately five weeks. Training includes the following topics:

  • Naval history and organization
  • Shipboard firefighting and damage control
  • Shipboard Safety
  • Watchkeeping duties
  • Seamanship

Required education

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondaire IV in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

Direct entry options

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry.

Serve with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part time employment

Naval Communicators serve with the Royal Canadian Navy both full and part time at sea in ships, ashore in Naval Reserve Divisions, at Fleet Schools and Training Establishments both as students and instructors. Spread among 24 Naval Reserve Divisions and the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, Naval Communicators have a presence in every major city in Canada. On the job, they work in a dynamic and fast paced environment managing the communications that enter and leave the ship. Trusted with sensitive and classified information, Naval Communicators are experts in procedural security. They exercise their expertise with computers, part of local and wide area networks, radio-teletype and voice circuits. Naval Communicators are also the tactical signaling experts in the Royal Canadian Navy. Throughout their development, Naval Communicators are exposed to, interact with and advise Command on this expertise.

Reserve Force training

Naval Communicators in the Reserve Force train alongside their Regular Force counterparts to what could be compared to the journeyman level of competence. Training is modularized and delivered on a schedule that is conducive to limited periods of availability. All training is paid whether it is done at home, at the local Naval Reserve Division, or in other locations across the country such as Victoria, Québec and Halifax. Naval Communicators undergo the Basic Military Qualification (Basic Training), usually the first summer after joining a Naval Reserve Division. During that same summer, they undergo environmental training as well. This training exposes the student to life at sea aboard a ship and includes things like Naval Firefighting, Damage Control, and shipboard ceremonies to name a few. From there, the student begins Naval Communicator training by Web-based and distance learning followed by a residential phase of 29 weeks the following summer in Victoria, British Columbia.

Reserve Working Environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.