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Naval Warfare Officer

OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time

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As a member of the military, Naval Warfare Officers manage and direct the maritime strategy, tactics and procedures in the operation of ships, submarines and aircraft, maritime sensors, combat information and weapons systems.

Naval Warfare Officers provide input into the design, procurement and evaluation of ships, their systems, perform staff training and administrative duties and are the only officers who can have Command of the Navy’s ships and submarines. Their primary responsibilities are to:

  • Command, control and coordinate Maritime Military Operations
  • Lead and make decisions that will affect the general conduct of operations and ship’s crew security
  • Provide expertise in a wide range of activities relating to the exercise of sea power
  • Direct and conduct strategies, tactics and procedures in the operation of ships, submarines, aircraft, maritime sensors, combat information and weapons systems
  • Provide input into the design, procurement and evaluation of ships or systems
  • Perform staff, training and administrative duties

Work environment

Naval Warfare Officers have two distinct working environments: at sea and ashore. As with all seagoing personnel, Naval Warfare Officers experience the unique challenges and adventures that come with work at sea. When ashore, Naval Warfare Officers work a standard work day in an office environment.

Note: Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Officer has been renamed to Naval Warfare Officer

If you chose a career in the Regular Force, upon completion of all required training, you will be assigned to your first base. While there is some flexibility with regards to postings (relocations), accommodations can’t always be made, and therefore, you can likely expect to move at some point in your career. However, if you decide to join the Primary Reserve Force, you will do so through a specific Reserve unit. Outside of training, your chosen Reserve unit will be your workplace on a part time basis, and you will not be obligated to relocate to a different base. As part of the Primary Reserve Force, you typically work one night per week and some weekends as a minimum with possibilities of full-time employment.

Career Overview





LIEUTENANT NAVY STEPHANIE BENGLE: I’m Lieutenant Navy Stephanie Bengle from Oakville, Ontario and I’m a Naval Warfare Officer serving onboard HMCS Halifax.

Naval Warfare Officers, or NWOs, sail all over the world in support of Canada’s naval priorities, including multi-national exercises and deployments; and sovereignty patrols here in Canadian waters. They’re part of a high-performance team, tasked with all aspects of the day-to-day running of the ship, from navigation and seamanship, to above-water and under-water warfare, information management, and communications. They’re also in charge of the ship’s boarding party and dive team. In all of these roles they get the opportunity to sail the world, drive the ship or submarine, fire weapons and work with other nations.

BENGLE:  When a Canadian Forces vessel is deployed, it will take part in different activities such as anti-terrorism patrols or anti-piracy patrols. And the big thing that we want to do there is establish the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Navy as a dominant force. And we will do things such as patrols of those oceans while working with other navies to show that we have a presence.

Being a Naval Warfare Officer means getting to see many parts of the world – be it sailing in the Caribbean, the Arctic, the North Atlantic, or the Mediterranean. Canada’s Navy has operations that span the globe.

But it’s not just about sailing… being a crewmember means becoming part of the Navy family, working together as a team to accomplish the mission at sea.

And the chance to have control of a ship could be the chance of a lifetime.

BENGLE:  One of the neat things that we do is we’ll bring people onboard to show how fast the ship can go from completely dead in the water to our full speed. And that’s a really cool thing, if you’re up there as a Naval Warfare Officer driving that, you’ll feel the ship turn and move. They like to say, “drive it like you stole it.” So it’s definitely cool that aspect of being a Naval Warfare Officer.

After completing their preliminary training, Naval Warfare Officers are posted to an operational ship either in Halifax, Nova Scotia or just outside Victoria, B.C., where they spend the next two years.  Officers immediately begin their practical training that leads to two qualifications. Alongside, they work towards an Officer of the Day qualification. That’s where the captain trusts them to look after the ship when it’s alongside in port. While at sea, NWOs earn their Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate, which allows them to be put in charge of the ship while it’s sailing.

BENGLE:  You definitely have to be quick-witted and sharp to do this job and you have to be willing to take in a lot of information at once, process it and then make the right decision. There’s a lot of times where something will quickly change and you have to adapt and you have to be able to inform the captain of what we’re doing and it does involve a lot of quick thinking.

Leadership and teamwork are two of the core skills for Naval Warfare Officers. It’s a challenging job with many growth opportunities, right up to being in command of the ship. In fact, all ship and submarine captains in the Royal Canadian Navy are Naval Warfare Officers.

BENGLE:  It teaches you a lot about how to be strong in difficult situations. You face some high-tempo, high-stress situations where you have to learn to adapt and overcome and I think when you first start out, you see yourself pass each obstacle and then get to the other side and you turn around and are pretty amazed at what you’ve done. So I’d say looking back on who I was when I first joined the Canadian Forces, I’m definitely a lot stronger, I’ve learned to persevere more and I’ve gained a lot from the experience. I think it is a life-changing experience to serve for our country.

A typical day at sea for any officer can include practical experience and team training such as simulated fire, flood, or medical emergencies called damage control, that involve the entire ship’s company. When not on duty, Naval Warfare Officers have time to exercise and relax with colleagues. They eat their meals together, have personal access to internet and email, and communicate regularly with friends and family back home by satellite telephone.

BENGLE:  I think there’s a lot of pride in what we do and I definitely feel that on a regular basis, whether I’m in or out of uniform. Being a part of the Navy becomes a part of you and you do carry that everywhere you go, so I definitely say looking back when I was choosing my job and choosing my career, I never thought I’d be here, but I’m very, very thankful that I am.





Related Civilian Occupations

  • Mate, Master or Captain of merchant ships
  • Mate, Master or Captain of Coast Guard vessels
  • Mate, Master or Captain of passenger liners


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 Forces, 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 Warfare Officers attend the Naval Fleet School Pacific in Esquimalt, British Columbia, for 12 months training for their specific responsibilities. The training consists of classroom instruction, simulators, and practical training at sea, in order to gain expertise and hands-on experience in navigation, bridgemanship, communications, relative motion, ship safety, emergency procedures, seamanship and Rules of the Road. 

Upon successful completion of this formal training, you will be posted to your first operational ship where, in approximately 24 months, you will complete at-sea requirements and on-the-job training leading to a Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and Naval Warfare Officer Professional Qualification. 

After six months of practical application of your professional training, you will specialize for four to six months in any of the following areas:

  • Ship navigation
  • Above or under-water weapons direction
  • Management of information and communication systems
  • Submarine service
  • Clearance diving

Entry plans

If you already have a university degree, the Canadian Armed Forces (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.

Part time options

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 a Naval Reservie Division 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.

Naval Warfare Officers serve with the Royal Canadian Navy. They are employed to lead and direct the operation of ships and patrol vessels and their associated systems. They may also advise on the design, procurement and evaluation of ships or systems and perform staff, training and administrative duties. When they are employed part-time they usually serve in a Naval Reserve Division in their home city, and while on casual full-time basis they usually serve in a Royal Canadian Navy home port location within Canada.

Find a Recruiting Centre

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, Naval Warfare Officers attend the Naval Officer Training Centre in Esquimalt, British Columbia, for 12 months of training for their specific responsibilities.

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 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.