Full Time | Part Time | Officer

Naval Warfare Officer

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

  • Command, coordinate and control Military Maritime 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





I’m Lieutenant Navy Jeffrey Anderson from Victoria, B.C. I’m a Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Officer serving as the Navigating Officer on HMCS Vancouver.

And I’m Lieutenant Navy Michelle Muir from Moncton, New Brunswick. I’m a Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Officer on board HMCS Montreal.

MUIR: Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface, or MARS Officers, sail all over the world in support of Canada’s naval priorities. Whether it’s anti-piracy deployments off the coast of Africa, sovereignty patrols in Canadian waters or multi-national manoeuvres in the North Atlantic, we are responsible for the command, control and coordination of Maritime Military Operations.

ANDERSON: As a MARS Officer, you’re tasked with all the components of the day-to-day running of the ship or submarine.

MUIR: You can choose to specialise in navigation. You could become an underwater or above water warfare director, an information management director. You could also become a dive officer, so there’s a lot of different options and that’s one of the things that’s great about this career is all the different directions it can take you in.

ANDERSON: It’s living in the moment, thinking on your feet, having the confidence to make decisions about where you’re going, your weapons systems and the other ships and aircraft in the area.

I think I had a strong aptitude towards being a Navigating Officer. I really enjoyed being up on the bridge, I enjoyed all the planning and all the administration that went along with it and it just seemed to be the right fit for me.

MUIR: I don’t think that anything in the civilian world could compare to the excitement and the challenges involved in being a MARS Officer on board a HMCS ship.

MUIR: Being a MARS officer is being a member of a high-performance team controlling where the ship goes, liaising with other ships and other navies and making really important decisions, whether it’s firing weapons, manoeuvring with other ships or hosting a reception in a foreign port with two or three hundred VIPs to promote Canada’s naval objectives.

We had been sent down to the Gulf of Aden once the piracy attacks started getting more frequent and we had a call from a vessel in distress that was being attacked and we steamed at our full speed to get there and basically thwarted the pirate attack. And that was probably one of the highlights of my career so far.

ANDERSON: It takes a lot of hard work with hours of training and a lot of very specialized knowledge, but becoming a MARS Officer is a huge step on the ladder to commanding your own ship some day.

MUIR: To me, what’s amazing is the constant variety of the things you have to do. You’re doing math in your head all the time, maintaining spatial awareness, knowing that there’s another ship two miles away and understanding what’s going to happen.

ANDERSON: You know, there’s a lot of hard work that’s involved with it too, but you really do get to go and see some neat places and do some neat things. The best part of the job is probably going somewhere in tight waters really fast and then shooting the gun at the same time.

MUIR: The pressure is real and you learn from your mistakes and the rewards are awesome.

ANDERSON: Your training to become a MARS Officer involves some of the most varied, intense and challenging courses you’ll find in the Canadian Forces.

MUIR: After your Basic Officer Training, you’ll spend your first year at the Naval Officer Training Centre in Esquimalt, B.C. There are three basic parts to the course: in the classroom, in the simulator and aboard ship.

ANDERSON: You’ll learn seamanship, relative motion, emergency procedures, crew safety, combat operations. You’ll get all of the theory and some practical application under your belt before you get posted to your first vessel.

MUIR: You’ll spend the next two years attached to your first operational ship. That includes your at-sea time, three months at the Naval Operations School in Halifax and your specialized training in navigation, weapons systems, submarine operations and shipboard IT and communications.

ANDERSON: As a junior MARS Officer, you’re going around and trying to do your on-the-job training rec progression, so in order to be a MARS Officer, you really need to know what everybody on the ship does, so that you know who your subject-matter experts are and who your references are and who you can go to for help.

MUIR: It takes about six to eight months to get your Officer of the Day qualification where the captain trusts you to look after his ship alongside the dock. Then, after Naval Ops school in Halifax, you come back aboard to earn your Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate at sea.

When we’re officer of the watch, basically, we have a watch and we’re the captain’s representative on the bridge, so we’re responsible for the ship’s safety, we’re responsible for navigation. We’re responsible for conning which is the actual driving of the ship and we’re responsible for a bridge team. We have to respond to emergencies, we have to respond to them quickly and efficiently to get the ship moving. There’s no feeling like when the captain gives you your bridge watchkeeping certificate and says “Okay, you have the watch”. That’s you know, a pinnacle in your career, that’s one of the most exciting moments – when you have charge over this 5,000+ ton warship and 200+ crew that are onboard.

ANDERSON : I really enjoy going to sea. I really enjoy being with all my friends and my co-workers here on the ship.

MUIR : In the four short years that I’ve been in, I’ve travelled all around the world, I’ve made lasting friendships with people from all over the country and internationally. I’ve fought piracy on the coast of Somalia, I’ve been involved in search and rescue operations. I mean, it’s just amazing what I’ve been able to do.

ANDERSON: I mean, who else is driving around? We’re like the Corvette on the ocean compared to the semi-trucks that are the tankers, right? We’re driving around in the Corvette and our Corvette’s got guns! There’s a lot of really neat things to be done in the Navy, there’s lots of really great opportunities for you to excel in your area of expertise.

MUIR: And I never could have imagined the path that this career would have brought me down, the exciting things that I’ve done and I look back to 5 years ago and I don’t even feel like I’m the same person. It’s just a totally different world for me and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.




Basic Military Officer Qualification

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.

Available professional training

Naval Warfare Officers attend the Naval Officer Training Centre in Esquimalt, British Columbia, for 12 months training for their specific responsibilities. The training consists of classroom instruction, simulators, and ships at sea, in order to gain expertise and hands-on experience in navigation, bridgemanship, communications, relative motion, ship safety, emergency procedures and rules of seamanship.

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 Officer Professional Qualification. You will also complete the Naval Operations Course in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is designed to train you in various shipboard operations and tactics, such as communications, helicopter operations and procedures, military law, and general naval knowledge.

Available specialty training

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
  • Control and direction of helicopter operations
  • Management of information and communication systems

Direct entry options

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.

Paid education options

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full-pay in exchange for working with 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 some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program.  Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months.  If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice.

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.

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 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.

Reserve Force training

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 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.