Apply to RN as Rating or Officer? Help please!


I would love to the join the RN. I'm a 27 years old and I have a background in aeronautical engineering. (HND qualified, EngTech accredited).

I have been thinking about joining the RN for a while and now feel that I am at a crossroads - I hope that the good folk on this forum will give me some advice.

In September this year I will start a two-year distance learning degree, to top-up my HND to BEng(hons). I understand that this is the minimum academic standard required to join RN as a commissioned officer. However, I will be almost 30 when I complete the course - perilously close to the maximum age at which I can apply for a commission.

So I have been thinking about applying to join as a rating, working as hard as I possibly can (hopefully!) earning myself a commission along the way.

My dilemma is this. If I hold out for my degree before I apply for a commission and I fail to make the grade, I will be too old to give a second go.

If I join RN as a rating, I will take a £20K pay cut and I will have to sell my home. On a rating's salary, I may never get back on to the ladder.

I have a good job, which I enjoy but I am looking for more and I have my heart set on RN. Should I throw caution to the wind and sign up as a rating or get my degree and take my chances at the OASC?

Just to add to the equation - I want to be a submariner. I understand that dates from which the RN will be accepting applications from women are yet to be decided. I would still join to serve on surface ships, but submarines are my preference. If I apply now to join as a rating I won't be able to go for the submarine service.

Any advice would be gratefully received.



War Hero

Firstly, HND aside, do you have the 5 GCSE's A*-C including maths & English...and A Levels at grade D or better, totalling 180 UCAS points? Are you British/Dual British?
Thank you Ninja_Stoker.

I have the required GSCEs. I don't have A-levels, but I do have a National Certificate in Aerospace Engineering. The NC is a level 3 qualification but I have no idea how many UCAS points it is worth, if any. I am British.

I have an appointment at Guilford AFCO in a couple of weeks, to see a presentation and get some more information.


Lantern Swinger
I was in a similar position to yourself before joining, although only having a HNC in mech and man.

I would have thought with your aeronautical background you would be more suited to AET, although if you add the possibility of serving on boats maybe ETME would be best.

I joined up as an ETME rating, with a mechanical (fitter) background. All I can say is, as a rating I do feel like I've been held back. The course through Sultan was not the best, almost all of the exams were multiple choice. The recruit test I completed at the AFCO was more difficult than most of the exams at Sultan! However, with fast track coming in that may put a different spin on things.

Selling your home and taking a 20k pay cut is not worth it to become a rating, unless maybe you can be guaranteed a place on fast track to POET. If I were you, I would take the chance and go for a commission.
Thanks TrialsLife. How old were you when you joined (if you don't mind me asking)? Would I be an old lady joining as a rating at 28?

It's interesting that you said you felt held back. I have worried that the joining as a rating might feel like a backwards step, especially as I have worked so hard to get my HND. One of the things that is really important to me is to feel challenged by what I do - I don't want an easy ride!

AET would suit my background, but I just love ships!

Can you tell me more about the fast track you mentioned? Does being a POET come with a higher salary? If I could afford to hang on my flat (even barely) it would make all the difference - I don't have family I can stay with during leave.


War Hero
Generally a BTEC Level 3 can be accepted in lieu of A Levels, but only if passed at least at Merit for triple awards or Distinction/Merit for a dual award. HNC or HND is not usually accepted in lieu of A Levels even with the vocational degree. You are advised to take copies of all current educational certificates to your presentation so they can be copied & checked by AIB or you could end up pretty hacked off if you take a couple of years to get the degree but get knocked back for want of the A Levels.

Only you can decide if you want to take a pay cut & sell a house - I've seen people drop from £45k jobs to join as a rating on less than £15k and enjoy it. I've seen leading rates on £28k leave the service to earn triple that. It depends what motivates you.

Forget about overseas travel as a submariner, it really isn't that common - not many countries like the prospect of a nuclear reactor visiting their backyard. Foreign trips are possible, but infrequent. The net pay for submariners is about £4k a year higher than a general service counterpart but that is countered by the lack of communication with home & limited travel prospects.

Fast track promotion for technical ratings is limited to the top 5% of joiners - I was lucky enough to get it when I joined many moons back & was a leading rate in two years from joining. At today's rates that's about £27k upon promotion.

Good luck.
Thanks again. I've certainly got a lot to think about. Right now I'm tending towards applying to join as a rating on surface ships. If I show some promise perhaps I could transfer to submarines at some point in the future. If I got just one trip it would fulfill a life long dream.

I don't want to miss my chance to join up. I'll see how it goes at the AFCO on the 19th.
Join a different branch? That way it would be a smaller pay cut initially, and you'd still be an RN officer. Depends whether or not you see joining as a rating as a big compromise. Personally, I think joining as a rating is great for a lot of people, but if it's not what you want, that's probably a bad start.


War Hero
Again it's a case of priorities. If it's Officer above all else, then a non tech undergrad Warfare or Logs Officer gets paid the same as a graduate engineering officer (apart from the current joining bounty).

If engineer is more to your liking & you want to use spanners rather than manage those weilding spanners, then Engineering Technician is the way ahead. If you seek a suntan, scrub around submarines.
Thank you all for contributing to the thread. It's a life changing decision so it's good to get as many different ideas and perspectives first.

It's engineering above all else for me. I would love to lead a team, but I think I would like to try my hand at the spannering first. I'm definitely leaning towards applying to join as a rating. Selling my place is the scary bit, since I don't have family I can stay with or store my things with, but perhaps I won't miss it so much. Hopefully I would be far too busy to notice the drop in pay, too. What do you think? I've been looking for some information on how much I can expect to pay for things like accommodation, food, washing etc but can't find anything recent - does anyone have a link to some info?

Thank you
Thank you, that's really helpful. Unfortunately renting is not an option. I bought the place with an equity loan scheme, which forbids sub-letting so it would have to go. It's a shame but I can't let it stop me joining up. Will the AFCO be able to tell me how long the waiting lists are?


War Hero
Yes. Off the top of my head AET is about 12 months test to entry, ET(ME) 10-12 months, ET(WE) about 8 to 10, but your AFCO will advise more accurately. Submarine technical branches have shorter waits, but no news yet when direct entry females are being recruited, other than 2014 ish.


Lantern Swinger
I recently heard that the first SMQ for females is scheduled for Jan 2016. So I'd guess based on that early-ish 2015 for entry?

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