Job Description:

Sailors work in a variety of job roles on board ships or submarines at sea, or onshore at a naval base.

Job Category:
Aerospace & Defence

What you will do:

Depending on your role, you could:

  • operate and maintain ships’ weapons, electronic and communications systems
  • operate, maintain and refit ships, submarines and aircraft
  • coordinate office, accounting, stores and catering systems
  • provide a healthcare service for Navy personnel and their families
  • make sure aircraft are prepared for action
  • give navigation information based on weather and ocean conditions
  • operate and maintain submarine weapons, electronic systems and sensors


You’ll need:

  • thinking and reasoning skills for making quick decisions
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • physical fitness and endurance
  • the ability to work well with others in a team (teamwork skills)
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • concentration skills for practical tasks
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a sailor, there are no specific subject requirements; however, a solid educational foundation can be beneficial. Sailors typically require specific maritime qualifications, training, and practical experience to work on ships or boats. Here are some recommended subjects that can help you prepare for a career at sea:

  1. Mathematics (Maths): Mathematics is essential for navigation, calculating distances, working with charts and maps, and understanding weather patterns.
  2. Physics: Physics can provide a foundation for understanding principles related to buoyancy, tides, and other physical aspects of sailing.
  3. Geography: Geography can be helpful for understanding the geography of the seas, coastal areas, and navigation.
  4. English: Good communication skills are important for understanding and conveying information at sea.
  5. Physical Education (PE): Physical fitness is crucial for sailors, so taking PE can help you maintain good physical health.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • volunteering
  • applying directly


You could apply to join the army through an armed forces serviceperson intermediate apprenticeship.

You’ll need to apply directly to the army to discuss which is the best apprenticeship route for you. This will depend on your qualifications and which service role you’re interested in.


You can join theNavy Reserve to get some experience of what life is like in the service, and to learn new skills at the same time.

Direct Application

You can apply directly to join the Navy as a sailor. You don’t need any specific qualifications, but you will need to meet the Navy’s eligibility requirements. In the UK, for example, you must:

  • be aged between 16 and 39
  • pass fitness and medical tests

After applying, you’ll be invited to talk to someone at your local armed forces careers office about what you want to do.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of variable hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends/bank holidays away from home.

You could work be based overseas, in a warzone, on a ship or at a military base. Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and outdoors in all weathers. You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Career Path & Progression:

After you complete your basic training, you can choose to specialise in a particular area. Examples include:

  • communications
  • logistics
  • mine warfare
  • submarine operations

With training and experience you could move up through the ranks and become an officer.