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Navy ROTC: Everything You Need to Know

What is the Navy ROTC program? 

The Navy Reserve Officers Training Program, also known as NROTC,  is a leadership development program designed to commission high-quality leaders for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corp.

Participants undertake this program in addition to their undergraduate academic program and attend specific Naval Science and leadership classes.

The Navy ROTC Program was established in 1926 to allow citizens to pursue careers in naval service. At its inception, there were six Navy ROTC units at the University of California at Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Washington, and Harvard and Yale Universities.

The first cohort graduated 126 midshipmen in June of 1930.

In 1932, the Marine Corps became part of the Navy ROTC program, which offered qualified Navy ROTC graduates the opportunity to commission into the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is a subdivision of the Navy, so its ROTC program is bundled with the NROTC program.

Participants who qualify for the NROTC program can enroll in the Marine Corps ROTC (MCROTC) and have pathways to the Navy Nurse Corps.

The Navy ROTC Program is available at over 160 colleges and universities nationwide.

What are the requirements of the Navy ROTC program?

To meet the basic eligibility requirements of the Navy ROTC Program, prospective participants must be:
  • A citizen of the United States or in the process of being a citizen,
  • At least 17 years of age and no older than 23 in their first year of college
  • Have no criminal record.
The NROTC program requires academic excellence. Participants must have competitive scores on the SAT/ACT before entering into the program and show a high level of academic aptitude.

It is important to note that the NROTC Program is smaller than the Army and Air Force ROTC programs, which makes it more competitive.

Being Accepted Into ROTC

Upon acceptance into the program, participants must complete all requirements of their Bachelor’s degree program while maintaining academic success, complete the curriculum prescribed by the Navy, participate in weekly drill sessions, and partake in four—to six-week training periods each summer.

Upon completion of the NROTC or MCROTC program, a minimum of two years of active enlisted service is required. If a participant chooses to disenroll, they are responsible for paying back all of the tuition money they were awarded.

Participating Schools

Over 160 colleges and universities across the country participate in Navy and Marine ROTC programs. Many well-known schools participate in the program, including Penn State University, UCLA, George Washington University, University of Notre Dame, MIT, Cornell University, and more.

Students interested in the Navy ROTC can discover more military-friendly colleges on CollegeRecon that participate in the program by using the CollegeRecon School Finder. 

Navy & Marine ROTC Curriculum

The Navy and Marine ROTC curriculum is designed to be rigorous in preparation for participants to become Commissioned Officers in the U.S. Navy and Marines.

The NROTC and MCROTC curriculum is divided into four major areas: naval science, leadership, navigation, and warfare principles.

In the first three semesters of the program, the Navy and Marine participants take the same naval science courses and then split off in the Junior and Senior year of the program to specialize in topics related to their respective branches.

For example, in the third and fourth years of the program, the Navy midshipmen will focus on naval ship systems, naval operations, and seamanship. In contrast, the Marine participants focus on more specific classes about warfare and warfare maneuvers. Both groups will take intensive leadership courses and one naval science laboratory per semester.

Marine Corps ROTC participants will also attend Officer Candidates School (OCS) as a leadership and practical skill intensive.

Scholarship Opportunities

The NROTC and MCROTC programs offer scholarships to program participants. Navy, Marine, and Nurse Corp scholarships are awarded based on merit, with a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5 and a competitive score on the physical fitness test being the basic eligibility requirements.

The Four Year National Scholarship is the most competitive. It covers full tuition, all fees, a textbook stipend, and room and board.

The Two and Three-Year National Scholarship is also competitive and is awarded by the national scholarship selection board each summer. Participants who are entering into their sophomore or junior years of college can apply for this through the NROTC unit located at their college.

Another option is the Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Scholarship, which is available to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), High Hispanic Enrollment schools (HHE), and other Minority Serving Institutions. This scholarship covers full tuition and fees, books stipends, and subsistence stipends each month.

For the MCROTC, prospective Marines can apply for the Frederick C. Branch Leadership Scholarship or the General Pedro Del Valle Leadership Scholarship. Discover more Navy ROTC scholarship opportunities on CollegeRecon.

What are the benefits of entering into the Navy ROTC program?

Military Career Opportunities

Participating in the NROTC or MCROTC program creates an opportunity to follow a military career path as Navy ROTC graduates are commissioned as Ensigns in the Navy and MCROTC graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

The program's graduates have pursued career paths as naval Aviators, naval Nurses, Special Operations Officers, Submarine Officers, Surface Warfare Officers, and more.

Skill Development

Skill development, particularly leadership skills, is a beneficial aspect of participating in the Navy or Marine ROTC program. The program is designed to build theoretical, leadership, and practical skills through classroom instruction, fieldwork, and naval science laboratories.

Other skills participants learn through their courses and other programmatic requirements include military-related skills, navigation, team building, communication, knowledge of naval science, discipline, accountability, and problem-solving.


A significant benefit of participating in the Navy or Marine ROTC program is the opportunity to receive a scholarship that can alleviate the costly financial burden of higher education.

The scholarships are based on merit and meet the physical fitness requirements of the NROTC and MCROTC programs.

How do I join the Navy ROTC program?

The first step in getting involved with the Navy ROTC program is to confirm that the school you are applying to or currently attending offers the program.

Prospective midshipmen or Marines should connect with the NROTC program at the school they will be applying to or are currently attending to obtain information about how that specific institution handles the Navy ROTC application.

Colleges and universities that offer NROTC programs typically have a specific page and contact information on their website to answer questions and provide support.

Additionally, prospective midshipmen or marines can connect with a recruiter who can answer any questions, determine eligibility, and help guide them through the application process if they don’t have a school in mind.