Navy SEAL ranks: What are the ranks in the SEAL teams?

Two U.S. Navy Seals navigating through swamp during the training
Two Navy SEALs navigating through swamp during the training (Photo: XY)

Navy SEAL ranks and the ranks in the SEAL teams do not different than those in other military units around the world. The regular ranks used in the U.S. Navy are also applied in the U.S. Navy SEAL ranks.

The Navy SEALs ranks are the same as in the other Navy units, but the different names. In the U.S. Navy, ranks are comprised of three groups: Enlisted (E-1 through E-9), Warrant Officer (CWO-1 through CWO-5), and Commissioned Officers (CO-1 through CO-5), and Admiral ranks (CO-6 through CO-10; FADM.)

Navy SEAL ranks: From enlisted to officers
Navy SEAL ranks: From enlisted to officers (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Most Navy SEALs (about 2,000) are enlisted men who hold the rank of E-4 to E-9 (Petty Officer 3rd Class to Master Chief Petty Officer). They are led by roughly 500 SEAL Officers who hold the rank of O-1 to O-10 (Ensign to Admiral Chief of Naval Operations).

There are also a few SEAL Warrant Officers (perhaps 30 or so) who rank as officers above the senior-most Enlisted but lower than a Commissioned Officer.

A Warrant Officer is a highly specialized expert and trainer in his or her career field. A Warrant Officer is a highly specialized expert and trainer in his or her career field. Commissioned Officers are the managers, problem solvers, key influencers and planners who lead Enlisted Soldiers in all situations.

Difference between services

Equivalency between services is by pay grade. United States Navy commissioned officer ranks have two distinct sets of rank insignia: On dress uniform a series of stripes similar to Commonwealth naval ranks are worn; on service khaki, working uniforms (Navy Working Uniform [NWU], and coveralls), and special uniform situations (combat utilities, flight suits, and USMC uniforms when worn by Navy officers assigned or attached to USMC units), the rank insignia are identical to the equivalent rank in the US Marine Corps.

Like every military organization, there is a command structure, which requires having different ranks. The same is true of Army Special Forces, U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force, MARSOC, etc. There are no military organizations where everyone is the same rank. Navy SEAL ranks are related to the assigned roles in the SEAL teams and organization.

The ranks in the Navy SEALs
Navy SEAL ranks: The ranks in the Navy SEALs do not differentiate from the regular Navy ranks(Photo: Pinterest)

If you instead meant “Do Navy SEALs have unique ranks?” then the answer is no. The Navy SEALs are part of the Navy and use regular Navy ranks.

Enlisted

E-4Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer Third ClassPetty Officer Third ClassPO3Noncommissioned Officer
E-5Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer Second ClassPetty Officer Second ClassPO2Noncommissioned Officer
E-6Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer First ClassPetty Officer First ClassPO1Noncommissioned Officer
E-7Insignia of a Navy Chief Petty OfficerChief Petty OfficerCPOSenior Noncommissioned Officer
E-8Insignia of a Navy Senior Chief Petty OfficerSenior Chief Petty OfficerSCPOSenior Noncommissioned Officer
E-9Insignia of a Navy Master Chief Petty OfficerMaster Chief Petty OfficerMCPOSenior Noncommissioned Officer

Commissioned Warrant Officers

W-2US Navy CW2 insignia.svgChief warrant officer twoCWO-2
W-3US Navy CW3 insignia.svgChief warrant officer threeCWO-3
W-4US Navy CW4 insignia.svgChief warrant officer fourCWO-4
W-5US Navy CW5 insignia.svgChief warrant officer fiveCWO-5

Officers

O-1Insignia of a Navy EnsignEnsignENSJunior Officer
O-2Insignia of a Navy Lieutenant Junior GradeLieutenant Junior GradeLTJGJunior Officer
O-3Insignia of a Navy LieutenantLieutenantLTJunior Officer
O-4Insignia of a Navy Lieutenant CommanderLieutenant CommanderLCDRJunior Officer
O-5Insignia of a Navy CommanderCommanderCDRSenior Officer
O-6Insignia of a Navy CaptainCaptainCAPTSenior Officer
O-7Insignia of a Navy Rear Admiral Lower HalfRear Admiral Lower HalfRDMLFlag Officer
O-8Insignia of a Navy Rear AdmiralRear AdmiralRADMFlag Officer
O-9Insignia of a Navy Vice AdmiralVice AdmiralVADMFlag Officer
O-10Insignia of a Navy AdmiralAdmiralADMFlag Officer

In the event that officers demonstrate superior performance and prove themselves capable of performing at the next higher pay grade, they are given an increase in pay grade. The official term for this process is a promotion.

The letter and number represent the rank title and paygrade of the Navy SEAL. It’s important to note Navy SEAL ranks are different from the paygrade and signifies the level of job duties and leadership responsibilities. Every SEAL can further advance their careers by continuing education and through command and specialty opportunities.

2 comments
  1. I found it interesting when you said the differences between navy ranks are the pay grade. I think that it’s important to identify an officer’s rank by their uniforms or insignias. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult to determine who’s in charge of them. I think you did a great job explaining how essential it is to have a command structure identified by uniforms.

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