Navy SEAL ranks: How do they differ from regular Navy?

Author: Eric Sof


Navy SEAL ranks and the ranks in the SEAL teams do not differ from those in other military units around the world. The regular ranks used in the US Navy are also applied in the US Navy SEAL ranks.

Navy SEAL ranks

The Navy SEALs ranks are the same as the other Navy units, but they have different names. In the US 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: US 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 rank O-1 to O-10 (Ensign to Admiral Chief of Naval Operations).

A few SEAL Warrant Officers (perhaps 30 or so) 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 to 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 requiring different ranks. The same is true of Army Special Forces, US Army Rangers, Delta Force, MARSOC, etc. There are no military organizations where everyone is of 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 no answer. The Navy SEALs are part of the Navy and use regular Navy ranks.


E-4 Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer Third Class Petty Officer Third Class PO3 Noncommissioned Officer
E-5 Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer Second Class Petty Officer Second Class PO2 Noncommissioned Officer
E-6 Insignia of a Navy Petty Officer First Class Petty Officer First Class PO1 Noncommissioned Officer
E-7 Insignia of a Navy Chief Petty Officer Chief Petty Officer CPO Senior Noncommissioned Officer
E-8 Insignia of a Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Senior Chief Petty Officer SCPO Senior Noncommissioned Officer
E-9 Insignia of a Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Master Chief Petty Officer MCPO Senior Noncommissioned Officer

Commissioned Warrant Officers

W-2 US Navy CW2 insignia.svg Chief warrant officer two CWO-2
W-3 US Navy CW3 insignia.svg Chief warrant officer three CWO-3
W-4 US Navy CW4 insignia.svg Chief warrant officer four CWO-4
W-5 US Navy CW5 insignia.svg Chief warrant officer five CWO-5


O-1 Insignia of a Navy Ensign Ensign ENS Junior Officer
O-2 Insignia of a Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Lieutenant Junior Grade LTJG Junior Officer
O-3 Insignia of a Navy Lieutenant Lieutenant LT Junior Officer
O-4 Insignia of a Navy Lieutenant Commander Lieutenant Commander LCDR Junior Officer
O-5 Insignia of a Navy Commander Commander CDR Senior Officer
O-6 Insignia of a Navy Captain Captain CAPT Senior Officer
O-7 Insignia of a Navy Rear Admiral Lower Half Rear Admiral Lower Half RDML Flag Officer
O-8 Insignia of a Navy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral RADM Flag Officer
O-9 Insignia of a Navy Vice Admiral Vice Admiral VADM Flag Officer
O-10 Insignia of a Navy Admiral Admiral ADM Flag Officer

If 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 essential to note that Navy SEAL ranks are different from the pay grade and signify the job duties and leadership responsibilities. Every SEAL can advance their careers by continuing education and through command and specialty opportunities.

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4 thoughts on “Navy SEAL ranks: How do they differ from regular Navy?”

  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.

  2. The reason an officer wears the same uniform and doesn’t display his or her rank on their uniforms in the field, is to keep an enemy sniper from singling them out to shoot! 1st order of business is to take out the command and control elements!

  3. How does a SEAL team member make rank? If he goes into the Navy as say a MM, QM or othr rate, does he stay this rate while a SEAL? Does he have to take the Navy wide exam to advance to a higher rank? Or is he promoted based on his SEAL duties only? Thanks