Royal Marines Commando

The Job and What's Involved

The Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy. They are a highly trained, specialised amphibious fighting force deployed from Royal Navy ships to launch assaults by sea or air. They are capable of operating at short notice anywhere in the world, on land, from the sea or from the air. They operate in combat, peacekeeping and humanitarian situations, and also help to enforce the law at sea. This includes preventing drug smuggling and the illegal transportation of arms.

Most commandos begin as general duties marines and become riflemen who serve within an operational commando unit for their first tour. Commando units are on standby to attend any emergencies around the world. Some serve with the Fleet Protection Group and guard the UK's nuclear weapon capability. Others operate in a Fleet Standby Rifle Troop, trained to board ships at sea. After their first tour, general duties marines are encouraged to train for another specialisation.

These include:

Aircrewman - flies on board helicopters of the Commando Naval Air Squadrons and carries out missions such as reconnaissance and helping to transport troops or supplies to the front line.

Armoured Support (Viking) - drives and maintains Viking tracked armoured vehicles.

Assault Engineer - constructs bridges, field defences and obstacles, as well as being involved in mine warfare, demolition and using explosives.

Chef - prepares and cooks meals.

Clerk - provides administrative and personnel support.

Combat Intelligence - gathers intelligence on potential enemy threats and prepares accurate maps and graphics.

Communications Technician - intercepts and analyses enemy radio activity to gather intelligence on their actions.

Driver - drives a range of vehicles, such as customised Land Rovers and heavy support vehicles, in combat situations.

Heavy Weapons (air defence) - protects commando units and Royal Navy ships from air attack.

Heavy Weapons (anti-tank) - uses anti-tank missiles and heavy machine-guns to remove enemy tanks, other vehicles and enemy personnel from action.

Heavy Weapons (mortar) - operates mortars to support friendly forces' offensive actions.

Information Systems - designs and maintains computer networks that enable real-time battle information to be relayed to commando units on operations.

Landing Craft Specialist - pilots all types of commando water-borne assault craft to transport Royal Marines Commandos from ship to shore.

Medical Assistant - carries out life-saving procedures in the field.

Military Police - responsible for law enforcement, security and convoy control.

Mountain Leader - uses rock climbing, mountaineering, vertical assault, survival skills, sniping and escape and evasion techniques, to obtain long-range reconnaissance information.

Physical Training Instructor - trains and maintains all ranks in physical fitness, keeping commandos in peak physical condition, as well as providing sports' training.

Platoon Weapons Instructor - trains officers, other ranks and recruits in weapons handling, marksmanship and combat soldiering skills.

Reconnaissance Operator - uses reconnaissance skills to locate and monitor enemy numbers and positions.

Signals - uses a range of communications equipment to keep commandos in contact with other combat forces.

Swimmer Canoeist - member of the Special Boat Service trained in surveillance, reconnaissance, parachuting and survival skills.

Telecommunications Technician - maintains and repairs the Royal Marines' radio communications links.

Vehicle Mechanic - maintains and repairs all vehicles used by the Royal Marines.

Yeoman of Signals - undertakes the complex communication planning for commando operations.

Commandos generally work an eight-hour day when not on operations or operational training. They are, however, on call 24 hours a day. They may be required to work long hours when on operations or operational training.

Commandos work either on a shore base or at sea on board a ship.

Commandos can be deployed all over the world, sometimes in dangerous situations. They may operate in areas such as jungles, mountains, deserts, the sea or the Arctic. Operational work can take commandos away from their families for many months.

Commandos wear a uniform. They are issued with specialist clothing and equipment when needed.

Royal Marines Commandos enter the service on a salary of £13,337 a year. Trained commandos earn between £16,681 and £28,372 a year.

Those at the rank of Warrant Officer 1 earn up to £45,836 a year.

There are allowances for being deployed away from base for ten days or more. There is also a bonus after five years' service, and a bonus after eight years' service.

The Royal Marines offers a good pension scheme and free medical and dental care.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are approximately 7,200 Royal Marines. Commando units are based in Plymouth or Taunton in south-west England or in Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland.

Visit the Royal Marines website at for detailed information on entry requirements, how to apply, training and education, career specialisations and career progression.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry qualifications, but only men can serve as commandos. Applicants must be at least 151.5cm tall, with their weight in proportion to their height. There are strict eyesight standards and, for some jobs, normal colour vision is essential.

Applicants take an aptitude test covering reasoning, English language, numeracy and mechanical comprehension. They have an interview, a medical check and a pre-joining fitness test. They must then be successful on the Potential Royal Marines Course at Lympstone, near Exeter in Devon. This lasts three days and includes tests in the gym, on an assault course, over a 5km run and in the classroom, as well as an interview.

Entrants must be at least 16 years old and have their parent's or guardian's consent, and must begin training before reaching 33 years of age. They also need to have British, Irish or Commonwealth citizenship, or British/dual citizenship. They join as a Royal Marines recruit.

After six months, recruits are required to serve for at least three-and-a-half years from the end of their initial training or from the age of 18, whichever is the later. They can then leave with 12 months' notice. Commandos serve for 18 years or to the age of 40, whichever is longer. They may have the opportunity to serve beyond this.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Basic Royal Marines Commando training takes place at the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, and lasts 32 weeks. Officers and other ranks undergo basic training together. Commando training is one of the longest and toughest training courses in the world. It includes:

Individual Skills - including map reading, navigation, drill, first aid, weapon training, close quarter combat and survival training.

Advanced Skills - including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) training, live firing, grenade throwing, and helicopter and underwater escape.

Operations of War - including radio procedure training, mortar training and general purpose machine gun training.

Physical Training - including gym work to increase strength and stamina, swimming, sport and adventure activities, and long marches and runs carrying equipment.

Assault Courses - including an aerial slide, high-level ropes, submerged tunnels and a 9-metre wall.

Exercises - including survival exercises, fighting in built-up areas and close quarter battle, leading to a final exercise that is designed to be as close as possible to real combat.

Recruits take four tests near the end of basic training:

- Endurance course
- 14km speed march
- 'Tarzan' assault course
- 48km march across Dartmoor

Training for a subsequent specialisation may involve working towards nationally recognised specialist and technical qualifications. They include BTEC qualifications, NVQs and City & Guilds (C&G) certificates.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A Royal Marines Commando should:

  • Have courage and determination.
  • Work well as part of a disciplined team.
  • Be able to live and work closely with other people.
  • Have self-discipline and the ability to react quickly under pressure.
  • Be decisive and ready for responsibility.
  • Have a high level of physical fitness.
  • Be prepared for combat and to work anywhere in the world.
  • Be able to follow orders.
  • Have practical and technical skills, including good co-ordination.
  • Have good communication skills, common sense and the ability to stay calm.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is a range of leadership and management courses and qualifications available, designed to assist career progression and promotion through the ranks.

The rank structure is: Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, Colour Sergeant, Warrant Officer 2 and Warrant Officer 1.

Commandos with the necessary qualifications and potential can apply for a commission as an officer.

Get Further Information

Royal Navy, any armed forces careers office
Tel: 0845 607 5555
Web site:

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