Royal Marines Commando Officer

The Job and What's Involved

The Royal Marines are part of the Royal Navy. They make up an elite fighting force, constantly ready to be deployed anywhere in the world in combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian relief work. They are the UK's amphibious force, which means they often launch land operations from the sea. However, they have the versatility to operate on land, over water and from the air.

Commando officers are responsible for the training, effectiveness, morale and well-being of their men. They may lead troops in almost any environment, including mountain, desert, jungle and arctic terrain. Royal Marines are also trained for combat in built-up areas.

As well as commanding the fighting forces, officers work in one of several specialist areas:

Heavy weapons officers use mortars, anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons and could take responsibility for up to 80 other heavy weapons specialists, together with their vehicles and equipment.

Intelligence officers gather and interpret the information and intelligence needed to take critical decisions in battle.

Landing craft officers are specialists in the Royal Marines' amphibious operations and are trained to plan and oversee beach assaults and raiding operations, as well as commanding landing craft and supervising their maintenance.

Mountain leaders are specialists in mountain and cold-weather warfare, who use climbing, mountaineering, route finding, reconnaissance and cold-weather survival skills on operations, as well as helping train other Commandos to work in similar environments.

Pilots fly the helicopters and fast jets of the Naval Air Squadrons, providing close air support, reconnaissance missions, casualty evacuation and land attack, as well as delivering troops and supplies to the front line.

Physical training and sports officers plan and oversee the training to keep Royal Marines personnel in peak physical condition.

Signals officers are specialists in managing information communications systems, trained to provide fast, reliable communications vital to the success of Royal Marine operations.

Special boat service officers are experts in swimming, diving, parachuting, navigation, demolition and reconnaissance who lead missions for the UK's Special Forces.

Staff officers carry out a variety of roles in planning, personnel, logistics and training. They may work in commando units, Royal Marine headquarters or the Ministry of Defence. Most middle-ranking and senior Royal Marines officers are staff officers.

Commando officers typically work an eight-hour day when not on operations or operational training. However, they can be on call round the clock. Long hours are often required during operations.

Royal Marines units are stationed at bases in the UK, but need to be prepared for international deployment at any time.

Royal Marines are trained to live and fight in almost any location. Besides the obvious dangers involved in combat, this may mean enduring hostile environments and extreme weather, sometimes without access to normal communications and power supplies. Marines may spend long periods away from home and family.

The starting salary is between £15,268 and £24,132, depending on qualifications. Lieutenants earn up to £32,061, captains up to £44,206, majors £56,077 and lieutenant-colonels up to £76,095.

The highest-ranking colonels can earn up to £87,655, and brigadiers £98,983.

Additional benefits include health cover, pension scheme and separation allowances for those away from home for an extended period.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most Royal Marines serve in 3 Commando Brigade, made up of three operational commando units of up to 700 men each. They are based in Devon and north-east Scotland and are supported by specialist units.

The other operational unit is the Fleet Protection Group, based on the west coast of Scotland, whose main job is to protect Britain's nuclear weapons.

Entry as an officer is highly competitive. Officers join on a twelve-year commission and must serve for at least three to five years.

Education and Training

Potential Commando officers must be aged between 17 and 26. They need to have British or dual British citizenship, and to have lived in the UK for five years. Only men can serve as Royal Marine Commando officers.

The minimum qualifications are two A levels (A*-C) or equivalent, with five GCSE's (A*-C), including English language and maths. Many officers join as graduates. They need a degree from a UK university.

Commando officers need to be at least 1.51 metres tall, with weight in proportion to their height. There are also strict standards on eyesight. Normal colour vision is essential for some roles.

Candidates must pass a three-day course for potential officers. This takes place at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines near Exeter. It is designed to test physical ability and endurance, mental aptitude and leadership skills.

Successful candidates are then called to the Admiralty Interview Board. This is a two-and-a-half day selection process for the Royal Navy. Intelligence, mental agility and leadership potential are assessed here.

Candidates also need to pass a medical assessment.

Scholarships for A levels and university cadetships or bursaries are available to some students. Details are available from armed forces careers offices.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Royal Marine training is famously challenging. Officer training takes 15 months and is run at the Commando Training Centre.

Young officers undergo intensive training, which includes:

  • Introduction to drill (marching), kit and rucksack.
  • Weapons training.
  • Physical training and assault courses.
  • Basic field craft, including hygiene, navigation and moving at night.
  • First aid.
  • Chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear training.
  • Military and strategic studies at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
  • Observation, patrolling and battle drills.
  • Vehicle drills, including helicopter and landing craft.
  • Report writing and troop administration.
  • Several field exercises, including a four-week exercise based in the USA.

After successful completion of training, young officers are appointed to their first unit as troop commanders, in charge of around 30 men. They may be deployed on international military operations or training exercises.

Officers often study towards specialist qualifications, depending on their role. University short courses in subjects such as management, politics and international relations are also available.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Royal Marine Commando officers need:

  • Strong leadership and management skills.
  • To be able to work effectively within a disciplined team.
  • To be calm and work well under pressure.
  • Confidence.
  • Exceptional fitness and stamina.
  • To be ready for adversity and tough physical conditions.
  • To be excellent communicators.
  • Energy and enthusiasm.
  • Adaptability.

Your Long Term Prospects

Commando officers normally change jobs every two years, gaining experience in new areas.

Progression is on merit. From lieutenant or second lieutenant, officers may progress to captain, becoming a senior troop commander or adjutant in a commando unit.

Further experience and promotion can take officers to more senior positions of major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier and finally major general, the professional head of the Royal Marines.

Get Further Information

Further information is available at
Applicants can also visit any local armed forces careers office, or call 0845 607 5555

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