Navy Public Affairs Officer Program (2024)

Last Updated on November 16, 2023

This guide provides information that will help you with your decision to become a Navy Public Affairs Officer during Fiscal Year 2024.

A Navy Public Affairs Officer (PAO) is a Restricted Line Officer in the Navy who is an expert in communication, safeguarding our fleet against disinformation and bad press. The designator code for Navy Public Affairs Officer is 1650.

But there is so much more to becoming a Navy PAO.

Let us dive right into the details.

Navy Public Affairs Officer Job Description

It is critical to manage the flow of information and news for the Navy, the media, and the public in an institution as vast and complicated as the United States Navy. 

Navy PAOs select the most appropriate means to distribute information, reply to reporters, and give critical insight to top-level Navy decision-makers. 

With a rising world of digital media and lightning-fast news cycles, it is up to you to ensure that the proper message is constantly sent.

PAOs work alongside Mass Communication Specialists to help America’s Navy shine in the limelight of our country, ensuring we always put our best qualities forward.

Navy PAO’s responsibilities include:

  • Supervise the creation and distribution of press releases and reports, as well as give information to the news media and civic groups.
  • Before meeting with the public and the news media, military personnel should be briefed, and press conferences should be scheduled and held.
  • Supervise the creation and distribution of newspapers, radio and television shows, websites, and periodicals.
  • Assist the operational Commander in shaping critical choices and communications with three major audiences: the media, the general public, and the internal Navy.
  • Oversee the work of enlisted staff such as writers, graphic designers, videographers, and photographers.

How To Become A Navy Public Affairs Officer

If you are interested in becoming a Navy PAO, you must first be aware that earning a commission in the United States Navy is very competitive, especially the Navy PAO program.

Note that this is slightly different from applying for a civilian public affairs position because Navy PAOs directly affect national security. 

Know that you will be held to a higher standard of performance and behavior compared to your civilian counterparts.

If that did not deflate you, you may have the right sense of pride and integrity for this job.

To become a Navy Public Affairs Officer, applicants must be American citizens who are 19 to 37 years old with at least a Bachelor’s degree and a GPA of at least 2.8 on a 4.0 scale. Navy PAO applicants must also score at least a 40 on the Officer Aptitude Rating exam and must have public relations experience.

Here are the steps to become a Navy PAO along with the various Navy Public Affairs Officer requirements:

1) Determine your eligibility

You must first determine your eligibility to compete for a Navy PAO position.

The basic eligibility requirements for the Navy PAO program listed below are current as of September 2023, per the Navy Personnel Command. No updates have been issued so far.

Navy PAO Basic Eligibility Requirements

CitizenshipNavy PAO applicants must be United States citizens
AgeAt the time of commissioning, Navy PAO applicants must be at least 19 years old and have not reached the age of 37.
EducationA bachelor degree from an approved university is required, as well as a cumulative grade point average of 2.8 or above on a 4.0 scale. 
Although postgraduate education is encouraged, it is not necessary.
Broadcasting, communications, English, journalism, marketing, public relations, speech, or a related profession are all desirable areas of study. 
Other social sciences degrees, liberal arts degrees, and communication expertise will be considered.
Applicants with degrees that aren’t on the list of recommended or acceptable degrees will only be considered if they have worked in a communication area for at least one year.
Time in ServiceAs of the entry date, people in the military or veterans could have served for no more than eight years. Waivers can be asked for more than 8 to 10 years of active duty.
PhysicalIn accordance with Chapter 15 of the Medical Department’s Manual, selectees must retain their eligibility for global assignment. Applicants with physical limits that only affect certain types of work may be able to ask for waivers, and each case will be looked at on its own.
Work ExperienceWork experience is unnecessary for applicants with appropriate educational backgrounds. Those without acceptable degrees must have experience in the mass communication field.
Military or civilian job experience should be related to desired subjects of study. 
Only the submission of an applicant’s service record, which must contain all performance assessments, positions held, and military training and education attended/completed, can confirm military experience.
Include paperwork pertaining to past military service discharge, if appropriate. 
Civilian applicants should attach a resume that highlights any public relations and corporate communications experiences they have, which brings us to the next step.
AptitudeNavy PAO applicants must have a minimum score of 40 on the Officer Aptitude Rating (OAR) exam.
Source: Navy Personnel Command (June 2022)

2) Prepare your professional resume

If you have not prepared a current resume or curriculum vitae, it is best to start now. Once you contact your local recruiter, they will ask you for your current resume.

Your local officer recruiter may even ask you for a resume that is signed and dated by hand.

3) Contact local officer recruiter

You then must contact your local officer recruiter. They will be able to provide you with the current Navy PAO position availability, and any other nuanced requirements for the upcoming Navy PAO selection board.

The recruiter will ask you to provide basic identification documents as proof of eligibility (eg. birth certificate, passport, social security card, etc.), along with your college transcripts and current resume.

4) Take the Officer Aptitude Rating (OAR)

Once the officer recruiter verifies your basic eligibility, they will schedule you to take the Officer Aptitude Rating (OAR) exam.

Navy PAO applicants must have a minimum score of 40 on the OAR exam.

The most crucial requirement that you can fully control is your OAR score. It is the primary objective criteria upon which all applicants are compared against.

To maximize your chances of obtaining an exceptional OAR score, we only recommend this OAR Study Guide for your success. All others are mediocre at best.

5) Complete Navy NASIS

Prior to commissioning, a National Agency Check, Local Check inquiry, or its equivalent must be completed.

The Navy Accessions Security Information System (NASIS) collects information from prospective Naval Officers in order to launch personal security investigations for all Navy personnel. 

To begin an inquiry, the information for a security clearance investigation is submitted to the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS). 

NASIS is the Navy’s data collecting mechanism for security clearances, and it communicates with JPAS.

Prior to commissioning, all future Navy Officers must complete the SF86 request for security clearance and have an open investigation. 

Your recruiter will provide you guidance on how to log-in to your NASIS account. You must complete this as accurately as possible.

6) Complete Physical Exam at MEPS

Once you submit all medical paperwork to your officer recruiter, they will schedule you for your full physical exam at MEPS.

MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations) are joint-service facilities run by the Department of Defense that employ both military and civilian personnel. 

MEPS evaluates applicants based on their physical qualities, intelligence, and moral standards as defined by each branch of military service.

Hotel accommodation may be available for MEPS upon request.

7) Conduct professional interview

Those who want to apply must go through an interview with one of the CHINFO-approved interview groups every three months.

The interview group will give the applicant a proof memorandum at the end of the interview, which the candidate must include with their application.

The panel will give the applicant’s interview grades to the BUPERS-314F PAO Community Manager and CHINFO OI-8 so that they can be used by the Professional Recommendation board.

To set up their panel interview, applicants should call the PAO Community manager at 901-874-3098 at least four months before the package due.

8) Acquire professional endorsement

Navy PAO program applicants may acquire endorsements from Senior Navy Officers or senior enlisted, whether active duty, reserve, or retired, to be included in the application.

Professional endorsements for Navy PAO applications are now required.

9) Provide professional portfolio

Those who want to apply must send in a portfolio that may include stories, photos, talks, communication plans, and/or marketing materials.

Portfolios should show that the applicant can study, make plans, carry them out, and review their communication efforts.

10) Write motivational statement

The Officer Selection Board receives complete information about you from the Application Processing and Summary Record (APSR).

Within the APSR form, there is space to write a motivational statement. You must ensure that your motivational statement fits within the allotted space in the APSR form.

Your motivational statement should answer the following questions:

  • Why do you want to be a Navy PAO?
  • Why do you want to be a Naval Officer?
  • What do you offer to the Navy?
  • Why should the selection board choose you?

11) Complete application paperwork

At this point, your officer recruiter will present you with several paperwork that are required to be submitted with your application.

Complete these forms as accurately and promptly as you can.

Once complete, your application for the Navy PAO program will be submitted to the Navy Public Affairs Officer selection board.

Selection results typically are released 30 to 45 days after the Navy Public Affairs Officer selection board convening date.

Drug and Alcohol Screening

All candidates will undergo the same drug and alcohol tests that nuclear propulsion programs do due to the public-facing nature of the public affairs community.

This stipulation cannot be waived.

No officer or officer candidate will be accepted into the PAO community if they have:

  1. been addicted to any illicit drug or are physically or psychologically dependent on any illicit drug or alcohol;
  2. been a drug trafficker or manufacturer as defined by OPNAVINST 5355.3; or
  3. abused illicit drugs (other than marijuana).

Applicants will sign a statement agreeing that they may be subject to further background checks and that if they lie on their application, they could be kicked out of the program.

The certification will also say how well the applicant meets the requirements in the previous sentence and have a signed statement that the applicant does not want to use drugs illegally.

If the applicant admits to drug usage and wants consideration, the following information will be sought regarding the circumstances of previous drug abuse involvement:

(a) Drug(s) abused

(b) Number of instances, approximate dates, and amounts abused

(c) Time span covered

(d) Last involvement

(e) Civil involvement

The Nuclear Propulsion Program Pre-Service Drug Abuse Statement Form (NAVCRUIT 1131/8), which is used to record what applicants for the PAO group say about drug use, will be used.

This form will be sent to Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (COMNAVCRUITCOM) along with the application kit.

It is expected that COMNAVCRUITCOM will look over all pre-service drug usage statements and, if necessary, give waivers (with BUPERS-314F agreed upon).

Applicants may be able to get a pre-service drug abuse waiver from COMNAVCRUITCOM (as long as BUPERS-314F agrees) for experimental marijuana use.

This is the NAVCRUIT 1131/8 Drug Screening Form that all candidates will use. It will be sent to COMNAVCRUITCOM and BUPERS-314F instead of PERS-42 and OPNAV N133 as shown on the form.

Waivers

There may be times when an application doesn’t meet all of the requirements but still has a great record or the skills the Navy needs. In these cases, a waiver may be given.

You can ask for waivers for the following:

  1. Individuals with graduate education transcripts displaying a cumulative GPA more than 3.0 should have a cumulative GPA between 2.6 and 2.8. Undergraduate cumulative GPAs of less than 2.6 will be excused only if the candidate has obtained a master’s degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.
  2. Degrees from fields other than those on the recommended or acceptable list may be waived for persons with more than one year of verifiable job experience in a communication field (military public affairs, public relations, marketing, advertising, journalism, public speaking, or community relations). Transcripts and a description of employment experience and length of service in a communication profession should be included in the waiver request.
  3. Officers with OAR scores between 37 and 39 may obtain exemptions if they have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale.
  4. Medical restrictions that would prevent an applicant from serving in Type 2, 3, or 4 Sea duty, as defined in MILPERSMAN 1306-102, may be waived if the applicant is medically stable in all other shore-based duty types and meets retention standards IAW DoDI 6130.03 volume 2 or accession standards IAW DoDI 6130.03 volume 1. Waiver requests must include a NAVMED 1300/3 form signed by an MTF or MEPS medical screener with indicated limits. Limited exemptions will be considered on an individual basis. BUPERS-314F may professionally propose a maximum of two candidates who fit this criterion every fiscal year.

Who May Apply

  • Any qualified civilian.
  • Enlisted members in any service’s Active or Reserve Component (Selected Reserves (SELRES) or Individual Ready Reserve). SELRES on extended or recall orders are eligible to apply, but must first fulfill their active duty requirement under their present orders before being commissioned. Active duty personnel, including those serving in Training and Administration of the Reserve (TAR), are not eligible to apply unless suitable leave is allowed.
  • Personnel from the other military services who have been granted an inter-service transfer.

Navy PAO Service Obligation

Navy PAO selectees will be required to serve on active duty for 4 years from the date of appointment. 

The commitment takes effect upon commissioning.

The remaining service, equivalent to 8 years of total obligatory service, may be spent in the Ready Reserve status.

Civilians and enlisted applicants in E-4 or lower paygrades who are selected for this program are labeled officer candidates and upgraded to the paygrade of E-5 upon reporting to OCS.

Enlisted applicants in E-5 and higher paygrades are labeled officer prospects in their current paygrade.

Navy PAO Training Pipeline

Prospective Navy PAOs must first attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, RI, and then finish the Public Affairs & Communication Strategy Qualification Course at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, MD, where they learn the principles of public affairs, including military-media interactions. 

This is followed by a 10-day intense Public Relations Expeditionary Course focused on the application of public affairs skills in the field.

Navy Officer Candidate School

The Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) is 1 of 4 officer training schools at Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island. 

This 13-week course is meant to provide you a working understanding of the Navy in order to prepare you for a commission in the world’s most powerful Navy. 

To gain that distinction, OCS will put you through moral, mental, and physical tests to see if you have what it takes to both command sailors and execute global naval operations in defense of our country.

Candidates will be commissioned as ensigns in the United States Navy’s limited line, designator 1650.

Selectees will receive salary and benefits according on their paygrade when they begin OCS.

Public Affairs Qualification Course

The Public Affairs & Communication Strategy Qualification (PACS-Q) Course provides entry-level public affairs training for members of the Department of Defense, US government agencies, and selected foreign military experts. 

The core aspects of the communication planning process, concepts and practices associated with developing effective communication strategies, and the procedures involved in integrating communication into military planning and operations are all covered in this course.

The training you will receive in PACS-Q includes:

  • Provide communication strategy and public relations counsel to command and higher echelon headquarters
  • Leverage relationships with the community, the media, the command, partners, and stakeholders to accomplish a mission
  • Employ a communication team in accordance with Department of Defense and Department of the Navy policies and tactics, procedures and techniques to achieve commander’s desired state
  • Identify operational and  informational and factors that impact the command through environmental assessment
  • Provide communication tactics in line with commander’s intent and higher-echelon guidance

Navy Public Affairs Officer Duty Stations

As a Navy PAO, you will be exposed to different types of duty. Below are the typical duty stations of new Navy PAOs along with examples.

Operational or Staff Experience

Independent Duty

Major or Type Commander Staff Experience

Production and Outreach

Professional Development

More Information

If you want more information about becoming a Navy Public Affairs Officer, the next logical step is to contact a Naval Officer Recruiter.

Let us start figuring out how you can benefit from becoming a Navy PAO – or if it is even the right move for you considering your current life situation.

Aside from the Navy PAO program, others were also interested in other related Navy jobs, such as the Navy Cryptologic Warfare Officer or the Navy Information Professional jobs. Check them out.

Hope this was helpful for your career planning.

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