Navy Public Affairs Officer Program (2023)

Last Updated on August 29, 2023

This guide provides information that will help you with your decision to become a Navy Public Affairs Officer during Fiscal Year 2023.

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 32 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 June 2022, 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 32. Up to the age of 37, prior qualified service will be evaluated for year-for-year credit. No waivers are available for individuals older than 37 years old.
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 liberal arts degrees and communication expertise will be considered.
PhysicalIn accordance with Chapter 15 of the Medical Department’s Manual, selectees must retain their eligibility for global assignment.
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

As part of the application for the Navy PAO program, the applicant must provide 3 interview evaluations. 

  • A Navy active duty PAO in paygrades 0-5 or higher must conduct at least one interview. 
  • A Navy active duty, reserve, or retired PAO in the paygrade of 0-4 or above must conduct the second interview.
  • Any Navy Officer with a paygrade of 0-5 or higher may conduct the third interview.

You may use your own professional network to arrange these interviews. Otherwise, your recruiter should be able to arrange it for you.

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 preferred but not required.

9) Provide professional portfolio

Navy PAO program applicants must provide a portfolio of work that includes, but is not limited to, lectures, images, articles, communication strategies, and/or marketing materials.

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).

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

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.

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.

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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