Where Do Navy SWOs Go to School for Initial Training?

Last Updated on March 4, 2024

Are you aspiring to become a Navy officer and serve in the Surface Warfare community? The first step towards achieving your goal is attending the Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS).

But what exactly is SWOS and what can you expect from this rigorous training program?

If you are considering a career as a Navy officer, understanding what SWOS entails and how it can shape your future is essential.

This quick guide will summarize the Surface Warfare Officers School, its curriculum, and the invaluable experiences it offers to aspiring Navy officers.

Whether you are already on your way to SWOS or just starting your journey, this guide will help you navigate the path to becoming a successful Surface Warfare Officer.

What is Navy SWOS?

Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) is a United States Navy institution that provides comprehensive training and education to officers who will serve in surface warfare roles.

SWOS equips officers with the knowledge and skills necessary to lead and manage naval surface ships, including navigation, ship handling, combat systems, warfare tactics, and leadership.

The school aims to develop proficient and effective Surface Warfare Officers who can successfully carry out missions and maintain the readiness of the Navy’s surface fleet.

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Background and Location

Navy SWOS is in Newport, Rhode Island, a historic Navy town that has been training naval officers for decades.

The school serves as the U.S. Navy’s hub for molding new and experienced officers into experts in surface warfare.

The programs here focus on producing officers proficient in the operational, tactical, and leadership aspects of life aboard a naval surface vessel.

Navy SWOS is a part of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), which oversees the training of naval officers.

The school was established in 1884 to help educate Navy personnel on advancements in surface warfare tactics, operations, and leadership.

In the early days of World War II, the school began offering courses for active duty officers and enlisted personnel so they could understand how to best use the Navy’s combatant ships.

Purpose of Navy SWOS

Why does Navy SWOS exist, you ask? Simply put, the school’s mission is to turn officers into well-rounded leaders who can command or operate any surface ship with skill and confidence.

It fills the knowledge gap between what officers learn at the Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or through the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) and the real-world, high-stakes challenges that await at sea.

At Navy SWOS, officers learn the skills to confidently take charge of an entire ship’s crew and navigation. The school provides a foundation of knowledge on maritime warfare, engineering systems, shipboard operations, personnel management, maintenance and logistics, damage control, and more.

The curriculum develops and sustains naval officers’ professional understanding of their warfighting responsibilities. It helps them hone their leadership skills and develop sound judgment, so they can carry out missions with success.

At the completion of Navy SWOS, officers will have a complete understanding of the operational needs and capabilities of a surface warfare ship or squadron.

They will also gain valuable experience that will help them throughout their career in the Navy.

Key Courses and Curriculum

The school offers a rich and diverse curriculum aimed at both junior and mid-level officers.

Division Officer Courses

  • Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC): This is your starting point. Think of it as SWO 101. This course spans 21 weeks and focuses on the core fundamentals you’ll need for your first tour at sea. The course covers seamanship, navigation, and an introduction to the various shipboard systems you’ll be responsible for.
  • Advanced Division Officer Course (ADOC): Imagine this as your sophomore year. This course is more intensive and delves deeper into advanced naval tactics, shipboard management, and increased leadership responsibilities. This course is usually for officers who’ve had a bit of sea time and are preparing for greater leadership roles.

Specialized Courses

  • Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW): This course is for those who want to get into the nitty-gritty of how a ship operates from an engineering perspective. Think engines, power distribution, and other mechanical systems.
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW): This is where you learn about the “silent service” and how to detect, track, and counter underwater threats, like submarines. If you’re interested in playing a high-stakes game of hide and seek, this course is for you.
  • Shipboard Firefighting and Damage Control: Picture this as the Navy’s version of emergency response training. You’ll learn how to fight fires and control damage to keep the ship afloat and mission-capable.

Prerequisites and Eligibility

So, who can walk through the hallowed halls of SWOS? To be considered, you need to:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution
  • Have a commission through one of the official channels: Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School (OCS), or Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC)
  • Pass a comprehensive medical examination to ensure you’re fit for the sea duty ahead
  • Be a U.S. citizen—non-negotiable, that one

Application Process

Getting into SWOS isn’t like applying for a credit card; there are several steps involved.

  1. Initial Application: Your journey begins with a comprehensive application packet. This is submitted through your chain of command.
  2. Interview: Yes, you’ll likely sit down with senior officers who will assess your suitability for the SWO role. Make sure you’re prepped and ready to impress.
  3. Background Check: The Navy takes security seriously. A thorough background check is conducted to ensure you qualify for the requisite security clearance.
  4. Enrollment: If you’ve navigated the previous steps successfully, you’ll receive your orders, along with your training schedule.

Duration and Training Environment

How Long is the Training?

The duration of your time at SWOS depends on which courses you’re taking. The Basic Division Officer Course, for example, is around 21 weeks long. Specialized courses could range from a few days of refresher training to several months for in-depth instruction.

Besides the classroom instruction, hands-on training is also involved. This includes shipboard familiarization, damage control, weapons systems simulations, and field exercises.

The total training time will depend on which courses you take and how long each course lasts.

What to Expect?

The environment at SWOS is a balance of classroom learning and hands-on experiences. You’ll find state-of-the-art simulators mimicking real-world scenarios, practical exercises on land, and even some time at sea. It’s rigorous but designed to turn you into a competent naval officer capable of handling a plethora of situations.

You’ll learn navigation, engineering, and how to lead a crew. You’ll also brush up on your knowledge of naval regulations and maritime law.

Through lectures and hands-on application, you’ll develop the ability to think critically and respond quickly in challenging situations.

Expect to work long hours in the classroom and even longer hours at sea. The time spent outside will depend on the courses you take and the emphasis on your training.

But know this: SWOS prepares you for a long and successful career in the Navy.

Career Path and Opportunities

Once you’ve conquered SWOS, you’re off to your first sea tour, which usually lasts between 24 and 36 months.

From there, you could continue to serve on various types of surface ships or opt for more specialized training in fields like Anti-Submarine Warfare or even missile defense.

The sky (or rather, the sea) is the limit.

At sea, as a SWO, you’ll lead your own crew of highly skilled sailors. You could become a Commanding Officer of your own ship.

The Navy also offers programs designed to prepare SWOs for positions in The Joint Staff, Foreign Area Officers, and other key roles.

When you’re not at sea, you’ll be assigned to shore duty. This could include assignments to staff commands, professional education courses, training commands, or major command staffs.

The Navy also offers many opportunities for travel and adventure around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Navy SWOS Difficult?

SWOS is as challenging as it is rewarding. It’s designed to equip you with the skills necessary to excel in a naval environment, and that doesn’t come easy.

What is the Dropout Rate?

The dropout rate at SWOS is relatively low—around 5 percent. This is a testament to the quality of candidates selected and the effectiveness of the training programs.

Can Women Enroll in Navy SWOS?

Absolutely, yes. Women have been actively contributing to the SWO community and are encouraged to apply.


To sum it up, Navy SWOS is your gateway to becoming a proficient Surface Warfare Officer.

Whether you’re a fresh Naval Academy graduate, an Officer Candidate School standout, or a NROTC star, SWOS provides you with the indispensable knowledge and skills to prepare you for the high-stakes world of naval surface warfare.

With this in-depth guide, you’re now equipped to set sail on your journey toward becoming a Surface Warfare Officer. Anchors aweigh!

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