Master at Arms Navy Descriptions and Qualification Factors

Being a master at arms includes a lot of responsibility

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Information comes from the Navy Personnel Command.

The Master at Arms (MA) rating (job) provides the Navy with security specialists who perform antiterrorism, force protection, physical security, and law enforcement duties on land and at sea. MA’s are the Navy’s security and force protection professionals. An MA may operate a force protection watercraft, direct an investigation, control a base access point, or supervise a K-9 asset.

Some specific MA duties include conducting waterborne security patrols, protecting oil platforms, managing base access, conducting base security patrols, law enforcement operations, providing protection for high-ranking dignitaries and government officials. They may also perform security inspections, conduct K-9 explosive and narcotics detection missions, organize and train security personnel, operate brigs (the Navy's version of jails), and conduct investigations and crime prevention programs. 


A master at arms may expect to be assigned to duty at shore stations in the U.S. and overseas; aboard ships as either ship’s company or security team; or as part of a maritime expeditionary security squadron. The work environment varies widely with individual assignments. Master at arms personnel serve in  security locations around the world, and provide land and sea security in support of joint service operations.

Qualifying as a Navy Master at Arms

Once they've completed boot camp, recruits seeking law enforcement and security positions report to San Antonio, Texas for nine weeks of A-school training. They'll learn anti-terrorism techniques, crime prevention, civil law, communications, and receive firearms training.

Those seeking a position as a master at arms need to achieve a combined score of 100 on the word knowledge (WK) and  arithmetic reasoning (AR) segments of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. They will also need to be able to qualify for a secret security clearance, and be a U.S. citizen. They'll need a record free of nonjudicial punishments or convictions within three years of applying to be an MA. A domestic violence conviction disqualifies any MA candidate, and is not waiverable. 

Master at arms recruits should have a valid driver's license, no speech impediments, and are required to pass a drug test. They should have no history of mental disorders, alcoholism or drug abuse, and need normal color perception and vision correctable to 20/20. 

Advancement opportunities and career progression for a master at are directly linked to a rating's manning level; those in overmanned ratings have fewer promotion opportunities than those in undermanned ratings.

Sea/Shore Rotation for Master at Arms

The sea/shore rotation for a master at arms is as follows:

  • First Sea Tour: 48 months
  • First Shore Tour: 48 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 42 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 48 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 36 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 48 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 36 months
  • Forth Shore Tour: 48 months

Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.

The master at arms rating is classified as an INUS/OUTUS (in the U.S./Outside the U.S.) community, which means that instead of being assigned to ships, many of their overseas assignments are classified as sea tour duty for sea/show flow purposes.

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