Overview of Navy Seabee Careers

Do you have your eye on a career in the construction trades? The long-term payoff can be appealing, but on the bottom rung of the ladder, the cost of apprenticeship (not to mention the state of the job market) can be daunting. Becoming a Navy Seabee may be just the ticket – if you don’t mind being ready to put down the power tools and pick up a rifle at a moment’s notice.

Naval Construction Battalions (CBs – see where the name came from?) build forward naval bases as well as projects to support disaster and humanitarian relief. Born of the need for fighting builders who could lay down barracks and airfields during the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, Navy Seabees today are trained in one of seven construction and engineering trades, as well as basic infantry skills -- giving them a distinct edge in any workforce that’s embodied in their unofficial slogan, “Can Do!”

Military Requirements: In the dark days after Pearl Harbor, the Navy brass knew they’d need builders who could double as soldiers, but there was no time to start training from the ground up: The first Seabees were recruited from established tradesmen. These days, new enlistees only need a high school diploma and receive all of their trade schooling in the Navy – in exchange for a five-year enlistment rather than the usual four.

Education: After “A” school, where basic job skills are taught, new Seabees undergo combat training. Although they used to have their own two-week course in Gulfport Mississippi and Port Hueneme California, Navy Times staff writer Andrew Scutro explains that they’re now being trained alongside other ground-pounding sailors in a standardized Expeditionary Combat Course. According to that article, the course is taught by “contracted [civilian] instructors under Navy leadership” with input from current and retired combat veterans.

Funded Certifications: All Seabee specialties may be eligible for Navy- or GI Bill-funded training for Homeland Security certifications and Certified Construction Manager, credentials that can advance their Navy and future civilian careers. A few more examples of certifications for each rating are listed below, and more can be found on the Navy Credentialing Opportunities On Line (COOL) site.


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Duties run the gamut of from carpentry, masonry, concrete, and steel to insulation, sheet rock, painting, and waterfront structures. As if that isn’t broad enough, top-ranking builders (E-9, or Master Chief Petty Officer) merge career paths with Steelworkers and Engineering Aids.

Education: “A” School lasts two and a half months at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport MS.

Funded Certifications: Building Plans Examiner, Commercial Building Inspector, and more. More

Engineering Aid

Photo taken by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Ryan Wilber, USN; courtesy of US Navy.

Aids handle planning and quality control at the construction site, including surveys, drafts, schedules, and estimates of labor hours and building materials. At E-9, Aids merge with Builders and Steelworkers.

Military Requirements: Applicants must have received a C or above in high school or college trigonometry.

Education: “A” school lasts just over three and a half months at Fort Leonard Wood MO.

Funded Certifications: Construction Materials Testing, Highway Construction, Autodesk AutoCAD User Certification, Fiber Optics Installer and Technician, Commercial Building Inspector, and more. More


Photo taken by Staff Sgt Jeremy Crisp, USA; courtesy of ISAF Afghanistan.

Beams, scaffolds, superstructures – if it’s metal, the Steelworkers are its master on the job site. They also “control job site deployment of materials and equipment, [and] direct and coordinate” steel construction, according to the Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards (NEOS) Manual. At E-9 this field merges with Builders and Engineering Aids.

Education: “A” school lasts just shy of three months at NCBC Gulfport MS.

Funded Certifications: Certified Welder and Welding Inspector, Building Plans Examiner, Commercial Building Inspector, and more. More

Construction Electrician

Photo taken by Staff Sgt Courtney Richardson, USAF; courtesy of US Navy.

Handles indoor and outdoor wiring, circuit troubleshooting, pole climbing, generator maintenance, and other construction and combat duties. At E-9, the trade merges with Utilitiesman.

Military Requirements: The CE rating requires a combined score of 200 on the Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Info, and General Science sections of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Normal color vision is also required (don’t cut the blue wire).

Education: “A” School lasts about three months at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB) TX.

Funded Certifications: Fiber Optics Installer and Technician, Certified Commercial Electrical Inspector, and more. More


Photo taken by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeffery Tilghman Williams, USN; courtesy of US Navy.

These Seabees work on all of the necessities that separate a shanty from a shore facility: “plumbing, heating, steam, compressed air, fuel storage and distribution systems, water treatment and distribution systems, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, [and] septic system[s]” (NEOCS Manual). E-9 ratings combine this job with Construction Electrician (I always thought electricity and water didn’t go together, but then again, I’m no Seabee.)

Military Requirements: Achieve at least a 200 combined score in the Arithmetic Reasoning, Mechanical Knowledge, Electronics Information, and General Science sections of the ASVAB.

Education: “A” school lasts three months at Sheppard AFB TX.

Funded Certifications: Underground Utilities Construction, Fiber Optics Installer and Technician, Certified Mechanical Plans Examiner, and more. More

Construction Mechanic

Photo taken by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Russell Stewart, USN; courtesy of US Navy.

According to the NEOCS Manual, Construction Mechanics work on the “maintenance, repair, and overhaul” of the trucks, lifters, and other construction equipment on the job site, including engine maintenance, hydraulic systems, and chassis. At E-9, they come together with the Equipment Operator field.

Military Requirements: ASVAB scores for Arithmetic Reasoning, Mechanical Comprehension, and Auto and Shop must total 158 to qualify.

Education: "A" school lasts two to three months at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme CA. Funded Certifications: National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (multiple vehicle types), Registered Hazardous Substance Professional, and more. More

Equipment Operator

Photo taken by Senior Airman Gino Reyes, USAF; courtesy of US Navy.

When the Construction Mechanics are done fixing it, the Operators get behind the controls. These Seabees literally move the earth – and anything else that needs to come along or get out of the way. At E-9, Operators and Mechanics combine.

Military Requirements: Your combined Arithmetic Reasoning, Mechanical Comprehension, and Auto & Shop score on the ASVAB must be above 140. Normal color vision is a must. Candidates must also possess a regular driver’s license, with no history of intoxicated driving or major accidents in the past year before applying. (No, you don’t drive a forklift better when you’ve had a few.)

Education: “A” school lasts three months at Fort Leonard Wood MO.

Funded Certifications: Mobile Crane Operator and more. More