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Military Academies

U.s. Naval Academy

As the undergraduate college of the U.S. Naval Service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. Naval Academy students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy. They attend the academy for four years, graduating with bachelor of science degrees and reserve commissions as either ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates serve at least five years as Navy or Marine Corps officers.

The scenic Naval Academy campus, known as the "Yard," is located in historic Annapolis, Maryland, where the Severn River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. With its combination of early twentieth-century and modern buildings, the Naval Academy is a blend of tradition and state-of-the-art technology that exemplifies the Navy and Marine Corps in the early twenty-first century. Throughout the Yard, tree-shaded monuments commemorate the bravery and heroism that are an inherent part of the academy's heritage. Buildings and walkways are named for Naval Academy graduates who have contributed to naval history and their nation.

The Naval Academy is also the final resting place of Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones. A National Historic Site, the Naval Academy hosts more than 1 million tourists every year from the United States and around the world.


Founded in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, the academy started as the Naval School on ten acres of old Fort Severn in Annapolis. Since then, the development of the Naval Academy has reflected the history of the United States. In 1850 the Naval School became the U.S. Naval Academy. A new curriculum went into effect requiring midshipmen to study at the academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer. That format is the basis of what has evolved into a far more advanced and sophisticated curriculum at the Naval Academy. As the U.S. Navy grew over the years, the academy expanded. The campus of ten acres increased to 338. The original student body of fifty-five midshipmen grew to a brigade of 4,000, and modern granite buildings replaced the old wooden structures of Fort Severn and the Naval School.

Congress authorized the Naval Academy to begin awarding bachelor of science degrees in 1933. The academy later replaced a fixed curriculum taken by all midshipmen with a core curriculum plus eighteen major fields of study, a wide variety of elective courses, and advanced study and research opportunities.

Mission and Program

The Naval Academy's official mission is "to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to provide graduates who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government" (U.S. Naval Academy). This gives everyone–faculty, staff, and midshipmen–the same focus. It also encourages a sense of spirit and pride found at few other schools.

The moral, mental, and physical elements of the Naval Academy program are equally important, all contributing to the qualities of an outstanding naval officer. Each midshipman's academic program begins with a core curriculum that includes courses in engineering, science, mathematics, humanities, and the social sciences. This is designed to give a broadbased education that will qualify midshipmen for practically any career field in the Navy or Marine Corps. At the same time, the majors program provides students the opportunity to develop a particular area of academic interest. For especially capable and highly motivated students, the academy offers a challenging honors programs and an opportunity to begin a postgraduate degree while still at the academy.

After four years at the Naval Academy, the life and customs of naval service become second nature. First, a student learns to take orders from practically everyone, but before long, students acquire the responsibility for making decisions that can affect hundreds of other midshipmen. Professional classroom studies are backed by many hours of practical experience in leadership and naval operations, including assignments with Navy and Marine Corps units during the summer months.

Moral and ethical development is a fundamental element of all aspects of the Naval Academy experience. As future officers in the Navy or Marine Corps, midshipmen will someday be responsible for the lives of many men and women and multimilliondollar equipment. From "Plebe Summer" through graduation, the Naval Academy's Character Development Program is a four-year integrated continuum that focuses on the attributes of integrity, honor, and mutual respect. One of the goals of this program is to develop midshipmen who possess a clearer sense of their own moral beliefs and the ability to articulate them. Honor is emphasized through the Honor Concept of the Brigade of Midshipmen–a system that was originally formulated in 1951 and states: "Midshipmen are persons of integrity: they stand for that which is right." These Naval Academy "words to live by" are based on the moral values of respect for human dignity, respect for honesty, and respect for the property of others. Brigade Honor Committees composed of elected upperclass midshipmen are responsible for education and training in the Honor Concept. Midshipmen found in violation of the Honor Concept by their peers may be separated from the Naval Academy.

The Naval Academy teaches the importance of being physically fit and prepared for stress because the duties of Navy and Marine Corps officers often require long, strenuous hours in difficult situations. The physical requirements of Plebe Summer training, four years of physical education, and year-round athletics also develop pride, teamwork, and leadership.

Profile of Midshipmen

It takes a special kind of young man or woman to handle the Naval Academy's demanding program, but that doesn't mean all midshipmen are alike. Midshipmen come from all fifty states, from U.S. territories, and from several foreign countries. They have roots in cities and suburbs, farms and ranches, small towns and military bases. Midshipmen are good students, leaders in their high schools and communities, and participants in competitive sports. The young men and women who choose the Naval Academy are looking for more than a college degree, however–they like the idea of being challenged morally, mentally, and physically.


U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY. 2002. <www.nadn.navy.mil>.


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