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SAN Careers: How to join the South African Navy

Thinking of building a career with the South African Navy? If you are looking for offshore jobs that are filled with challenging adventures, Navy jobs might be for you.

With a large amount of professions within the Navy, your options for training and even receiving an education and the opportunity to specialise are vast. From fire fighting jobs to a highly trained diver – you will find it in the Navy.

What is the South African Navy?

Part of the Department of Defence, the South African Navy (SAN) has the core function of fighting at sea. The SA Navy effectively helps to protect our country’s coastlines as well as our marine resources. With its fleet based in Simon’s Town, the SAN uses submarines and ships to conduct its duties effectively.

Apart from its fleet base in Simon’s Town, SAN has Naval Stations in Port Elizabeth and Durban, its headquarters situated in Pretoria.

Careers and SA Navy Jobs

There is a huge variety of career fields within South Africa’s Navy to choose from. Some of these careers range to include:

Fire Fighting Jobs

With fires on vessels being a huge risk, fire fighting jobs within the navy is an important role to fill. Though all navy personnel are trained in firefighting, the SA Navy also has its own dedicated firefighting service. This service deals with both offshore as well as onshore situations.

Your Military Skills Development training within this field is valid for a seven month period and includes a large number of modules such as the handling of hazardous materials, handling bush fires, fire fighting and, a more advanced, petro-chemical fire fighting.

Practical in nature, the theory part of this training comprises of 20% of your course. Opting for fire fighting jobs in the Navy, you will also receive training in the form of a basic ambulance course – this training is equivalent to First Aid Level 5 training.

The Protection Force

Responsible for the maintenance of the South African Navy’s security, the second year Military Skills Development (MSD) sailors are required to undergo a ten week long programme in Simon’s Town. Here you will undergo various training that ranges to include vehicle searches, the searching and clearing of buildings, and weapon handling, to name but a few aspects.
After this programme you will be sent to other Naval Units to complete the rest of the year’s training needed to perform these types of navy jobs.

ERATS – Engine Room Attendants

A good example of the offshore jobs within the SA Navy, within this division you will receive the basic skills required to be an attendant in the engine rooms of various vessels. A six week long course, you will learn about the basics of mechanics, maritime refrigeration, the basics of outboard motors and internal combustion engines.
You will also delve into ship systems, propellers, maintenance, shafting and lubrication. After this course is complete, you will be sent to different base workshops, submarines and ships.

Public Relations (PR)

Some sailors spending their second year with Public Relations at the South Africa Navy. Here you will undergo the PRISA (Public Relations Institute of South Africa) Basic Principles of Public Relations course. It is also during this second year at the SAN that you will take part in various functions of the Navy PR Department including event management, the manning of exhibitions and shows, and even basic photography.

Human Resources (Personnel)

Because the South African Navy manages its own personnel, it has a Human Resources Department. Within this department of the Navy you will undergo a six month course in your second year of MSD where you will cover subjects that range to include topics like Labour and Service Relations, Signal Writing, Writing and Human Resource Maintenance.

Physical Training

In the SAN physical fitness is extremely important and, it is for this reason, that the Navy has a branch of trained Physical Training Instructors (PTI). It is the responsibility of these trainers to not only ensure the sailors stay in tiptop shape, but also know all the rules associated with different activities (such as tug of war, military pentathlon, soccer and rugby).


The SA Navy manages its own hospitality service. This means that Navy requires dedicated and trained chefs and stewards, opening up opportunities for navy jobs within food and beverages. If this is the part of the Navy you would like to be active in you will undergo an eight week long course at the Catering School in Simon’s Town. This includes a number of interesting subjects like menu planning, the principles of cooking, nutrition, bar and wine service and entertainment.


Consisting of a five week long course, your subjects here will include a number of subjects including storage and transportation, the principles of accounting, stock taking, packaging and controlling authorities. After you have completed your training you will be sent to onshore or offshore Naval units to apply your knowledge.


If your passion is tingled by secure communications, this is the Naval department for you. Because all communications are done in a secure format, the MSD sailors who do choose to go into this field are required to complete a nine month long course in Simon’s Town.

During the span of this communications course you will learn everything from Morse code and Voice and Radio Procedures, to plashing lights and semaphore.

MRS – Maritime Reaction Squadron

Exciting offshore jobs, MRS is a specialised unit within the South African Navy. The Maritime Reaction Squadron is aimed at deploying members into peacekeeping roles, assist in offshore boarding operations, conducting observer missions and provide VIP Protection, to name but a few functions.

 SA Navy Diving Jobs

If you are looking for diving jobs, the Navy might be for you. At the SAN you will receive a physical and physiological training that will help you become a highly skilled diver. Open to sailors who have successfully completed the MSD programme, you must be between the ages of 18 and 22 (or if you are a graduate the age of 26), have a National Senior Certificate (Matric), comply with the medical fitness requirements and be a South Africa Citizen.

Combat Officer

Combat Officers are a very important aspect of the Navy. These officers are responsible for executing the main functions of the South African Navy, which is Maritime Warfare. In these navy jobs you will be active within the elements of combat. Reaching the peak of your career would be receiving command of your own warship.

Candidates found in this department are highly motivated with great leadership trademarks that can meet the high demands of this field. During the span of your training you will learn how to effectively use complex computerised weaponry.

Student Engineer

With the acquisition of new vessels and modern weaponry, an Engineering career within the SA Navy is exciting and fulfilling. These navy jobs are aimed at the modification and maintenance of electronics, weapons, propulsion, the design of new systems and the development of these systems.

After you have successfully completed your first year of MSD, you will further your studies at the University of Cape Town or the University of Stellenbosch, having the opportunity to study Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering.

Student Naval Technical Officer

Here you will have the opportunity to work closely with experienced Naval Engineering Officers. Students within the Naval Technical Officer position will also be involved in the acquisition of new vessels as well the electronic systems within these vessels.

After you have completed your officers and military training during your first year, you will further your studies in Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

How to join SAN

Ready to join the South African Navy? If you would like to apply to the SAN, you will have to be a South African citizen and between the ages of 18 and 22. If you would like to apply to the SAN, you must have a National Senior Certificate, comply with the fitness requirements, not be bound to a specific area, have no criminal record and preferably be single.

If you are 26 years of age or younger and have a fitting University Degree, a three year National Diploma or an N4, N5 or N6 Certificate in Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering, you can also apply to the South African Navy.

If you would like to be a Diver, you cannot suffer from claustrophobia, have a fear of heights or have any physical disabilities. In order to apply you must also be a strong swimmer and have a talent for general water based activities.
In order to apply for Combat Officer and Student Naval Technical Officer jobs, it is required that you have Physical Science and Mathematics at Level 4 and pass Matric with exemption.

If you would like to become a part of the Maritime Reaction Squad (MRS) you must first complete the Military Skills Development Programme.

The Military Skills Development (MSD) programme is a two year long programme aimed at giving recruits the skills, knowledge and experience to be employable within the South African Navy and fill offshore jobs within SAN. Within this programme you will learn a huge variety of skills ranging to include Musketry, Seamanship, Work Ethics, Environmental Awareness, Hygiene, Basic Financial Management Skills, Computer Skills and more.

You will receive basic training at SAS SALDANHA, located in Saldanha Bay. Here all Military Training for Ratings (MTR) takes place. Candidates here receive intensive Officer training before moving on to fill posts in various branches including Combat, Engineering and Personnel.

Junior Ratings receive training that can be used in functional areas within the SA Navy. These fields include Divers, Radar Operators, Engine Room Attendants, Protection Force and Hospitality, to name but a few examples.

Officers are trained at SA Naval College located in Gordon’s Bay while specialist training takes place at SAS SIMONSBERG located in Simon’s Town.

If you would like to learn more on how to apply to the Military Skills Development programme, please be sure to visit the SAN careers website.

Amped to start your career with the South African Navy? Register your CV on Job Mail and start applying for Navy jobs. Also be sure to check out our range of available jobs – from diving jobs to fire fighting jobs, has it all!