Once upon a time, midshipmen took a so-called “core curriculum” that led to every graduating midshipman earning a Bachelor of Science of degree. The school was founded in 1845, and the majors program started in 1969, when it required the Class of 1972 to complete a major in order to graduate. Qualifying midshipmen in the 1969 graduating class that year received the first designated engineering degrees, which were aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, naval engineering and systems engineering.
Naval Academy Academic Majors and Minors
Since then, the list of majors has expanded significantly to include approximately 26 majors, all designed as USNA notes, to “meet the current and future highly technical needs of the Navy. Graduates who are proficient in scientific inquiry, logical reasoning and problem solving will provide an officer corps ready to lead in each warfare community of the Navy and Marine Corps.” These majors and minors focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although the selection is much greater than it was in the past, engineering still remains one of the most popular majors.
While majors programs may vary somewhat from one class year to the next, USNA currently offers the following majors across various schools, divisions and departments:
- Aerospace Engineering +
- Chemistry +
- Computer Engineering +
- Computer Science +
- Cyber Operations +
- Data Science +
- Electrical Engineering +
- Foreign Area Studies
- General Engineering +
- General Science +
- Mathematics* +
- Mathematics with Economics +
- Mechanical Engineering +
- Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering* +
- Nuclear Engineering +
- Ocean Engineering* +
- Oceanography* +
- Operations Research +
- Physics +
- Political Science*
- Quantitative Economics* +
- Robotics and Control Engineering* +
The Naval Academy also offers minor degrees in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Arabic and Chinese.
* = honors program available, + = STEM major
How Do Midshipmen Pick Their Majors?
Similar to non-military colleges, these majors are decided after the first year of study. As midshipmen finish their plebe year, they work closely with their academic and military advisors to select their majors. In the following fall as third classmen when they’re known as “Youngsters,” midshipmen begin to take the classes that fulfill these majors.
Although the Naval Academy is different in most ways from a typical college, most midshipmen can choose their major like students do at other colleges. However at the Naval Academy, the needs of the Naval Service always take precedence. Therefore, starting with the Class of 2013, and expanding to NROTC college programs, at least 65 percent of the U.S. Naval Academy graduates commissioned into the U.S. Navy must complete academic majors in science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines. Midshipmen often delve into these majors with increased levels of specialization.
Core Courses for All
Regardless of the majors and minors they choose, all midshipmen must take the same core courses, which are required study. Since majors aren’t selected until their second year, all plebes take the same core courses during their first year. As they progress, midshipmen will take coursework from both the core and majors courses. The core forms the basis for both a “sound general education and strong professional development” that readies them for participation in any warfare community in the Naval Service.
Naval Academy Majors and Accreditation
All classes at the Naval Academy are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET has accredited the aerospace engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, general engineering, mechanical engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, nuclear engineering, ocean engineering and systems engineering (now known under the name of robotics and control engineering) degrees. The Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET, Inc. accredits the computer science, cyber operations and information technology programs, and the chemistry major is accredited by the American Chemical Society.
Beyond the quality that these accreditations confer, these programs are also highly respected for their rigor. If you thought applying to the Naval Academy was hard due to the eight percent acceptance rate, you won’t be surprised to learn that excelling in these classes can be even harder; USNA was ranked as the number one public school in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Graduating with a Degree—and a Purpose
Therefore reaching graduation is a huge cause for celebration. At the end of May, commissioning week culminates in an incredibly moving graduation ceremony that’s usually held at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, weather permitting. Midshipmen ranking in the top 10 percent of their class academically graduate with distinction. Midshipmen who have finished special honors programs in one of the selected majors graduate with honors.
All midshipmen receive a Bachelor of Science degree, whether they are commissioned in the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Marine Corps, and regardless of which major and minor they earned. This is in accordance with the law, since the core curriculum has such technical content. However no matter what accolades they’ve earned, the honor of graduating with an esteemed Naval Academy diploma is a point of tremendous pride. Naval Academy graduates have dedicated four years to developing their moral, mental and physical skills, and they leave the Naval Academy as fully commissioned officers who are prepared to lead their country with the highest standards as their guides. No matter what major and minor they’ve chosen, their USNA degree has equipped them for excellence.