The Quartermaster rating, QM, is one of the oldest in the United States Navy. Originally established in 1798 with the caveat it was only intended for application frigates, the Quartermaster rating was expanded to include service on other ships in 1813. A paygrade C was established for the rating in 1864, and in 1893 it became one of eight ratings to have a Chief Petty Officer rate.
Most Naval ratings designations give you a pretty clear, albeit general, idea of the type of work that it involves, but such isn’t the case with the QM rating, which revolves around navigation, maps, and oceanography. The terms “quarters” is automatically associated with the living area of enlisted personnel regardless of the branch of service, “General Quarters” is a shipwide announcement for Sailors to take their place at Battle Stations, and Army quartermasters are in charge of supplies and provisions—none of which have anything to with the Quartermaster rating.
Enlisted Navy personnel who desire a career in the Quartermaster rating must be U.S. citizens and also meet all security-clearance requirements. Drawn from the Seaman classification, potential Quartermasters attend the Quartermaster Class “A” School Technical School for over two months of training and classwork. Those who successfully complete the course will be able to operate navigational equipment, perform weather observations, calculate ship positions using both visual techniques and electronic equipment, control a ship’s steering, and perform other core tasks of the QM rating.
But Class “A” school is only the start of a potentially long learning process for Quartermasters. As their careers progress, new opportunities for learning through classroom technical training and operational, on-the-job experience constantly become available.