An individual can take several paths to become a sailor—enlisted or commissioned—in the U.S. Navy. The simplest distinction (not without some exceptions) between officers and enlisted is that the former have college degrees and the latter do not. While there are ways for enlisted sailors to become officers, and there are enlisted sailors who have degrees, these distinctions generally hold true, and most sailors enter the Navy primarily through one of several ways.
Young men and women who want to enlist in the Navy begin their conversion from civilian to sailor by reporting to the Recruit Training Command (RTC), often referred to as boot camp. In the past, there were boot camps in such places as San Diego, California; Orlando, Florida; and Bainbridge, Maryland, but today there is only one, located in Great Lakes, Illinois, north of Chicago.