From Various — 10/04/2009
I will try my best to hold off my bias of the military and give you a high quality review.
Pay: The pay is pretty good if you take into consideration how the average college student is broke from what I've heard; I have no experience of ever being "broke" in my life, so I guess I'm lucky. I enlisted right out of high school. If I were to go to college right out of high school, I probably would've been broke-I can't honestly say. Also, if you take into consideration that they pay for your food and housing (if you live on base), then the pay looks really good from that perspective. They also will pay you extra if you do live off base, provided certain requirements are met.
Respect: Respect is partially dependent on how YOU treat others AND how others treat YOU. If you are the type of person who can be friends with anybody, then you should experience minimal respect issues. But, since the Navy is big, there's a lot of people! So, taking into account probability, you are likely going to run into many unfriendly people (as well as friendly people). There's a certain vibe among those who have been in the Navy for a long time. This does not apply to all of them. But, for the ones that do, they certainly do not act or think like the general population. These are the ones that seem to just bark out orders and "go by the book"; they seem to have lost most of their personal identity and have the Navy's beliefs/identities installed in them. These are also usually the ones that when on liberty (which means "free time") do not seem to go out and have fun or relax. I highly advise avoiding these people if possible and if you work for one of these types, then your experience may not be so good..try not to let it bother you.
Benefits: The benefits are great. You get education benefits. The Navy (and all other military branches) will pay for your tuition through a program called Tuition Assistance. You can also go through a program called STA-21 (Seaman to Admirable) if you'd like to be an officer and have the Navy pay for your college. There is also the MGIB which has been updated recently. You also get 30 days of leave per year, federal holidays, sick leave, and health/dental insurance. Various military discounts at stores, cell phone bills, travel tickets, etc. Some jobs have a sign on bonus. You also receive an annual uniform allowance (money for uniforms). There's also a reenlistment bonus. You also get (if you are into any of these things) intangible benefits such as meeting lifelong friends, partying it up in other countries, consistent pay no matter how hard you work, and possibly education from some schools they sent you through so you could do your job.
Job Security: It is pretty secure as long as you do not break any rules in the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice, basically the rules of being in the military) and pass all your PRT/PFAs (physical fitness tests). To my knowledge, they really don't lay people off randomly.
Work/Life Balance: This is purely subjective. If you are on shore duty, you will get a lot more free time than someone who is on ship duty. Being on shore duty is almost like being on a regular 9-5 job (from what I hear, I personally have no experience with that). There is this concept called "duty" where every certain amount of days you have to go to work and stay there for 24 hours and being ready for something to happen even if you are at your home base (paranoid mentality imo). When you are on duty, you might have to do something called "watch" where you basically have to do some type of work for a certain amount of time. This work can consist of staying around to answer a phone, holding a shotgun while you are walking around, standing guard at the gate, being around with a walkie talkie-what you do on watch depends on your rate (your job, in other words).
Career Potential/Growth: They only promote from within the company (but, remember the company is BIG!). If you do good on your evaluations, then that increases your chance of promotion. You also have to take a test to increase your rank. Other factors are also involved. Your rate has an influence on your chances of promotion. If the Navy feels like a particular rate is over manned, then it is harder to get promoted in that rate for example.
Location: Purely subjective. You can be in Japan. You can be in San Diego. You can be in Hawaii. You can be in Norfolk. It all depends on luck, your rate, how you did in an A or C-school (higher grades get higher priority in choosing where they want to go), and possibly other unknown factors which we are going to ignore for simplicity.
Co-worker competence: Purely subjective as well. You really don't have control over how someone else acts! If its a highly technical job, you'll run into non competent people more often. If its not a technical job, then you won't.
Work Environment: Depends on your rate, if you're on shore duty or not, if you're still in bootcamp or not, if you're in a training command, and some other factors.