Navy Mastery


To prepare for the future fight and our new capabilities we are building better: better prepared people, better careers, better partnerships and better workforce sustainability leading to better regional security. Over the course of a career in the Navy, personnel are provided with professional development opportunities to lead them to a fulfilling career and assist them to become experts within their preferred fields - all while meeting organisational needs and delivering lethal effects.

Mastery is the process of progressively acquiring - through learning, practice and mentoring - comprehensive knowledge and skills in a specific domain, together with the ability to apply it intuitively. To ensure our people are progressing their professional development, Navy has introduced the Navy Mastery System.

The Navy Mastery System provides the concepts, programs and mechanisms to deliver value to every sailor’s and officer’s career. Navy Mastery is centred on ‘learning by doing’ through the three core elements of Mastery: Maritime, Technical and Social.

Navy Mastery enables personnel to move beyond job proficiency and rank-based career progression, to prepare them for Joint Service. It supports and encourages a focus on lifelong learning, skills acquisition, competence and expertise. The highest level of Mastery comes through unconscious competence. It means you become so adept in your field you instinctively know what to think and do in any situation.

Navy Mastery principles and elements are now being considered across the Joint/Integrated workforce, with Navy working closely with Army and Air Force to incorporate Mastery where relevant.


What is Navy Mastery?

Mastery is the process of progressively acquiring - through learning, practice and mentoring - comprehensive knowledge and skills in a specific domain, together with the ability to apply it intuitively. To ensure our people are progressing their professional development, Navy has introduced the Navy Mastery System.

The Navy Mastery System provides the philosophy, models, frameworks and tools to deliver value to every sailor’s and officer’s career and the Navy.

Navy Mastery is centred on ‘learning by doing’ through the three core elements of Mastery: Maritime, Technical and Social.


Why Mastery?

We are working within a rapidly evolving regional environment. As a Navy and as part of an Integrated/Joint Force, we operate in an increasingly complex, congested and contested operating environment. The character of maritime warfare is ever-changing, and these changes have out-stripped some components of the current workforce system. We must deliver the operational effectiveness and lethal force required for the future fight.

Historically, Navy has prioritised technical expertise of our people ahead of the two other key areas of personal and professional development: knowing how to operate effectively in the maritime domain and how to contribute to, and lead, teams effectively.

Navy’s ability to deliver sustained maritime capability to the Australian Government depends on having Suitably, Qualified and Experienced Personnel (SQEP). In a rapidly evolving global environment, Navy recognises that the current workforce system does not adequately match the changing character of maritime warfare, or the complex and contested environment in which the Navy operates.

Navy is committed to ensuring that each and every one of its members is able to achieve mastery by providing an environment that fosters the development and obtainment of mastery. What this means for the Navy workforce is that, for the first time, rank will not be the most important signal of success.

As personnel acquire deeper knowledge and develop more complex skills, their Mastery will move them towards a more advanced phase in their career. True Mastery comes through unconscious competence1. For individuals, it’s about becoming so adept that you instinctively know what to think and do in a given situation. For the organisation it’s about delivering SQEP.

Navy Mastery allows personnel to move beyond job proficiency and rank-based career progression and prepares them for their Joint service. It will support people’s focus on lifelong learning, skills acquisition, competence and expertise.

1. The Dunning and Kruger effect - “It takes competence to judge competence”. McIntosh, R. D., Fowler, E. A., Lyu, T., & Della Salla, S. (2019). Wise up: Clarifying the role of metacognition in the Dunning-Kruger effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 148(11): 1882-1987.


The Benefits of Mastery

Navy Mastery allows personnel to move beyond job proficiency and rank-based career progression, to prepare them for Joint Service. It supports and encourages a focus on lifelong learning, skills acquisition, competence and expertise - key areas known to improve engagement and organisational commitment. The highest level of Mastery comes through unconscious competence to perform a role intuitively. It is about becoming so adept you instinctively know what to do in any situation. The benefits for individuals and the organisation are:


  • Choice in career paths with options for skill training and professional development
  • Greater career satisfaction
  • Clearer avenues for promotion
  • Varied career progression from dual career ladders to progression within the broader Defence environment
  • Job flexibility aligned to important life stages


  • Meeting organisational objectives
  • Ensuring workforce availability
  • Enabling workforce capability development and delivery
  • Reducing risk of workforce hollowness
  • Increasing motivation and productivity
  • Improving workforce retention and re-engagement

What will Mastery achieve for industry?

  • Mastery will deliver a robust workforce that is more aligned to the industry standards of training and development across a range of fields.
  • Through partnering with industry, Mastery will ensure training providers are delivering the latest military requirements to create professional standards across a range of professions.
  • It will provide industry with the opportunity to inform the direction of future of work impacted professions such as cyber, information technology, space and nuclear warfare.
  • It will provide an opportunity to reinvest resources into advancing technology development and supported training
L-R: Leading Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Hoang Williams; Able Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator (ABHSO) Thomas Beddome; and ABHSO Pauline Maine of Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit prepare a robotic total station and GPS rover for survey equipment testing at HMAS Cairns, in Cairns, Queensland, 2022. Image by POIS Peter Thompson.

The Theoretical Underpinnings of Mastery


Navy Mastery System

The Navy Mastery System (NMS) includes the Navy Mastery Model (NMM), the Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced and Master (FIAM) competencies and stages and the EEE. It is based on a talent management framework by Josh Bersin for Deloitte (2010) where the building blocks of a high performance talent framework consist of:

  1. A talent strategy and governance framework
  2. Capability and competency framework
  3. Workforce planning and career management
  4. Learning and Development strategy
  5. Talent acquisition strategy and total rewards framework
  6. Business metrics and analytics

The NMS has all of the above components to deliver the system in its entirety. Due the nature of the system, various components are to be delivered in a staged approach and we are currently in stage three with a focus on workforce planning and career management through the development of Mastery Career Pathways (MCP).


Mastery Stages: Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced, Master (FIAM)

The NMM was originally inspired by the work of Dreyfus and Dreyfus’ (1980) model of skill acquisition. The model was applied to the learning environment as a method to understand how skills develop through formal instruction and practicing. The model initially had five distinct stages that students pass through from novice, competence, proficiency, expertise and mastery. In addition, there were four binary qualities that characterised each stage:

  • Recollection (non-situational and situational)
  • Recognition (decomposed or holistic)
  • Decision (analytical or intuitive)
  • Awareness (monitoring or absorbed)

The model was adapted for the use in the Navy Mastery Model to signal to the workforce the expected levels of competence from foundation, intermediate, advanced and master (FIAM). This is anticipated to reform the existing approach to training whereby through this new lens, training solutions will have to categorise the level of mastery before endorsing competence.

The mastery levels also serve another purpose - to guide the transition through various work stages which are also aligned to FIAM. The details of these mastery stages have been developed specifically for the Navy and are contained in various documents and policies to guide workforce planning, workgroup design and professional development through Education, Exposure and Experience.


Education, Exposure, Experience (EEE)

The EEE model is derived from a common learning and development (L&D) approach referred to as the 70-20-10 model. The intent was to ensure that workers have the right knowledge and skills to keep organisations competitive.

The guidance at the time was to spend 70% of learning on experience in the workforce, 20% on exposure through connecting with others, and 10% on formal and informal education.

The NMM has adapted this guidance with a greater focus on continuous learning and development. The model still advises a rough split of learning across the EEE with the main points of difference that it should be an ongoing, lifelong learning approach and tailored to each mastery stage. For example, those in the Foundation Mastery stage are likely to need more education and exposure, with less ability to apply it on the job through experience; whereas, those in the advanced mastery stage are likely to leverage more exposure and experience based on earlier attained education due to the seniority of their roles and increased complexity in the environment.


Implementation Timeline

Navy Mastery began in 2020 and is gradually being introduced in different parts of the organisation. It is a fundamental change to our workforce and involves integrating career pathways, training, policy, reporting and systems, to name a few. Such a large change will be a multi-year journey with the schedule as shown below.

Navy Mastery Components



We understand our environment and operate effectively at sea

Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Raden Prayitno fires the line throwing projectile as HMAS Canberra (III) conducts a Replenishment at Sea with HMAS Supply (II) during Operation TONGA ASSIST 2022. Image by ABIS Susan Mossop.

Maritime Mastery is the deep understanding of how to successfully operate within the maritime domain and the core requirements of individuals and teams to generate capability. This includes common, Whole-of-Navy maritime skills and ensures you have confidence operating naval platforms and systems to achieve the mission in maritime environments. It is centred on competence at sea, as a sailor, on a ship and in the fight. When you achieve Maritime Mastery, you understand all aspects of our environment and know how to operate effectively to fight and win at sea.

Maritime Mastery Competencies

Maritime Mastery Competencies


We master our professions and bring our expertise to the fight

Able Seaman Marine Technician Ben Cattle collects an oil sample in the engine room on board HMAS Brisbane (III) as the ship transits through the Philippine Sea during a Regional Presence Deployment, 2021. Image by LSIS Daniel Goodman.

Technical Mastery is highly developed technical competence within a profession, community, or stream, and demonstrates that a person is suitably qualified and experienced to achieve the required operational and worthiness standards. This encompasses both your common and specialist skills and any additional technical competence that exists at the workgroup, profession, and discipline levels. When you achieve Technical Mastery, you have mastered your profession and can bring that expertise to the fight.

Each of the four Navy Communities (Warfare, Logistics, Maritime Personnel and Engineering), as well as Joint/Integrated workgroups, Health and Enablers, will require technical competence that is workgroup-specific and Community specific.

By the end of 2023, it is expected that all current Navy workgroups will be using Technical Mastery Competencies.



We achieve results with and through people

L-R: Petty Officer Marine Technician Anastasis Koutsoukis; Seaman Marine Technician Kasaca 'Ritchie' Dau; and Able Seaman Marine Technician Emily Hesling at Fleet Support Unit - West in HMAS Stirling, Western Australia, 2021. Image by POIS Yuri Ramsey.

Social Mastery is the development and application of emotional and social competence to generate high functioning individuals and teams who aim to achieve results with, and through our people. Social Mastery fosters a culture of teamwork and inclusion. When you achieve Social Mastery, you are including others, creating followership and upholding the ADF values of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence.


Mastery Stages

The Navy Mastery Model involves four Mastery stages that guide the development of Technical, Maritime and Social Mastery across an entire career. A Mastery stage is a period of development within a career, defined by the interaction between competency development (through skill acquisition)2 and professional development across different environments.

2. Dreyfus, S.E., & Dreyfus, H. L. (1980). A Five-Stage model of the Mental Activities involved in Directed Skill Acquisition Washington, DC: Storming Media.

The four Mastery stages are:


In the Foundation Mastery stage you’re a ‘doer’, delivering on capability. You have completed your Initial Employment Training, and you are able to demonstrate foundational techniques and skills. The focus here is on the breadth and depth of learning required to make you an effective contributor to the organisation.



In the Intermediate Mastery stage you are a narrow Subject Matter Expert (SME), leading on a specific capability. At this stage, the focus is on enhancing skills and experience by excelling at work and directing and guiding others.



In the Advanced Mastery stage, you are a deep SME, leading others, and generating tactical and technical effects. The focus of this stage is on maximising the demonstration of technical effects integrated across the unit and force, leveraging the knowledge and skills you attained in the Foundation and Intermediate Mastery stages.



In this, the final Mastery stage, you are a SME enabler and evolver, and you take your own and Navy’s capabilities further, through integrating expertise into theatre and joint operations. The emphasis in this stage is on strategic future-focused thinking and providing integration between teams and other effects.


Mastery Career Pathway

The Mastery Career Pathway (MCP) is a visualisation tool to help Navy personnel decide on core roles with associated learning and development that lead to ‘headmark’ position - the pinnacle of the pathway. For Navy, they replace and modernise the existing career continuums that often only display one pathway with time-in-rank constraints.

Mastery assists Navy to create an enduring value proposition for our people to enhance their experience in the Navy and retain them over their entire career - or for as long as we can. It provides choice in careers - direction, training and pathways. These are informed and enabled by skills and competencies, but proficiency in Mastery is not the end state for members. Every Mastery journey will look slightly different depending on choices such as lifestyle, strengths and broadening activities available in certain workgroups. Essentially, there are different pathways people can take.

Mastery will impact how we develop and move through a career, and how we recruit and select our objective and future workforces. Individual workgroups will still maintain their specific criteria for selection, but Navy expectations around Mastery will be introduced during the recruiting process. This will better prepare civilians for their transition into Navy and set them up for a successful career in a non-traditional way.

Prototype for the Joint/Integrated Mastery Career pathway Diagram
Prototype for the Joint/Integrated Mastery Career Pathway Diagram

Enabling a more diverse career allows for a combination of readying, ready and reset roles; better prepares Navy people for employment in a broader range of roles across the Joint Streams and allows for greater use of the Total Workforce System (TWS). MCPs will continue to meet the needs of career managers and workgroup planners to provide suitably qualified and experienced personnel meeting Navy’s workforce capability requirements now and into the future.


The Mastery Pathway: Education, Exposure, Experience (EEE)

The Mastery Stages will develop your personal competency through a combination of Education, Exposure and Experience (EEE) within different environments. All three components are required to develop Mastery and must be developed in multiple environments, typically achieved through working in both core tactical and technical roles in your first phase, and across the various Joint Streams in your second phase.

The Navy Mastery Model, along with the Mastery Stages, guides how your competence from Foundation to Master can be achieved.

The Mastery Pathway: Education, Exposure, Experience (EEE)
The Mastery Pathway: Education, Exposure, Experience (EEE)

Guidance combines professional development options and your career aspirations to help you transition through the different Mastery Stages and achieve Mastery competence. Learning will occur through the EEE with Education (formal and informal), Exposure (active and passive), and Experience (on the job and learning through doing) all instilling a continuous learning mentality.


EDUCATION - Structured Learning

Education in a military context provides individuals with the enabling skills, knowledge and attributes necessary to undertake military tasks, and includes activities which aim at developing communication, thinking and decision-making skills. Navy values both formal and informal education, including training and development, tertiary education, short courses and micro-learning initiatives such as micro-credentialing.


EXPOSURE - Second-hand Learning

Exposure is achieved by engagement with, and leveraging from, the learning of others through observation, critical questioning, reception of and imparting information to achieve social learning. This second-hand learning is at the heart of professional development and will be extended further in the learning that occurs through experience. Exposure activities are broadly defined, but might include active and passive participation in forums, lectures, conferences, debates, reading and writing, mentoring, coaching, and war gaming. Successful social learning through exposure requires an individual to actively engage in their learning by asking critical questions to understand the rationale behind decision-making and actions.


EXPERIENCE - Learning by doing

Experience is the practical content and observational learning and development received from first-hand actions and decision-making on the job through postings, and industry outplacements. It involves participation in key activities related to that experience, for example collective training, exercises, deployments, maintenance and certification, planning and administration. A key part of individuals attaining experience through first-hand actions is the requirement for a particular action or outcome to result in experiential learning (learning through doing and reflection).


Want to engage with us?

Email us at




Navy Mastery Booklets & Brochures


Navy Mastery Info Sheets


Navy Mastery Posters

September 2023