Midshipman (plural midshipmen) was the most junior rank of a naval officer, an officer by courtesy but not yet commissioned.4:1 It was applied for both men and women. No prior experience or schooling was required: for instance, Daniel Leary enlisted as a midshipman at 16 after a row with his father.3:1
A person younger than 16, the minimum entrance age for the RCN Academy, and sometimes as young as 10, could be listed on a vessel's books as a midshipman, generally without ever setting foot on the ship. This was done by a captain as a favor to the "midshipman"'s family or patron. This was not an inconsiderable favor, because it removed an actual crew member from the vessel. When the listed person eventually passed the midshipman's exam after graduation, their period of early enrollment would count as both time in grade and time in service.7:4
After a midshipman passed a lieutenant's exam he could be promoted, if there were vacancies, to the rank of Lieutenant.4:8 The RCN trained a midshipman to do every job the common crewmen did, believing that officers who couldn't do the hard and dangerous jobs didn't deserve to command spacers who could.3:5
- See Ranks for comparisons of ranks in various armed services.