Contact Us

"Pro Know" at the United States Naval Academy

professional knowledge Aug 23, 2019

Remember how I have said the Naval Academy is N*ot College?

Well that will only continue to become more apparent as even more information comes to light.  On top of the fact you have a rigorous academic load (most midshipmen are taking 18 credit hours a semester), you have to wake up around 6:00 every morning (I absolutely LOVE when people complain about having to get up for 8 am class at normal college), and you have military obligations and time commitments, Midshipmen are also given another task:

Professional Knowledge, by means of the Midshipmen Qualification Standards (MQS).  

The purpose of MQS, in simple terms, is for Midshipmen to learn about the Navy and Marine Corps. 

Consisting of line items that must be signed after demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the topic, the MQS Booklet consists of the required knowledge for Midshipmen to know as deemed necessary by the Naval Academy training department.  

1/C Midshipmen (seniors) do not have MQS, as they take a practicum course in their spring semester that is specific to the community they are about to join.  However, both 3/C (sophomore) and 2/C (junior) midshipmen have to complete MQS throughout the year, and all the information culminates in the Professional Competency Assessment (PCA).  The PCA is a 50 question multiple choice test that covers all of the information covered in the MQS booklet for that year and is notoriously relatively difficult.

If you would like to see the kind of information your midshipmen is required to learn, you can see online version of the MQS Booklets here:

3/C MQS  


Side note: CoC stands for Chain of Command, which means that the midshipmen’s squad leader can sign off on that specific line item. 

Similarly, SME stands for Subject Matter Expert, often times an officer or senior enlisted member in each respective community, which requires someone with an in depth knowledge of the material to sign off on the specific line item.

While the 3/C and 2/C professional knowledge requirements are worth noting, I want to focus on the plebe professional knowledge, or as you may have heard it before, pro-know. 


As stated by the Naval Academy Training Department, the professional knowledge is meant to prepare midshipmen for each summer training event, enable midshipmen to make informed choices regarding their preferences for service assignment, and ultimately to prepare them to be junior officers.

However, unlike the upperclassmen, the plebes are tested on material weekly.  Every Friday Night (Sunday night if you are unable to be there on Friday), the plebes take a pro-know quiz on the material slated for that specific week.  And while that sucks, that’s not TOO bad, right?

Well to make matters even better for the plebes, they are required to complete 3 ‘come arounds’ every week as well: One with a 3/C midshipman, a 2/C midshipman, and then the plebe’s squad leader, in that order. 

A ‘come around’ is where a plebe is verbally quizzed by an upperclass midshipman in his or her squad.  I compare ‘come arounds’ to having your mom quiz you the night before your spelling test in 4th grade, making sure you are prepared for the test.   This emphasizes how much a specific squad can impact your quality of life.  

During my time at the Academy, I have witnessed ‘come arounds’ that have lasted 15 seconds, and I have witnessed some that have lasted for over an hour. 

Just like everything in life, your performance and the people you are working with can greatly influence your experience.  If you have been consistently scoring 100% on the pro-know quizzes, and your squad leader trusts your ability to study and perform, the ‘come around’ will probably be much quicker than the plebe that failed the previous quiz.

So what’s on these quizzes?

Over the course of the year, the plebes will learn about:

  • Midshipmen Regulations, because how are you supposed to follow the rules if you don’t know the rules? There’s no better topic to start off the year than this to reinforce the realization that you can’t listen to music, watch TV/movies, or wear normal clothes.  Yaaayyyy.
  • Financial literacy, because you have to talk about money.  What a great time to learn about the loans you had no idea you took out when you signed your million pieces of paper on I-day and how to check your earning statement as you rake in your $100 per month.
  • Military Courtesies, Customs, and Ceremonies & USNA Notable graduates, because it’s actually really important to learn how to properly board a ship so you don’t look like you have no idea what’s going on over your summer cruise
  • Mission and Organization of the Navy, because you need to know how your organization works and what its purpose is
  • Operational Mission Areas, Capabilities, and Current Maritime Strategy, because you need to understand what we can do, where we do it, and why we do it
  • Naval Air Warfare, because you need to actually learn what the Navy does in the air domain and not just rely on what you saw in Top Gun
  • Naval Air Warfare Platforms, because now that you know about Naval air power, you should know about how each different type of plane contributes to our dominance
  • Surface Warfare, because whether you like it or not, you’re in the Navy.  You have to learn about ships
  • Undersea Warfare, because they do really important stuff and they make WAY more money than the rest of us
  • Naval Special Warfare, because I mean who doesn’t like learning about Navy SEALs?
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal, because learning about bombs and mines makes you really glad there are people out there voluntarily choosing to disarm them
  • Restricted Line, Staff Corps, Limited Duty Officers (LDO), and Chief Warrant Officers, because during the 4 years at the academy, some mids will be medically disqualified from one of the main war fighting communities, and join one of the restricted line communities.  It is important to learn how they all aid and assist in making everything operate smoothly. Also, LDOs and Warrants are non-existent at the Academy, so it’s important to learn about them in the book, because they are everywhere in the fleet.
  • Information Warfare Community (IWC), because you need to learn about the best community in the entire Navy.  Now us IWC folk may be nerdy, but we do pretty awesome things.
  • USMC History and Traditions, because honestly, the Marine Corps has a really cool history.  And you’ll learn about why all the Gunnery Sergeants say “devil dog” all the time.  It all comes together in this lesson.
  • USMC Mission, Enduring Principles, and Organizations, because the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and everything it stands for, can teach all of us many valuable lessons
  • USMC Weapons and Platforms, because rifles and tanks are a Marine’s best friend
  • Enlisted Personnel, because if you want to be a decent leader, you should probably understand the people you are leading

I plan on writing a series of articles on the topics covered in Pro Know so you can somewhat understand the types of things your midshipmen is learning or has learned as part of their professional knowledge training and education.

So as your midshipman is trying to balance an academic workload, athletic obligations, and military obligations, all while trying to get sufficient sleep, just know that extra home baked sweets are appreciated while studying for pro-know quizzes.