When you reach a new rank you are automatically given a free ship. In order to reach a new rank you must get to grade 11 and spend all of your skill points. Admiral Quinn will contact you and you'll have to return to Earth Space Dock. When you speak to him you'll get further instructions.
You can also purchase ships using Energy Credits, but this isn't necessary since you get a free one at each rank.
I see a ton of other people who are lower levels than me with ships that have different customizations than mine. Is there a way to buy/ unlock different types of ship parts?
Not that I know of, other than purchased "ship costumes" from the C-Store. But all of those are for Tier 5 (Rear Admiral-level) ships...
Though it doesn't hurt to ask: Do you know about the "Advanced" customization option at the shipyard? When customizing your ship, hit the "Advanced" button on the bottom-right. You can then select different styles for each of the different parts of your ship (hull, nacells, saucer, etc.) This will allow you to customize the look of your ship beyond the standard 3 configurations for its class.
so as not to start a whole new thread what about different ships of the same type?
like when i go to the consoles that talk about the different tiers of ships it says there are atleast 3 different ships for each type. where can a buy a different looking ship or the same tier and type i currently have?
I just read some of these questions and I think I see where the first person went wrong. Yes, at certain levels you get promoted and the Admiral gets you a new ship. Then you go to the requisition person and hand her the slip, and choose. But then ...you go back down stairs and see the man at one of the 'customizing' consoles. He actually has your new ship, and old one on your private ships list, and THERE you choose which one to use that day, or whatever. Just getting the slip and your promotion doesn't get you in the new ship,until you go choose which one you own and want to use.
Classic Composer...go to the 'customize ships' area and see the person there. They show you all the ships you are allowed to have in your tier, and you can chose a different design for free..at least once. It's part of the customizing thing they do, so long as you don't ask a lot of times, then it costs you.