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How Do Military Ranks Work

Us Army Enlisted Ranks

How enlisted rank works in todays Army

Basic Pay: $1,785 per month

What does a Private do?

Your primary role as a private is to complete basic training where youll learn all about the Army and gain the fundamental skills needed to succeed in the military. After enlisting, youll choose your job and then go into an Army Military Occupational Specialty . After basic, youll attend technical training to learn your occupation.

How do I get promoted to Private?

You dont need any prior experience to enlist in the U.S. Army. Youll have to meet basic enlistment requirements like being between 17 and 34 years of age, have a high school diploma, pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, and go through a medical exam. To get promoted to PV1, you must complete Basic Training. Upon graduation, you may be promoted to E-1, E-2, or E-3 based on factors in your enlistment contract.

Equivalent Ranks to Army Private:

  • Coast Guard Seaman Recruit

Basic Pay: $1,943 per monthInsignia: 1 chevron with point up

What does a Private do?

Your primary role as a Private is to carry out your assigned duties to the best of your ability and follow all the orders of those appointed over you.

How do I get promoted to Private?

Promotion to private is pretty much automatic if you have a clean record. Youll have to have six months of Time in Service . You may enter the Army as a PV2 based on your enlistment contract or prior military experience, or a certain amount of college credits.

Equivalent Ranks to Army Private:

What Kind Of Skills Do Army Rangers Learn

Throughout their training, Rangers also learn skills like sabotage, navigation, explosives and reconnaissance.

When did the Army Rangers join the military?

The U.S. Army Rangers are an oddity of the U.S. military special operations forces. Though they can trace their lineage as far back as colonial times, they didnt become a permanent presence in the military until the 1970s.

Origins Of Modern Ranks

As the European and Asian Middle Ages came to an end, the rank structure of post-classical armies became more formalized. The top officers were known as commissioned officers because their rank came from a royal commission. Army commissions were usually reserved for those of high staturethe aristocracy of mainland Europe and the aristocracy and gentry of Great Britain.

The basic unit of the post-classical army was the company, a band of soldiers assigned by a vassal lord on behalf of his lord . The vassal lord in command of the company was a commissioned officer with the rank of captain. Captain was derived from the Late Latin word capitaneus .

The commissioned officer assisting the captain with command of the company was the lieutenant. Lieutenant was derived from the French language the lieu meaning “place” as in a position and tenant meaning “holding” as in “holding a position” thus a “lieutenant” is somebody who holds a position in the absence of their superior. When he was not assisting the captain, the lieutenant commanded a unit called a platoon, particularly a more specialized platoon. The word is derived from the 17th-century French peloton, meaning a small ball or small detachment of men, which came from pelote, a ball.

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What Is Military Rank

As we mentioned in the difference between a military officer and enlisted article, military rank is a chain of command or organizational structure system that shows authority and responsibility within members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

There are two ways for hiring managers to identify rank:

  • Insignia: Objects on a service members uniform including stripes, bars, stars, eagles, or oak leaves. Enlisted personnel wear stripes on their arms while officers wear bars, stars, eagles, or oak leaves on their lapels.

In uniform, rank insignia can be found on the military cover , shoulder, sleeve, or collar.

  • Pay grade: Classifications that determine a members pay across the service branches. These are commonly found on a veterans DD-214, which is commonly requested while job hunting, especially jobs with military friendly employers.

Pay grades for enlisted service members range from E-1 to E-9. Pay grades for officers range from O-1 to O-10. The E represents Enlisted, and O is for Officer. The higher the rank or pay grade, the higher the earnings. Officers are paid more than the enlisted level equivalent. For example, an O-4 will make more money than an E-4 .

Then, theres warrant officers whose pay grades generally range from WO-1 to WO-5, but the Coast Guards warrant officer rank begins at WO-2.

The chief warrant officer rank ranges from CW-2 to CW-5. The Navy and Coast Guard use the abbreviation CWO.

Origins Of Higher Ranks

Military Unit Hierarchy

As armies grew larger, composed of multiple companies, one captain was granted general authority over the field armies by the king. In French history, lieutenant du roi was a title borne by the officer sent with military powers to represent the king in certain provinces. A lieutenant du roi was sometimes known as a lieutenant général to distinguish him from lieutenants subordinate to mere captains. The sergeant acting as staff officer to the captain general was known as the sergeant major general. This was eventually shortened to major general, while captain general began to be addressed, depending on the military branch, as general of the infantry, general of the cavalry or general of the artillery, and these ones, over time, were shortened to simply general. This is the reason a major outranks a lieutenant, but a lieutenant general outranks a major general.

In modern times recruits attending basic training, also referred to as boot camp by some branches, are instructed in the hierarchical structure of military rank. Many new enlisted civilians find it difficult to understand the structure of general staff ranks as stated before, it becomes somewhat complicated to understand when applying basic rationale.

The full title of sergeant major fell out of use until the latter part of the 18th century, when it began to be applied to the senior non-commissioned officer of an infantry battalion or cavalry regiment.

Officers are further generally separated into four levels:

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What Are The Ranks In The Order


  • Neophyte. The neophytes are young people selected among students of Belgrave University to be possible members of The Order.
  • Acolyte. The Acolyte is the lowest-ranked member in The Order.
  • Medicum. A Medicum is the rank above the Acolyte.
  • Magistratus. The range above Medicum.
  • Temple Magus.

Back To The Lieutenant Colonel

I never enlisted in any branch of the military myself, but when I was a wee brat of 15, it was easy for me to see how my grandfather rose so high in the ranks of the army all the way to Lieutenant Colonel. It is now clear to me why he was so annoyed with my cutesy, arrogant behavior.

There, on the mesa near El Paso, the town where I grew up, my grandfather taught me proper gun safety. Always point your gun to your zenith, he would repeatedly and firmly remind me each time he saw me absent-mindedly pointing the barrel of my 20-gauge in his direction. Always know how to clean and disassemble your weapon, he instructed. Always keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.

Always make sure your safety is on when not about to shoot your weapon.

Looking back on those few times I called the Lt. Colonel Gramps, I feel ashamed. Now, it seems like such a punk move one born of ignorance and an easy life not yet challenged. Now that Ive had the experience of learning certain basic militaristic training from him, along with his general, grandfatherly wisdom, I am proud to have grown up under his tutelage, however sporadic that was.

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What Is The Highest Military Rank

The highest military rank is O-10, or “five-star general.” It is symbolized by five stars for each of the military services. Although it is currently a part of the military service rank system, no officer has been promoted to it since World War II, when the rank was created. Only nine Americans ever have held this rank. The last living five-star general was Omar Bradley, who died in 1981.

Enlisted & Officer Experience & Training

Simple Guide to All Army Ranks in Order – USA

Enlisted Personnel Experience & Training

In order to become an enlisted service member in the U.S. military, it is required that applicants have completed their GED or high school diploma. Once enlisted, many enlisted service members will train for jobs and learn skills and get hands-on experience in fields of employment such as transportation, human services, office administration, or mechanics. These skills learned during their time in the military will usually prove to be an asset to veteran job seekers as this experience transfers well to civilian employment.

Officer Experience & Training

Officers in the U.S. military are almost always required to possess a four-year degree or equivalent. Many colleges and universities have Reserve Officer Training Corps programs on campus, which allow cadets to have the benefit of receiving a paid college education in exchange for their commitment to serve as officers in the Military after they graduate. Within the military, Officers act as managers and are placed in leadership positions that involve making tactical decisions, planning and directing operations.

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How Do Military Ranks Relate To The Commercial World

Values and discipline are the foundation of all of the armed forces ethos and rising through the ranks is the aim for every person who joins. Being acknowledged for your hard work, dedication and commitment in the military means promotion and respect from your peers. But what happens when you leave the services to that level of commitment and achievement? How do military ranks relate to the commercial world?

The ranks are known within every force and regiment and you are treated accordingly whether you give or receive a salute is career defining. But potential employers and mainstream employment agencies may not have the knowledge or experience to translate these into the roles available. Veterans are excellent employees and their experience and pay grade may not always translate.

We have broken down the levels into 11 broad categories and appreciate that this is a very wide overview. Every candidate needs to be assessed on their own capabilities for the role but this may assist you, as an employer to understand where someone fits into your organisation and their relevant pay expectations. The pay grades do vary, and this would be the same in any organisation.

Alliance To Restore The Republic

First Order Navy ranks included senior ranks such as admiral, naval captain, commander, lieutenant, ensign, Chief Petty Officer,Warrant Officer, and Petty Officer. The First Order starfighter corps used multiple ranks, including major, commander, and lieutenant. The First Order Security Bureau also used multiple military ranks, such as colonel, commander, and lieutenant.

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The Military Ladder: Army

In 1775, the first remnants of what is now known as the U.S. Army were formed by the Continental Congress in groups of riflemen. This group has fought in almost every single American war since the American Revolution, and it has, just like every branch of the military these days, a strict chain of command.

When a person first joins the army, they typically start off at a pay grade of E-1 as a private, or PVT. The list then increases in rank as follows:

Private 2 PV2

General GENGeneral of the Army GA

In the army, the buck stops at General of the Army, and this ranking of five stars is reserved only for war time.

The Higher Ones Rank The More People They Lead

Ranking System

Col. John Lesho gets his new rank pinned on by his family during a change of command ceremony in 2020. It is a common tradition for family and friends to pin a service members new rank on them during such events.|Photo credit DVIDS/Jamal D. Sutter

This is another similarity to civilian workforce. In the military, the higher your rank, the larger the team you lead. For instance, a sergeant in the Army typically leads a team a four, while a captain leads a company of three to five platoons, about 60-200 soldiers, total. However, while most civilian jobs require managers to lead their employees in the conference room, these higher-ranking military leaders are leading their units into the battlefield.

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Overview Of Military Ranks

Enlisted Soldiers

Enlisted soldiers comprise the majority of our armed forces, and as such are seen as the backbone of the military. These are the service members who execute tasks and complete missions based on orders given to them.

Non-Commissioned Officers

These enlisted personnel are soldiers with more tenure and expertise. Non-commissioned officers often oversee lower ranking personnel, providing them with assignments and orders.

Commissioned Officers

Commissioned officers, by contrast, are essentially the military managers. They are the people who plan the missions, give the orders, and assign the tasks. They comprise just 17% of United States military personnel.

Rank Is Directly Related To Income

Much like civilians, service members see income increases when they increase rank. If you are promoted from manager to director of an organization, you can expect a raise in your paycheck, and thats how military ranks work as well. If a captain in the Army is promoted to major, they will have an increase in salary as well as more responsibility within their job description.

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What Is The Difference Between Enlisted And Officer Ranks

Both enlisted personnel and officers have their own unique ranks of hierarchy. Ranks will differ between the different branches of the military, however ranks are used to indicate enlisted personnel and officers level of seniority, leadership, and responsibility and are associated with a pay grade.

To get a better idea of how each segment is organized, download our Guide to Enlisted and Officer Ranks for a handy reference that outlines enlisted and officer ranks, with detailed information that will help you better understand the level of experience and responsibility for each rank.Next topic: Best Practices for Interviewing Veterans

for bimonthly advice and updates on the military talent industry.


What Are The Military Ranks

Explaining US Army enlisted rank

To learn the military ranks, you need to know what each service specifically calls the E and O levels, their abbreviations and how they look in the symbols, also known as insignias. For officers, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps symbols are largely the same, while the Navy and Coast Guard generally mirror each other.

The rank symbols can vary broadly for enlisted troops, with the Marine Corps and Army having many commonalities, and the Coast Guard and Navy again mirroring each other.

Additionally, while all the military services stick to the same paygrade structure, the Navy and Coast Guard organize their enlisted ranks in a “rate” system. Learn more about Navy enlisted rates and Coast Guard enlisted rates.

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How To Greet Each Rank

Heres a quick cheat sheet for how to address each rank in person:

  • Commissioned officers : rank and last name
  • Commissioned officers : rank and last name
  • Warrant officers: Warrant Officer and their last name or Mr./Ms. and last name

It gets a little trickier with enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers:

Military Promotions: What Friends And Family Should Know

A military promotion is a significant achievement in a service members career. Its a testament to their commitment, mastery of duties and skills, and to the service members leadership capabilities. Some promotions are more meaningful than others, especially as service members move up in rank.

Like most promotions outside of the military, with higher rank comes increased responsibility and accountability. The requirements and process for moving up the chain of command in the military is different than non-military promotions. As a loved one, understanding the significance and impact of your service members next promotion can help you prepare for this important milestone.

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Ranks In The Marine Corps

On this page of our website you’ll learn about Marine Corps ranks for both enlisted personnel and officers. You can purchase Marine Corps Rank Insignia at the EGA Shop, where 100% of the proceeds support the outreach programs of MarineParents. .

This list is in ascending order. It includes pay grades and abbreviations in the style used by the Marine Corps.

How To Use Military Rank And Insignia

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The U.S. Armed Forces use rank and insignia to classify and categorize each service member from Private to General. Learning how to recognize and use these identifiers will help the Parent Center staff when working with installation service members.

What does this mean to the Parent Center? A members rank/insignia is where they are in the chain of command, what leadership responsibilities they have.

In the links below you will find the rank/insignia for Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Are you expected to memorize each of these? of course not, but if for example you have an Army installation you want to work with, it may be wise to familiarize yourself with Army rank/insignia.

TIPS to learning Rank and Insignia


Chevron Stripes are used for enlisted members whether they angle up or down. Keep in mind the more stripes, the higher the rank! An Airman has one stripe, Airman First Class has two stripes, and a Senior Airman has three stripes.

If the service member has chevron stripes on top and rocker stripes on the bottom, they are a higher rank such a Master Sergeant with three on top and three on bottom.

If there are three stripes on top and three on bottom, with a diamond or star in the middle it is even a higher level of rank such as a Master Chief Petty Officer in the Navy who would have three chevrons below, a rocker above, and two stars on his or her uniform sleeve.


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