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Military Enlisted Personnel Advancement

Are you interested in a military career? How do enlisted personnel advance through the ranks?

Enlisted personnel can progress through nine pay grades during their careers. They are led, supervised, and evaluated by senior enlisted personnel and officers. Factors that qualify an officer person for promotion include:

  • Length of service
  • Time in present pay grade
  • Job performance
  • Leadership ability
  • Awards or commendations
  • Job specialty

Each service sets minimum standards before personnel are eligible for a promotion to the next higher pay grade. These standards include length of service and a required amount of time in current pay grade. Highly-qualified enlisted personnel can apply to become a warrant officer or technical expert in a selected field. Each service has programs that allow selected enlisted personnel to become commissioned officers. The entrance standards for these programs are high, and the competition is intense.

Enlisted Personnel: Rank and Pay Grade by Service

Pay Grade Air Force Army Coast Guard Marine Corps Navy
E-9 Chief Master Sergeant Command Sergeant Major, Sergeant Major Master Chief Petty Officer Sergeant Major, Master Gunnery Sergeant Master Chief Petty Officer
E-8 Senior Master Sergeant First Sergeant, Master Sergeant Senior Chief Petty Officer First Sergeant, Master Sergeant Senior Chief Petty Officer
E-7 Master Sergeant Sergeant First Class Chief Petty Officer Gunnery Sergeant Chief Petty Officer
E-6 Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant Petty Officer First Class Staff Sergeant Petty Officer First Class
E-5 Staff Sergeant Sergeant Petty Officer Second Class Sergeant Petty Officer Second Class
E-4 Senior Airman Corporal, Specialist Petty Officer Third Class Corporal Petty Officer Third Class
E-3 Airman First Class Private First Class Fireman, Seaman Lance Corporal Seaman
E-2 Airman Private Fireman Apprentice, Seaman Apprentice Private First Class Seaman Apprentice
E-1 Airman Basic Private Seaman Recruit Private Seaman Recruit

Source: Today's Military online guide of the U.S. Department of Defense.